Merritt to host Canadian High School Finals rodeo

By on October 11, 2017
Taylia McKeown from Merritt and her mare Doxy competing in the barrels. McKeown qualified for the Canadian High School finals rodeo in Nanton, Alta. in 2017. (Herald file photo).


Some of Merritt’s finest young cowboys and cowgirls may find themselves competing for a national title in front of a home town crowd over the next few years, as the city has been selected to host the Canadian High School Finals Rodeo in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s been given to us for 2018, 2019 and an option for ’20 — depending on how the first two go,” said Merritt Mayor Neil Menard.

The Finals have been hosted in Nanton, Alta. for the last five years, due to how the hosting duties are shared by the four provinces which are represented in the national competition. The finals are to alternate between B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with each host city designated as the host for at least two consecutive years, with an option for a third year.

After hosting the finals in 2013 and 2014, the organizing committee in Nanton, chose to exercise the option for a third year in 2015. When Saskatchewan was unable to fulfill their hosting duties, Nanton stepped in to offer their facilities again for another two year period, hosting the Finals in 2016 and 2017.

But after five years in Alberta, it will now be up to the organizing committee in Merritt to prepare the grounds and source the hundreds of animals necessary to run a Canadian High School Finals rodeo.

“The amount of cattle and horses we’re gonna have is unbelievable,” said Menard, adding that he hopes to source the animals from local stock contractors. The contractors “have to bid on it and they have to have the right stock for high school rodeo,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the rodeo grounds — which were renovated this summer — should be in good shape for a national-level event said Merritt’s mayor.

Unlike many high school sports which cap out at provincial-level competitions, the top high school cowboys and cowgirls from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta gather in July to compete at the Canadian High School Finals. Events include barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway, cutting, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and team roping.

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