Gilbert 7-year-old heads to Texas rodeo finals - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Gilbert 7-year-old heads to Texas rodeo finals

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Posted: Friday, June 27, 2008 3:38 pm | Updated: 11:57 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Justin McWhirt doesn't say much. Sitting at the kitchen table at his parents' home in Gilbert, he looks up from under his black cowboy hat, mostly nodding, sometimes spitting out a "yep" or a "good" as the reply for each question asked of him. Justin has always been quiet, say parents Bryan and Katrina McWhirt - especially around adults he doesn't know.

Justin McWhirt doesn't say much.

Sitting at the kitchen table at his parents' home in Gilbert, he looks up from under his black cowboy hat, mostly nodding, sometimes spitting out a "yep" or a "good" as the reply for each question asked of him. Justin has always been quiet, say parents Bryan and Katrina McWhirt - especially around adults he doesn't know.

Out back, atop a 500-pound calf in the family's makeshift rodeo ring, is where the towheaded 7-year-old comes into his own.

"When it comes time to ride, he won't be shy," says Bryan.

"At the rodeos he'll win and then just walk off and give a wave," says Katrina. "He won't talk, which is frustrating for some people."

Justin wins - a lot. In fact, he's won five of six rodeos he's been in since the end of February - and did so with a broken arm in a cast. It came off this week, just in time for Justin to get in shape for the World Youth Bull Riders championship in August in Fort Worth, Texas.

When healthy, Justin rosins up his rope and hops in the chute to ride four animals a day, says Bryan McWhirt.

"At this age, if we don't keep him busy with a challenge he'll just not do it," Katrina says. "We always have to get new animals, because he doesn't like it if they're too easy, if they don't buck enough."

Justin - who has a long list of wins in mutton busting, where he rode sheep, and calf riding - already has a sponsorship deal and has won enough belt buckles to outfit a posse. In August, he's hoping to win an international championship. The only thing that could hold him back is money, since both of his parents lost their jobs around the new year. So far, his mom has sold her horse trailer and put out jars around town where donors can help pay Justin's way to Texas. Two businesses, Higley Feed and Red's Tire Shop, chipped in to pay his entry fees.

When Justin gets to Texas, though, the McWhirts are confident he can win a buckle.

"Justin places in just about every time he enters," says Bryan McWhirt. "The harder it is, the more he likes it."

Want to help?

Donation jars for Justin McWhirt's travel expenses to Texas are at Boot Barn on Alma School Road and Cole's Cowboy Supply on Power Road in Mesa and at Gantzel Farms Country Store on Ocotillo Road in Queen Creek.

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