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Local rider goes West

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 17, 2003
Fran Surles, her mother and father (Marion and Ross) and her horse (Billy) headed West this morning.
The family caravan is making a 1,332-mile trek from the Queen City to Farmington, N.M., so Surles can compete in the 55th annual National High School Finals Rodeo from Monday to July 27.
The ninth grader at Northwest Junior High School will take part in the barrel racing competition as a member of the Mississippi high school rodeo team.
Surles will be competing against over 1,500 contestants from 39 states, five Canadian Provinces and Australia in the week-long event.
The 15-year-old rider's spot on the state's rodeo team was not a sure thing in the first year she was able to qualify for the national rodeo.
Riders must be entering their freshman year of high school, and they must finish in the top four in their state to be invited to the event.
Surles, who began riding in rodeos to earn points for the event in September of 2002, found herself behind the barrel, as the point-earning season came to its conclusion.
Surles berth into the national competition will bring her and her family the farthest away from home they have ever traveled for her to compete.
She has participated in rodeos in Columbus, Ohio, Fort Worth, Texas, Florida and South Carolina.
The family will drive to New Mexico in two days, with an over night stop at a ranch in Wichita Falls, Texas.
The rodeo in New Mexico will also introduce the family to numerous different people and cultures.
Surles said she is excited to meet a lot of different riders from across the country and around the globe.
The competition will also help Surles in her pursuit of a college scholarship.
Scouts from various institutions with rodeo teams will be at the finals looking for new talent to add to their stables.
Participants at the NHSFR will compete for over $125,000 in prizes, $150,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named National High School Rodeo Champion.
Contestants must finish in the top 20 after two go-rounds of competition to advance to the championship round.
The championship performance will be televised nationally on 20X Rodeo High, a part of the Outdoor Channel's weekly "Rodeo Round-Up" series. It is scheduled to air on Sept. 22, 24 and 29.