BELLE FOURCHE — Belle Fourche’s Cain Birkeland started his South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals by winning the boys’ cutting state title on Wednesday.

“It’s just kind of big to me because I’ve been working at it for four years,” Birkeland said Thursday as he reflected on his feat. 

 “I had to settle down and do it,” Birkeland said of the biggest improvements he made from last year to now. “Just do what I knew how, not get in a panic and do stupid mistakes that kept me from doing well in the past few years.”

Birkeland brought 29 of a maximum possible 30 points into the state finals. Athletes compete in a total of four go-rounds during two regional rodeos. They are allowed to bring their top three scores to state.

He received 14 standings points at state for finishing second in the first go-round, 13 points for third place in the second go-round, and 6.50 points for a fourth-place tie in the short go-round. 

That put Birkeland at 62.5 points for the season. He scored a total of 423.5 points for three state go-rounds, which was good for first place and another 20 standings points for a total of 82.5 points and the state title.

His season included two runner-up finishes at the Buffalo Regional and two first-place finishes at Dupree. 

Each first-place showing was worth 10 standings points, with second place good for nine                              points.

Birkeland graduated from high school last month and started competing in the cutting event as a ninth-grader.

He learned about cutting partly from using a horse that Sam Stoddard previously owned.

“Mostly, the fact that the horse does it all,” Birkeland said in describing cutting’s appeal to him. “Your horse has to be broken; it’s pretty impressive for them to know how to do all that on their own.”

Birkeland agreed it is essential to know how to read cattle. He said the Stoddards taught him everything about the event.

Belle Fourche enjoys a solid cutting reputation with Cooper Crago and Chet Crago, among others. Birkeland said it feels good to follow in their footsteps because he has watched them, and they have helped him a lot over the                     years.

Birkeland plans to attend Casper College and study agricultural business, with hopes of competing in rodeo.

“We’ve won quite a few (team titles) in the last 10 years,” Birkeland said. “To be able to help every single year, put points towards that, is pretty cool.”

Top finishers from Thursday’s first performance follow.

BAREBACK RIDING

1 Cayden Wolfe (Belle Fourche) 67 points, 15 standings points.

BARREL RACING

1 Mikenzy Miller (Faith) 17.240 seconds, 15 standings points.

2 Shyanne Howell (Belle Fourche) 17.415, 14 points.

3 Wacey Brown (Sturgis) 17.516, 13 points. 

BREAKAWAY ROPING

1 Kelci Bends (Cherry Creek) 2.65 seconds, 15 standings points.

7 Chantel Kolb (Belle Fourche) 3.40, nine points.

13 Shania Larive (Sturgis) 4.60, three points.

14 Acelyn Brink (Newell) 4.86, two points.

15 Kylee Crago (Belle Fourche) 5.03, one point.

BULL RIDING

1 Stran Smith (Lantry) 74 points, 15 standings points.

GOAT TYING

1 Mikenzy Miller (Faith) 7.52 seconds, 15 standings points.

POLE BENDING

1 Shyanne Howell (Belle Fourche) 20.465 seconds, 15 standings points.

3 Molly Ryan (Belle Fourche) 20.735, 13 points.

SADDLE BRONC RIDING

1 Cash Wilson (Wall) 67 points, 15 standings points.

2 Clint Donaldson (Sturgis) 61, 14 standings points.

STEER WRESTLING

1 Wyatt Tibbitts (Hot Springs) 7.81 seconds, 15 standings points.

TEAM ROPING

1 Payton Pirrung (Hartford) and Lan Fuhrer (Belle Fourche) 8.12 seconds, 15 standings points each.

2 Jayden Shoemaker (Faith) and Cain Birkeland (Belle Fourche) 8.70, 14 points each.

6 Trevor Hartshorn (Hermosa) and Acelyn Brink (Newell) 14.43, 10 points each.

8 Rio Nutter (Rapid City) and Bodie Mattson (Sturgis) 15.52, eight points each.

14 Shyanne Howell (Belle Fourche) and Tee McAmis (Belle Fourche) 25.79, two points each.

TIE DOWN ROPING

1 Tristan Hunter (Ardmore) 10.17 seconds, 15 standings points.

8 Lan Fuhrer (Belle Fourche) 13.50, eight points

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