Cameron Shaner takes the reigns every rodeo, turns his horse around in the box and lets out a deep breath before the chute opens.
“Do your job,” he tells himself.
Last fall, the recent Fort Calhoun graduate took care of his business well enough to earn the Iowa High School Rodeo Association's (IHSRA) all-around cowboy belt buckle. He also earned National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) spots in team roping and cutting.
“I really wanted to make it to nationals this year,” Shaner said Wednesday. “We were really close my freshman year — really close my freshman year — and hadn't got this close yet.”
Now, after Iowa's spring season was canceled, the cowboy will wait and see if the NHSFR takes place July 19-25. It was originally scheduled to take place in Lincoln, but a new location is now being considered, according to the Gillette News Record in Gillette, Wyo.
“I'll be ready when it happens,” Shaner said.
The Pioneer wrestler isn't the only member of his family to qualify for a national rodeo with last fall's efforts, however. Morgan Shaner, who'll be a freshman next school year, qualified for the junior high finals in the light rifle event. That Des Moines, Iowa, event has already been canceled by coronavirus precautions, though.
Undeterred and looking forward to a possible transition to trapshooting, Morgan confirmed he's had good aim for a fair amount of time.
“It kind of happens when you've been shooting for awhile,” he said.
The younger Shaner said he started competing in light rifle after his mom asked him if he was interested, but its his brother's interest in rodeo that got things started for the sons of Jeff and Kelli, including Ethan.
Cameron, the eldest, always had an interest in roping, but didn't get any formal training until he joined the Iowa rodeo scene in the eighth grade.
“You don't know what it's like until you do it,” he said.
The cowboy debated riding bucking horses, but viewing one high school rodeo's worth of roughstock competition turned him off of it.
“I watched every single kid either get kicked through the fence, off of the fence or just kicked in the head and I said, 'I am not doing that,'” Cameron noted.
He opted for roping events instead and found instant success at the high school level — sort of.
“The first high school rodeo I went to I got second in the calf roping and then I disqualified myself on accident,” Shaner said. “Not knowing the rules.”
Now, though, Iowan Colton Stuva and he combine to make up one of the IHSRA's top duos. The partnership came to be when the Nebraskan first started roping in Iowa.
“I think his mom went up to my mom in the stands and said, 'Does Cam want to rope with Colton?” Cameron said. “And we just said, 'Yeah,' and it kind of worked out from there. Wouldn't be as far as we are today without them.”
Nationals hopes wouldn't have come to pass without Shaner's performance last fall in Waterloo, Iowa. Not knowing it was going to be the last rodeo of the Iowa season, the cowboy still went out and performed as if it was.
“Just another rodeo,” Cameron said. “I probably didn't realize that was the last one until spring.”
He won the cutting, a cattle-sorting event, and the team roping with Stuva, earning all-around cowboy honors by one point.
Since that October rodeo, however, the season has been shut down. Shaner has roped inside and recently attended a rodeo in Missouri in hopes that the nation's cowboys and cowgirls will still get together in July for the NHSFR. If he gets the opportunity, the Fort Calhoun standout plans to give it his all.
“Last year of high school,” he said. “You don't get another chance at it.”
The cowboy's next rodeo season will be competed in Texas as he plans to join the Vernon College team and improve his already nationals-worthy skills.