WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.-President Ben Shelly said the opportunity to see Navajo contestants perform in the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is a source of pride. He wished the contestants the best for the Dec. 4 opening round in Las Vegas.
"These athletes are great role models for our Navajo people," Shelly said. "We'll be cheering you on every step of the way. Make us proud."
Having Navajo contestants as card-carrying members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and competing on the big stage is no longer a dream, he added.
One Navajo cowgirl has the opportunity to shatter the glass ceiling this year.
Tohatchi, New Mexico cowgirl Cassidy Dennison and her horse, Eagle, will compete in barrel racing at this year's NFR. Dennison is an eight-time Indian World Champion and was the 2010 National High School Breakaway Roping Champion.
She's currently ranked number 10 in the 2014 World Standings and has earned more than $92,051 for the year.
"She's an exciting cowgirl to watch. Go fast, Cass," Shelly said.
One Navajo cowboy is no stranger to the Big Show and has proven his mental and physical toughness time and time again.
Erich Rogers, of Round Rock, Arizona, will again compete in team roping (heading) and tie-down roping. Rogers is no stranger to the NFR and has won big money over the years, including last year's first place tie in Round 2 of the team roping competition with a time of 4.5 seconds.
Rogers is currently ranked No. 2 in the 2014 World Standings and has earned more than $101,421 for the year.
Shelly said Rogers is another exciting Navajo cowboy to watch because of his timing and quickness. He said Rogers needs to cowboy up for tonight's opening round.
Also competing in team roping (heading) at this year's NFR is Aaron Tsinigine of Tuba City, Arizona. This Navajo cowboy is currently ranked No. 14 in the 2014 World Standings and has earned $68,074 this year. It's his first qualification to the NFR.
Tsinigine's hasn't won a world title yet, but Shelly is confident he will overcome the nervousness of competing this year to do well in the finals.
"Good luck to all of our Navajo athletes competing this year. We'll be tuning in and cheering for our cowboys and cowgirl to show the world how the Navajo Nation rodeos," Shelly said.
The NFR will air nightly from 8 to 11 p.m. (MST) until Dec. 14 on CBS Sports Network.
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