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After tough first-go, Rickman rides his way to seventh

Rickman racks up two plaques and a belt buckle for his effrot at the National High School Finals Rodeo
It's Tuesday and Mitchell Rickman is back home on his parents' property in Prineville.
   A plane he was on touched down in Redmond less than 24 hours earlier, but he shows no sign of jet lag.
   He's dressed in jeans, a striped long-sleeved shirt and a black cowboy hat.
   Is he tired?
   "No, not too bad," he says quietly. "It was a pretty long vacation."
   The upcoming Crook County High School senior returned to central Oregon Monday night following a 10-day venture to the 53rd National High School Finals Rodeo in Springfield, Ill., where he came away with a seventh place finish in the bareback competition.
   Held from July 23-29, the rodeo was attended by nearly 1,500 contestants representing 39 states, four Canadian provinces and Australia.
   Out of roughly 180 bareback competitors, Rickman rode his way to a three-round score of 205, less than a dozen points shy of the eventual champion.
   "I'm happy with what I got," Rickman explains. "I'm just as happy as if I would have won. I always have next year to give her another whirl."
   In the first go, Rickman found himself with what he calls a tough draw and finished with a score of 57 and no option for a re-ride.
   "The horse has to perform for you too, it gets half the points," he says. "They score it by how hard it bucks. When they don't buck, you don't get half the score.
   "It was a young horse. The stock contractor said that it had only been bucked once. It wasn't a proven bucking horse ... it just jetted across the arena."
   After placing in the middle of the pack after the first round, Rickman made up for it in the second-go, scoring 74 points. The top 20 made it to the finals and Rickman, who claimed the No. 1 spot in bareback at the state rodeo finals in June, found himself in 11th place overall.
   "I had 131 points going into the finals and 144 was winning it," he says. " ... I was maybe a little nervous because it was on TV, but I knew what I had to do and I just went out there and had fun."
   In the short-go, the Crook County senior finished with a tie for second in the round and a score of 74.
   According to organizers, almost 55,000 paid fans were in attendance throughout the week.
   In addition to two plaques, Rickman came home with a belt buckle for his effort, an item he has won at rodeos again and again. And again. And again.
   How many exactly?
   "I lost count, oh, about a while ago," he says.
   Rickman is working for his father's excavation business this summer, but that isn't stopping him from taking part in the sport he loves. This weekend, he's set to bareback ride in Corvallis and at the Deschutes County Rodeo in Redmond.
   If that isn't enough, a week later he's off to Klamath Falls, John Day, Fossil and Dufur. By the end of September, the amateur bareback rider who one day hopes to make it to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, figures he will have ridden in 100 plus competitions.
   "I'd go to more if I could, but I'd have to fly," he says with a smile.