Riding his way to the top Gale qualifies for National High School Finals Rodeo again

Riding his way to the top Gale qualifies for National High School Finals Rodeo again Casey Gale keeps a tight grip during this ride in the bareback competion at the National High School Finals Rodeo last July in Springfield, IL. He began a two-day drive to the this year's national competition which will be held July 22-28 at Farmington, NM. (Photo courtesy of Casey Gale) by David Lias The decor in the Loretta and Kelly Gale home includes dozens of photos, rows of shiny belt buckles, and even a rich leather saddle or two.

All mark a milestone in the fantastic rodeo career of their son, Casey, who just keeps getting better and better at taming some of the wildest bucking broncs in the nation.

Last year, he qualified for the bareback competition in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Springfield, IL.

This week, he's traveled to the 2002 National High School Finals Rodeo in Farmington, NM.

"I'm not sure when I'll first compete," Gale said Wednesday afternoon from his Vermillion home.

He placed 17th at last year's national rodeo. He believes the chances are good that he can finish higher at this year's competition, in part because of last year's experience.

"I won't be so nervous," he said. "I'm just going to go, have fun, and try to ride good."

He's not discounting the challenges that are awaiting him in the next few days, however.

"There are a lot better riders, a lot more riders from every state, and the horses are really good," he said. "But it's also a fun time. There's a lot of things to see and do."

Gale placed at the top at a regional rodeo in Winner in early June, and to qualify for the state high school rodeo finals, he had to compete at a second regional rodeo in Watertown.

"To get to the state, you had to qualify there, and I ended winning there, too, so I went to the state (rodeo) with the maximum amount of points I could have," he said.

The state rodeo was held in Rapid City in late June.

"I rode at state and with the points combined in winning the state rodeo along with the other rodeos, I qualified for the nationals," he said. "The national rodeo is the biggest rodeo on earth," Kelly Gale said. "It's not just the national finals � it's almost international � because the Canadians and Australians will be there, too. It's more of an international title, almost more of world title rather than a national title."

Casey Gale has made modifications to his gear to deal with the change in climate in New Mexico.

"The humidity and the dry heat make that ride on the handle pack a little bit different," Kelly Gale said.

Gale, 18, a 2002 graduate of Vermillion High School, is perhaps in the best physical condition of his rodeo career � a career that began when he won a belt buckle at age 3 for mutton bustin' at the Bison Easy Ridin' Rodeo in 1987.

"It takes a lot of arm and hand strength," Kelly Gale said. "He works out, he does crunches with buckets of grain and he stays in good physical shape. You don't want to not be in good physical shape when you climb up on one of them (broncs) or they haul you away in an ambulance."

South Dakota high school rodeo competitors have to be in the top 10 in both regional rodeos to qualify for the state rodeo.

Gale has qualified for the state competition during his four years in high school. In order to go to the nationals, young cowboys must place in the top four at state rodeo. Gale has met those high standards two years in row.

Gale was born in Hettinger, ND, and spent the first years of his life on a ranch near Bison. His family moved to Vermillion six years ago.

"I've grown up around horses, cattle, ranching and roping," Gale said. "I don't remember not knowing how to ride."

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