By Glen Miller
El Reno Tribune
Like any state champion, El Reno’s Layton Little knows there are going to be events where he may not have the best of outings in order to finish at the top of his sport.
Unlike most title holders, though, Little can literally get back up on his horse and try again.
Just weeks removed from winning the calf roping title at the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association State Championships, Little had a less than stellar outing in a jaunt through Texas and New Mexico. Over a five-day period before the Fourth of July holiday he competed in rodeos in Canadian, Wellington and Stamford, Texas, and a fourth in Capitan, N.M.
The 1,598-mile round trip netted only one solid finish in New Mexico, but was one spot out of the money.
“It was a pretty good little drive and I didn’t do very well. Having some time off now will allow me to get back in the practice pen and get ready for Shawnee,” said Little.
Little will get his opening go-round assignments Sunday night as he goes for his final shot at winning a title at the 25th Annual International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) which gets under way Monday in Shawnee.
Dubbed the world’s richest youth rodeo, Little will be trying to better his fourth-place finish last season as he competes in both calf roping and team roping with partner Jacob Deef of Elgin.
“I’ve been going every year since my freshman year and I haven’t had any luck until last year when I took fourth in calf roping. That won me a pretty good paycheck,” said Little.
The recent Yukon High School graduate, now 18 years old, says it’s bittersweet knowing this will be his last shot at winning an IFYR title.
“I think I’ve got a pretty good chance in my last year. I now know what’s going on and what it will take and I think things will turn out all right. There are people there from all over the United States and those guys know how to ride. It’s going to be tough and it will not be easy,” said Little.
However, with a gold belt buckle on his waist from his recent state title run, Little feels he heads into the IFYR on top of his game – despite the aforementioned struggles.
“I’m going to go in there and try my best and see how it works out. I feel like I’m on top of my game and I’ve had a little bit of a win streak before the holiday and I want to keep on winning and finish off my high school career strong and call it good and then set my sites on college and do it all over again,” said Little.
Little will have two go-rounds in both events and hopefully his times will be good enough to make Friday’s short go-round which is where the big paydays rest.
“I want to go out on top and that’s the main goal around here (home). It’s a family effort and my parents (Bobby and Nikki Little) have been with me from the start and will be there until I finish and I’ve gotten a lot of help from them.
“My grandparents (Dave and Lynn Wagner) have also been a big help throughout my roping career,” said Little.
Little will have a busy stretch as the IFYR is just the first stop in a road trip that will take him from Shawnee to Gillette, Wyo. At the end of that 1,043-mile one-way venture rests the National High School Finals Rodeo.
He earned the 15-hour road trip with his state championship and will compete in calf roping. It will be his last major high school event before he prepares to attend college at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on a rodeo scholarship, where he will calf rope as well as team roping events.
“We have two runs this week in Shawnee and the short go-round on Friday night and hopefully I will make it there. Then we will back up and head to Wyoming. I’ll have a little time to rest as we will get there sometime Saturday morning and I won’t ride again until Sunday,” said Little.
Both in Shawnee and Wyoming, Little is quick to point out he will have to have perfect rides to finish in the money.
“I would have to say anywhere from the long eight to the short nine-second range. I will have to have clean runs to get there. I didn’t have them over the holiday and I hope to get that turned around this next couple of weeks,” said Little.