Lacey Silvers turned a fighting chance into a first-place finish at last weekend’s Georgia High School Rodeo Association state finals.

Silvers, a rising senior at Northwest Whitfield, trailed break-away roping points leader Aleah Higgins — a close friend and practice partner — by two points heading into the season’s final event.

GHSRA participants follow a schedule of events throughout the school year and earn cumulative points. That continues through the state finals, a showcase event for the association.

“It was going to be close, because we were close all year,” Silvers said. “I was up until the rodeo before we went to state, then she beat me so she was up.”

But Silvers turned in solid performances throughout the three-day event in Perry, finished first and is among those who will advance to the National High School Finals Rodeo on July 24-30 in Springfield, Ill.

Bull rider Justin Walston, who attends the Career Academy, finished third in bull riding and will also head to the nationals. Walston won the 2005 state championship. Walston is third in the bull riding points race.

Calf roper Levi Worley and barrel racer Kim Gowin did not qualify for nationals.

Since the top four qualify for nationals, Silvers will have a familiar face among her competitors in Higgins, who lives in Adairs-ville.

The competition hasn’t been a problem for their friendship.

“We see each other, like, every day and hope for the best for each of us,” Silvers said.

Silvers, who also participated in goat-tying, has competed in Georgia High School Rodeo Association events the past two seasons, but this is the first year she has followed through the whole schedule in a push to make it to state. Those years of practice helped her this season and she plans to compete in similar fashion as a senior.

“I worked for (state) all year,” Silvers said. “I practiced a lot. I just tried to practice hard to win.”

Now Silvers will take her skills in break-away roping — the event is similar to boys calf-roping, except the rider remains in the saddle for the event — to nationals.

Will she be all about competition or is this more of a fun trip?

“A little bit of both,” Silvers said.

Gowin said her horse, Streakin Wheel, was not accustomed to an enclosed arena and was “skittish” the whole time.

“I called the lady we bought him from and she said she could not remember him ever competing indoors,” Gowin said.

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