TOP OF THE CLASS
Hastings, Neb. (May 23, 2022) – Several Nebraska high school rodeo athletes gave some pretty big speeches in the last few weeks.
Six graduating high school seniors spoke in front of their classmates, family and friends as they finished their high school careers as valedictorians or salutatorians.
Mekenna Fisher, Tucker Gillespie, Abby Lawton, Emma Ohm, Jett Sjeklocha, and Shayda Vaughn finished at the top of their classes.
Fisher, a graduate of Sutherland High School, was class valedictorian. Competing in the barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying and cutting, she has qualified for the Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo the past three years and the National High School Finals Rodeo.
In high school, she participated in FFA, FBLA, FCA, speech, drama, quiz bowl, student council, band and choir and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Fisher has been awarded participation in the Rural Law Opportunities Program (RLOP) and will receive tuition and board at Chadron State College this fall and guaranteed admission to the University of Nebraska Law School.
She is the daughter of Levi and Keri Fisher.
Gillespie, a graduate of McCook High School, is one of six seniors with a 4.0 GPA. (McCook High recognizes top GPAs and does not award valedictorian or salutatorian titles.) In high school, he was involved in FFA, Speech, Mock Trial, Thespian, and Interact, a junior Rotary program, and Youth Change Reaction, a group that focuses on community improvement projects. He ran cross country as well.
A reined cow horse contestant, Gillespie will attend Texas A&M and double major in animal science and neuroscience. He has qualified for the Nebraska State High School Finals the past two years and the National High School Finals as well.
He is the son of Joe and Julie Gillespie.
Overton High School’s 2022 salutatorian is Abby Lawton. A pole bender, barrel racer and goat tyer, Lawton finished the year with a 4.0 GPA. She participated in FFA, FCCLA, Leadership Academy, National Honor Society and student council.
This fall, Lawton will attend the University of South Dakota at Vermillion to major in medical biology. She hopes to attend medical school and be a neurosurgeon. The cowgirl has qualified for the state high school finals three times and Nationals twice.
She is the daughter of John and Lorna Lawton.
Emma Ohm, Arthur, Neb., a breakaway roper, goat tyer and team roper, is the 2022 Arthur County High School valedictorian, with a 4.05 GPA.
The cowgirl competed in basketball and volleyball and was a member of her school’s FFA chapter, student council, band, National Honor Society, and president of the Neb. State High School Rodeo Association.
This fall, she will attend Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D., on a rodeo scholarship. She will study psychology because of her interest in the mental side of athletic competition, especially rodeo.
She has competed at the state high school finals rodeo three years and at Nationals three years.
She is the daughter of Jason and Kaycee Ohm.
Jett Sjeklocha is the 2022 Hayes Center High School salutatorian.
A bull rider, steer wrestler and team roper, in high school he played football and golf and was a member of FFA, student council, and the National Honor Society.
This fall, he will attend Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte on a rodeo scholarship. He will work towards a welding degree. He has qualified for three state high school finals rodeos and the National High School Finals Rodeo in 2021.
He is the son of Rusty Sjeklocha and Susan Sjeklocha.
Shayda Vaughn completed her high school career as salutatorian for Hershey High School with a 4.0 GPA.
A contestant in the breakaway roping and team roping, she played high school volleyball and basketball and was in FBLA, TeamMates, student council, 4-H, and the National Honor Society.
She competed at the state high school finals the past three years.
This fall, Vaughn will attend the University of Nebraska-Kearney and might work towards an elementary education degree.
She is the daughter of Tim and Celie Vaughn.
Just as in the other high school sports, rodeo athletes must keep their grades up to be eligible to rodeo. They often receive rodeo scholarships which help pay for college tuition.
The Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo will wrap up the state season June 10-12 at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Hastings. Rodeo performances begin at 11 am and 6 pm on June 10-11, with the short round on June 12 at 1 pm.
The cutting horse competitions will be at 7 am on June 10-11 with the finals at 8 am on June 12. The reined cow horse takes place at 10 am on June 10-11.
The top four state finishers in each event qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo, held in Gillette, Wyo. July 17-23.
For more information, visit AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com or hsrodeo-nebraska.com, or call 402.462.3247.