John Curtis Daily Union Sports Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union
---- — After a decade of delivering in the rodeo arena, the dynamic duo saved their best for last, as they went out on top at the Illinois High School Rodeo Finals.
Keeley Buhrmester of Shelbyville and Douglas Rich of Herrick, the best young rounders in recent Shelby County history, competed at their final Illinois High School Rodeo Finals and they cleaned up. Buhrmester and Rich each won three individual state championships.
Buhrmester won the Girls Cutting Championship, the Pole Bending Championship, and the Barrel Racing Championship. Cutting involves a rider on horseback separating or cutting a calf from the herd. Pole Bending involves a rider on horseback weaving in between vertical poles against the clock. Barrels involves riding around a set of barrels for time.
Rich won the Calf Roping Championship, the Team Roping Championship, and the Boys All-Around Championship. Calf roping is a timed solo event where the rider has to rope the calf, jump off and tie it. Team Roping involves the first partner, the Header, chasing a calf and roping its horns. The other partner, the Heeler, ropes the calf’s back feet against the clock. All-Around Title is based on accumulated points in several events.
For their three state championships, each, Buhrmester and Rich won three saddles, as well as ornate belt buckles.
Buhrmester won the state title in the Barrels in 2011, was the Rookie of the Year in the IHSR Finals, and was named the All-Around State Finals Cowgirl. She was Reserve Pole Champion in 2012 and was 4th in Barrels in 2012. Buhrmester went into the IHSR Finals this year in 2nd place in both Cutting and Barrels. She was tops in pole bending coming in. At State, Buhrmester put it all together, winning the trifecta.
Rich, who won won the state team roping championship the last four years. Rich is always the Heeler, although he can do both. In 2011 and 2012, Rich won both the individual calf roping and the team roping titles. He was also Reserve All-Around at State in 2011. This year, he claimed calf roping and team roping again, plus added the All-Around Title.
Buhrmester and Rich have been competing in rodeo since they were in grade school. Both competed in the Illinois Junior Rodeo Finals. Buhrmester and Rich each had three championships in the State Junior Rodeo, 2nd through 5th grade.
Rich has been roping since he was five years old. Buhrmester admitted she was a late bloomer.
“I didn’t do barrels and poles until I was seven,” Buhrmester said.
Buhrmester and Rich have accumulated a mint of hardware and have plenty of leather to slap.
Buhrmester estimates she has won about 80 buckles in her rodeo career and nine saddles. Rich estimates that he has stockpiled about 120 belt buckles and 13 saddles.
Its been quite a ride for the Shelby duo over the last 10 years. But they’ve heard those words from Horace Greeley. “Go West!”
Buhrmester is headed to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. She is going to work on a cutting ranch while she attends school, pursues a degree in Business Management, and competes in areas rodeos and barrels competitions.
Rich is headed to Western Oklahoma State College, in Altus, Olahoma, just north of Wichita Falls, Texas. Rich was recruited and accepted a scholarship to compete for the school on the rodeo team, as a team roping heeler.
He already knows his future team roping partner at West Okie State from previous competitions, Dylan Gordon from Comanche, Oklahoma. After a 2-year degree in Ag Business, Rich also hopes to transfer to Tarleton State University.
Prior to reporting to their respective school in August, both Buhrmester and Rich will be headed out to the 65th annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, July 14-20 to compete in their respective events.
Featuring more than 1500 contestants from 41 states, five Canadian Provinces, and Australia the National High School Finals Rodeo is the world’s largest rodeo. In addition to competing for $200,000 in prizes, they will be competing for $350,000 in college scholarships and a chance to be named an NHSFR National Champion.
Keeley Buhrmester is the daughter of Chuck and Vickie Buhrmester of Shelbyville. Douglas Rich is the son of Lonnie and Cindy Rich of Herrick