Four Powell youth competing at Junior World Finals

Las Vegas event features country’s top rodeo talent

Posted 12/5/19

Some of the top young rodeo talent from across the country will descend on Las Vegas for the Junior World Finals starting today (Thursday) — including four Powell youth.

Stephen Dahl, 17, …

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Four Powell youth competing at Junior World Finals

Las Vegas event features country’s top rodeo talent


Some of the top young rodeo talent from across the country will descend on Las Vegas for the Junior World Finals starting today (Thursday) — including four Powell youth.

Stephen Dahl, 17, and Kyle Cheney, 16, are set to compete in bull riding, while Caleb Tyra, 16, will battle it out with fellow bareback riders. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Casen Gines will serve as the event’s rodeo clown for the third straight year.

Formerly known as the Junior NFR, the marquee youth rodeo runs from Dec. 5-14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Caleb Tyra

Tyra said he’s aiming to “just show up and ride the hardest I’ve ever rode before.” If he can put together two good rides, he’ll make the bareback short round.

However, “it’s not just about that,” Tyra said. “It’s about having the opportunity to go and being able to show a lot of people — and big time people, too, are going to be down there.”

Tyra qualified for the Junior World Finals at a summer rodeo in Darby, Montana, where he was the only bareback rider.

“If I got bucked off, there was no second chance,” he said. “I had to stay on.”

Tyra did stay on and he won the rodeo to punch his ticket to Vegas. Not bad for someone who only took up bareback riding about six months ago.

Last year, Tyra rode bulls and “I wasn’t great at it,” he said. “I could have gone more and gotten better at it, but I wanted to try out bareback riding.”

He honed his skills over the summer at the Cody Nite Rodeo and at a Cowboys with a Mission rodeo bible camp in Meeteetse, where he won the camp’s culminating rodeo and was recognized for his character.

“If I was allowed to do two events at the same time, I’d still be riding bulls,” Tyra said, “but I think I enjoy riding bareback horses more.”


Kyle Cheney

Getting to the Junior World Finals was more of an ordeal for Cheney, who competed in the crowded 14- to 15-year-old bullriding bracket.

Keeping up with the competition meant not only covering bulls well, but also making the trip to all of the many qualifying rodeos across the region. Cheney rode in Cheyenne, Greybull, Laramie and Evanston here in Wyoming, Rexburg, Idaho Falls and Burley in Idaho and Darby, Three Forks, East Helena and West Yellowstone in Montana.

“He had a tough season. He rode hard,” said family friend Codi Gines, adding that Cheney was riding bulls whenever he could.

On top of making the rounds on the World Finals qualifying circuit, Cheney worked and “went and rodeoed some more” at the Cody Nite Rodeo throughout the summer. One week, he got on 16 bulls.

Cheney denied that the packed schedule was tiring. He started riding about five years at the Clark Jubilee Rodeo.

“I just got on just for the fun of it and I wanted to know more about it, I guess and I started liking it,” he said.

Amid a crowded class of talent, Cheney hopes to make the short round in Vegas.


Stephen Dahl

Dahl also spent much of his summer traveling to rodeos around the region and “I worked my tail off at Cody Nite, too.” Competing against all cowboys aged 16 and up, the bull rider finished second overall for Cody’s summer season and won the monthly buckle in June.

Because the field was a little thinner in Dahl’s age group, he didn’t have to attend every single World Finals competition.

“I didn’t make it to all the rodeos, but I tried my darndest,” he said. “Between work and rodeo, I really couldn’t.”

Dahl wound up hitting the minimum number of rodeos right on the number to qualify for the Junior World Finals.

Missing any of the events carries some risk, because “if somebody covers when I’m not there, then yeah, they’re going to kick me out of my spot.”

However, Dahl claimed third in his age group.

Will he be nervous riding on the much bigger stage in Las Vegas?

“In the beginning, I think, with all those eyes watching you, it’s kind of pressuring,” Dahl said. “But once you sit down, it’s just, get ready to do your job, I guess.”


Casen Gines

Although the youngest member of the Powell contingent heading to the Junior World Finals, Casen Gines is something of a seasoned veteran.

2019 will mark the third straight year that “Shorty ‘Primetime’ Gines” has entertained the crowds in Vegas as a specialty act. He’s not really a competitor, either — he’s a hired hand who will be paid for his work.

A friend from Montana, saddle bronc and bareback promoter Laci Demers got Gines the World Finals gig after being impressed with “Shorty’s” work.

“How many kids his age would be comfortable in front of a crowd?” Demers told the Junior World Finals blog last year. “It’s one thing for these kids to nod their head and then ride their horses because they don’t worry about the crowd, that’s not on their minds. But when you take a young kid like that and put him out there you’re asking a lot.”

Gines is responsible for keeping the rodeo fans entertained amid breaks in the action.

“So if there is something with the chute and it won’t open, I have to make a joke or do one of my specialty acts,” he explained.

Gines presents a variety of acts, including an interpretation of Michael Jackson (“That one’s really fun,” he says), an Evel Knievel-themed motorbike stunt act, a new drum set solo featuring music from Chancey Williams and another act with his tamed bull, Ferdinand.

“I get really nervous about not having stuff I need, not getting it set up how I like it, and messing up,” said Gines.

However, he’s got quite a bit of experience under his belt, ranging from regional rodeos to working the Wild West Show at Cheyenne Frontier Days in July.

Like the rest of the Powell contingent, Gines is excited to be heading to the Junior World Finals. He added that, “the world needs more cowboys. Period” — though Cheney suggested an exclamation point might be more appropriate.

All of the young rodeo competitors expressed thanks to their parents and many others who’ve helped them along the way.

“Without them,” Tyra said, “we wouldn’t be going to Vegas.”