Anne Photograp News 2024

Big dreams, small towns and good horses

Big dreams, small towns and good horses

Ketch Kelton of Mayer, Arizona, won his second straight Jr Ironman championship at Lazy E Arena in March. The 18-year-old timed event cowboy is the son of three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo team roper Chance Kelton, who has also appeared in five National Finals Steer Ropings, and his wife Tammy.

Q: The Jr Ironman Championship consists of three rounds in four events: tying, steering, heading and tracking. What is your favorite event?

A: Probably the heel.

Q: How much do you do for the other events throughout the year?

A: I do everything except the bulldogging at home every day.

Q: What do you enjoy most about a versatility race like the Jr Ironman?

A: It’s just so much fun doing all those events at the same time. And I love that big Lazy E Arena.

Q: With your Jr Ironman days behind you, have you set your sights on an invite to the Cinch Timed Event Championship?

A: Yes, I would like to go to the Timed Event. It just looks so fun, and I want to jump rope.

Tyler Pearson hazing for Ketch Ketch Kelton at the Lazy E.
That’s Tyler Pearson hazing for Ketch at the Lazy E. | James Phifer photo

Q: What was it like growing up in Mayer, Arizona with your big sister Kenzie, and what is she up to these days?

A: We live in the middle of nowhere, on an eight mile dirt road, and the land on the ranch ranges from desert to mountains. The closest town to where we live is called Cordes Lakes. Kenzie is still playing tug-of-war, living in Wickenburg and attending cosmetology school five days a week.

Q: What are your favorite highlights from your young career?

A: Winning the Jr Ironman twice was really cool. Winning the all-around at the (National) High School Finals (Rodeo) in 2022 was also pretty neat.

Q: Which events did you compete in to win the all-around at the NHSFR?

A: I placed on the team roping, calf roping and reining cow horse.

Q: What is your status at school?

A: I am a homeschooled high schooler this year. I will be attending Cisco College in Cisco, Texas in the fall.

Q: What attracted you to Cisco?

A: I’ve always wanted to go to Texas because that’s where everything is. It is an hour’s drive from Stephenville and an hour’s drive from Abilene. So it’s kind of in the middle, and it’s a small town. I wanted to study in a small town.

Q: What are your cowboy hopes and dreams?

A: I honestly don’t even know. I’ve never really thought about it much. Winning the Cinch Timed Event is certainly a goal. And I would like to win the College (National) Finals (Rodeo).

Q: Did you grow up with cowboy heroes?

A: My father and my grandfather (Willy Kelton). I’ve worked with them and looked up to them all my life.

Q: Any other strong influences?

A: My father helped me the most with my rope work. My mom is the one who helps me with the rest, like planning and coming in.

Q: What are your plans for this summer?

A: I think we’ll go to (the International Finals Youth Rodeo in) Shawnee (Oklahoma), the Best of the Best (Timed Event Rodeo) in Gallup (New Mexico), the World Junior Rodeo Championship (at the Lazy E), and hopefully Nationals (the NHSFR) in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Q: How many events do you regularly participate in?

A: I get into calf roping, team roping and bulldogging all over the place, as well as the cow horse with reins at the high school rodeos.

Q: Who are you currently team racing with?

A: I mainly went to Denton Dunning. I really like heels, but I have a partner who can outdo me now, so I go to him.

Q: Do you see yourself more as a header or as a heeler moving forward?

A: I do not know yet.

Q: What does your horse herd currently look like?

A: It’s really good. I feel like I have a good one at every event. I have a few good head horses, a good chopping horse and a good calving horse. I borrow a bulldog horse.

Q: Do you feel like growing up in Arizona has been an advantage because of the year-round tug-of-war and warm weather?

A: The warm weather and year-round tug-of-war are certainly an advantage. You can play tug-of-war seven days a week all year round, and there are always so many jackpots to go to. It is certainly an advantage.

Q: What do you hope to see in your rearview mirror ten years from now when you look back on these good old days?

A: That’s difficult. I’ll just go with the flow for now. I don’t really have a set plan yet, but it will probably involve roping and training horses.

Team Kelton surrounded by friends and family in the winner's circle of the 2024 Jr Ironman.
Team Kelton in the winners circle at the end of the event. | James Phifer photo