The Box Elder County contingent at next month’s National High School Finals Rodeo will be a youthful one, but that doesn’t mean the locals who qualified aren’t poised to make some noise at the national level.
Following the Utah High School Finals Rodeo earlier this month in Heber City, three local competitors — Kade Madsen, Kwade Kosoff and Keegan Cumbie — placed high enough in their respective events to earn a trip to the national finals, to be held July 18-24 in Lincoln, Nebraska. They will join three other locals — Hailey Jo Gibbs, Raegan Steed and Wyatt Stephens — who qualified through their performances at the Idaho High School Finals Rodeo in Pocatello.
For those who qualified at the Utah finals, rodeo runs deep in the families of all three, and two have experience at the national level in the junior high circuit.
Madsen did much more than just qualify for nationals. In his first year of competition at the high school level, the 16-year-old Bear River High sophomore from Honeyville and member of the Spikers rodeo club took the state title in bareback riding and finished the season third in bull riding, earning him the titles of All-Around Cowboy and Rookie of the Year for all of Utah.
He comes from a family with a strong rodeo tradition. Parents Doug and Sonya have professional experience in saddle bronc and barrel racing, older brother Briggs is a former Utah high school champion bull rider and professional saddle bronc rider, older sister Hayden is a professional barrel racer and competes in other events, and younger sister Josey is an up-and-comer in the sport as well.
Doug Madsen said Kade’s success so far is the direct result of hard work — perhaps too hard at times.
“He’s one where we kind of have to hold the reins back a little bit,” Doug said. “He’s got so much talent — we don’t want him to waste it or see him get hurt.”
Kade has already proven his mettle at the national level as a junior high competitor, winning back-to-back national titles in bareback in 2017 and 2018.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” his dad said. “He knows how to handle the pressure and get it done.”
Kade said he’s working to keep his body and mind in shape leading up to nationals, running at night, working with his dad pouring concrete by day, and “just trying to stay mentally positive,” something his experience at the junior high level has helped with.
“It’s smaller at the junior high level, but it’s a stepping stone in the right direction in handling pressure situations,” he said.
Kosoff, also a sophomore at Bear River High who lives with his family in Honeyville, wasn’t sure if he would even be in the running for a berth at nationals after suffering a setback early in the season. He also plays football and wrestles for BRHS, and dislocated a kneecap about halfway through the football season last fall.
“I was out about two months and missed a lot of the fall rodeos,” he said. “That put me pretty far behind.”
Kosoff, whose specialty is steer wrestling, competes for the Bear River High rodeo club. He went into the state finals in eighth place, and “I just didn’t worry about it. I figured I would just do the best I could and the rest would follow.”
The rest did indeed follow, as he did well enough in Heber City to place fourth and secure the final steer-wrestling spot at nationals.
Because of his devotion to other sports, Kwade didn’t compete in rodeo at the junior high level, but has had some pretty good mentors to help him keep up with the competition. Parents Kyle and Misty are both seasoned professionals, and Kyle serves as Kwade’s “hazer” — the person who rides alongside the steer to keep it running straight during steer wrestling competitions.
After the short go ended in Heber City and Kwade learned he had qualified for nationals, “I ran back to the stands, found my dad, and hugged him so hard I almost tackled him.”
He has also learned under the tutelage of two uncles who are former state champions, and has had the privilege of practicing with Ogden native Olin Hannum, one of the world’s most decorated steer wrestlers.
“I just keep practicing, trusting in myself and the people helping me,” he said. “There’s more people to thank than I can think of.”
Misty Kosoff said that as a kid, people would ask her son if he was going to be a top tie-down roper like his father, and while that might have “steered” him away from competitive roping, “he does handle a rope really good.
“He works hard,” she said of Kwade. “As a parent, it’s fun to see your kids succeed at what they work hard at.”
Cumbie, of Tremonton, qualified for nationals as a member of the Spikers in two events, finishing third in team roping and fourth in tiedown roping at state. Spikers secretary Emily Rogers said he’s the only two-event qualifier among the club’s nine members who are headed to Nebraska next month.
His parents Matt and Traci are also experienced in rodeo, Matt as a professional team roper, and younger brothers Logan and Brannam are already making names for themselves at the junior level.
Keegan also has experience at the national level, having qualified for the 2019 junior nationals in tie-down roping, ribbon roping and team roping.
At the Idaho state finals, Gibbs, a freshman, qualified for nationals by winning the goat-tying competition by a wide margin. Stephens placed second in tie-down roping by winning the short go, while Steed placed third in breakaway roping.
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo is ongoing this week in Des Moines, Iowa. Check next week’s Leader for results from local kids in that competition.