COLUMBIA — At 8 a.m., Tory Chasteen’s parents, sister and brother were all there with him on their horses.
Chasteen, who just finished his junior year at Rock Bridge High School, went into Saturday morning tied in the cutting event at the Missouri High School State Rodeo Finals. The event gives each competitor two and a half minutes to separate a cow from a group of about a dozen cattle.
He was the first to compete on Saturday, and as part of his cutting team, the members of his immediate family each took a corner of the arena's ring, acting as herd holders and turn-backs to allow Chasteen to accomplish his task.
His grandmother, Ginger Gibson sat on the bleachers next to her husband wearing a faded pink T-shirt from the 2007 state rodeo finals. Just as she once did when watching her daughters compete, she clutched a clipboard while her grandson entered the ring.
Gibson has been watching her family compete in the high school rodeo since 1978, and she said her stomach stills gets in knots before anyone from her family enters the ring.
The entire year's worth of competitions, 20 rodeos, all add up to this weekend. It isn’t enough just to perform well at state because every rodeo adds up to make each competitor's final score.
The judges gave Chasteen a 143 for his performance Saturday morning, but there was no way of telling if the score was good enough to take first. Whoever wins walks away with a certificate for a $1,500 prize saddle.
His grandmother wrote his score down, calculated his total points and anxiously awaited his competition’s performances.
Chasteen rode a horse his family calls Goldy. Together with his brother, Brady, and his sister, Casey, the Chasteens have won seven saddles in cutting on the same horse. Their mother, Cindy Chasteen, used to ride Goldy’s grandmother when she competed in rodeo.
“In 1982 I went to nationals on her,” Cindy Chasteen said. “My mom says I made the short go (finals), but I don’t remember.”
Tory Chasteen is president of the Columbia chapter of FFA and typically wakes up at 6 a.m. to help take care of the horses, cattle, goats and sheep on his family’s farm in Columbia.
Few people at Rock Bridge, however, are aware of his life outside of school.
“If you play on the basketball team, you walk around in your jersey,” Tory Chasteen said. “It’s not like I walk around in my cowboy hat in school.”
Saturday morning, he wore a white cowboy hat but said he would never take it to school. To his knowledge, he is the only entry in the state rodeo that attends Rock Bridge.
“I try not to babble on about it,” Tory Chasteen said. “Nobody can relate to it.”
Last year, as a sophomore, he and his brother took first place in the state in team roping. The brothers went on to compete together in nationals.
Their father, Bert Chasteen, said it was always planned that the brothers would compete together when Tory Chasteen was old enough. They placed fourth in state their first year together and made it their goal to win state the following year.
“They rope together at home, but to see them do good is gratifying,” Bert Chasteen said.
Tory Chasteen said he was glad for the support his family gives him, but he still takes the competition as a personal challenge.
“I don’t rodeo for anybody but myself,” Tory Chasteen said. “It’s not just enough to win a go-around. I won’t be satisfied until I perform how I should have.”
Chase Gabriel, a senior from Grain Valley, who was tied with Chasteen, was the second to compete in the cutting Saturday morning. Gibson watched Gabriel's performance and politely clapped and cheered for him as if he wasn’t tied with her grandson.
The announcer gave Gabriel's score — a 138 — and Gibson returned to her calculations. Despite going up against two talented seniors, she said her grandson had won.