June 8, 2005 - Cowpokes from the Northwest will close out the rodeo season this weekend with the Arizona High School Rodeo Association Finals held June 10 through 11 at Apache Gold Casino in Globe.

Among the competitors expected to compete in the annual high school championships are Michael Allison Jr. and Erin Parsons. Both students at Marana High School, Parsons and Allison represent some of the top competitors on the high school circuit.

With more than 250 students expected to compete in the three-day meet, the Marana duo have their work cut out for them.

The Allison family will pack up its trailer and head to Globe on Thursday morning to prepare for the finals. Allison, a freshman at Marana, will compete in three events, including team roping, bareback and bull riding.

With 48 points on the year, Allison sits 12 behind overall state leader Craig Begay. With a solid ride, the freshman believes he can overtake Begay, a senior from Many Farms High School.

"If I am able to win one of those rounds," said Allison, "I should be able to bump up to first place." Allison will have three rounds to make a final push toward No. 1 in the state.

Heading into the meet, Allison sits in fifth place in the bareback event. Although a chance for first is unlikely due to how far back he is, Allison believes a push for fourth place isn't out of the question.

A key to his success in the finals will be his ability to adapt to what is considered a tough draw this year.

"The stock is supposed to be pretty good," said Allison of the bull he'll be riding. "I think I'll do pretty good though."

He'll have to be patient as well. The bull riding competition is the very last event. Allison, who was raised around the rodeo, has competed in Arizona's Junior High School Rodeo Finals in years past. This year will mark his debut in the high school rodeo.

One of the first families of rodeo in Marana is the Parsons family, and none may be better at the sport than Erin. Parsons, now a veteran of the high school rodeo circuit, won the overall state high school championship in 2002.

A senior at Marana, Parsons is at or near the top in four out of five categories.

Parsons will need to fend off Brianna Edgmon, of Black Canyon City, in girls cutting to keep her hold on first place. The top spot in the state is not out of reach for Parsons in the barrel race or in goat tying. In both competitions, the lanky Parsons sits fewer than three points behind the leader in the No. 2 spot on the season.

Long shots for the Marana grad, who will attend New Mexico State in the fall on a basketball scholarship, are in breakaway roping (9th overall) and pole bending (23rd).

Parsons hails from a long lineage of rodeo competitors. Her father, Joseph, qualified for five national rodeos, while her sister Emily and brother, Joe, also are active on the professional rodeo tour.

Also competing from Marana will be Mason Reynolds and Ryan Alexander.

Between 500 and 600 people are expected to attend the high school finals in Globe. Those who win first place are rewarded with a saddle, while second place finishers receive a commemorative belt buckle worth $500. Those who finish in the top four earn a spot in the National High School Finals Rodeo July 18 through 24 in Gillette, Wyo., to compete against competition from 39 states and Australia.

Competition for the Arizona state finals will get underway on June 10 and continue through the weekend before concluding on June 12 with bull riding.

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