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Knowing the Ropes

With the cancellation of the 2020 National Junior High School Rodeo Finals, scheduled for late June in Des Moines, the state’s Junior High School rodeo athletes were provided an opportunity to compete during the South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals, held June 16-20, 2020 in Ft. Pierre.

Fourteen-year-old breakaway roper Dalton Porch of Kadoka is one to watch.

The son of Tashia, a registered nurse, and rancher Shawn, the incoming freshman roped before he walked. “Truthfully, I’d set a rocking horse and a steer-roping dummy out there,” says Shawn. “He’d rope that dummy, crawl out there, take his rope off, crawl back, and get back on his horse. He’s always been a natural.”

A knack plus a family tradition of rodeoing is a powerful combination. Dalton’s dad, uncle, and older brother Brendan also competed. Now Dalton mentors his younger sister Peyton and a gaggle of younger cousins.

But in addition to his innate ability, like many rodeo athletes, Dalton is disciplined. “The kid puts in so many hours practicing,” says Shawn. This summer, Dalton is working full-time for his grandfather’s gas station, hauling fuel and other jobs. “He’s always got a rope in his hand, so if he’s got a few minutes, he ropes something – a barrel, whatever he can.”

At a competition in breakaway roping in New Underwood in May, Dalton missed. “We got home at 11:30 that night, and I said, ‘let’s go to bed’,” says Shawn. “But he stayed out another half-hour and roped his dummy 25 times because he missed. He’s that dedicated of a kid.”

Dalton also raises goats, which he ropes. Shawn has several head of breakaway calves, which Dalton ropes. Dalton likes to ride his hoverboard in the garage, with a dummy, which he ropes. On the rare occasion he’s not roping, he goes out for basketball and is on the A honor roll.

Although some competitions have been cancelled due to COVID, Dalton stays sharp at local team-roping jackpots in Philip and open breakaway events in New Underwood, where he’s competing against ropers in their 50s with a lifetime of experience. He’s placing second or third.

Last year at the National Junior High Finals in Huron, Dalton placed eighth. At the Indian National Finals Rodeo last October in Las Vegas, he placed sixth. “His goal this year was to win the world in breakaway roping,” says Shawn. “He worked hard all winter long, roped his dummy every night. I was probably more heartbroken than he was when they cancelled the national junior high finals because I watched what he’s done all winter and spring to try to get there. But when he heard they get to go to Ft. Pierre, that gave him something to look forward to.”

SD High School Rodeo Finals

SDPB1: Thursday, July 9, 8pm (7 MT) & Sunday, July 12, 1pm (Noon MT)

SD Junior High School Rodeo Finals

SDPB1: Sunday, July 12, 3:30pm
(2:30 MT)

Coverage of South Dakota State High School Rodeo is sponsored, in part, by Xcel Energy, Lake Area Technical Institute, and South Dakota State University.