June 11, 2001 11:00 pm
Blake West ().
Blake West ().

By The Observer

Nine area high school rodeo athletes will make their way to Central Oregon this week in hopes of going on to either Illinois or Nevada.

The top rodeo high schoolers in the state will compete from Thursday through Saturday at the state finals at Redmonds Deschutes County Fairgrounds.

A handful of those will be nine cowboys and cowgirls from the Eastern Oregon High School Rodeo Club from Union and Baker counties. They will try to advance to the high school National Finals Rodeo July 22-29 in Springfield, Ill., for the top four placers in state or the Silverstate International Rodeo on July 3-8 at Fallon, Nev., for the fifth through 10th placers at state.

Unions Blake West leads the way. The senior from Union High School won the state saddle bronc riding title last year and advanced to the high school National Finals Rodeo.

West is a two-time Wrangler All-Star, which honors the top two underclassmen placers at the state finals. West was the top non-senior placer in bull riding his sophomore year and earned his second Wrangler All-Star with his victory in the saddle bronc as a junior.

He will advance to the state finals for the fourth straight year. This year he qualified in saddle bronc and bull riding, where he is ranked third and ninth, respectively.

To qualify, riders must be among the top 20 in the state in their event based on performances during the high school rodeo season.

Jared Bain of Haines, a senior at Powder Valley, qualified in bull and bareback riding for the second consecutive year. He advanced to the Silverstate International Rodeo last year in both events and enters state ranked third in bareback and 14th in bull riding.

As a sophomore, Bain went to state in team roping and advanced to the National Finals Rodeo.

Kristi Case of Elgin is entered in the most events. The junior is going to state for the second straight year and is qualified for the breakaway roping (sixth place), barrel racing (11th) and team roping (11th) with partner Travis Hampton of La Grande.

Last year, Case advanced to the Silverstate International Rodeo in breakaway roping.

Hampton is also advancing in calf roping.

Brian Sanders of Elgin enters state in second place in both the bull and bareback riding events, which he qualified for last year, too. He is a junior from Elgin High School.

Garrett Evans, a senior from Elgin, is entered in the saddle bronc (fourth) and team roping (12th) with partner Brandon Evans, a freshman from Elgin.

Sally Jane Brown, a freshman from Baker City, is ranked 15th in goat tying in her first year at state.

Another first-year qualifier is Michael Braughton, a senior from Elgin, who is 12th in bull riding.