Buckle up: Heated competition at high school rodeo championships

  • Kilihea Mockchew participates in Barrel Racing. (Thane Milhoan/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Trisyn Kalawaia rides a bull at the Hawaii High School Rodeo Association held their state championships last weekend at Parker Ranch Rodeo Arena. (Thane Milhoan/Special to West Hawaii Today)

WAIMEA — While graduation parties are in full swing and most high school students are enjoying their summer vacation, high school rodeo athletes are still competing for state and national titles.

The Hawaii High School Rodeo Association held their state championships last weekend at Parker Ranch Rodeo Arena, where cowboys and cowgirls battled for the right to be crowned state champion and travel to Rock Springs, Wyoming to compete at nationals, which being on July 14.


The five-day event featured competition in traditional rodeo events such as bull riding and barrel racing, as well as two uniquely Hawaiian events, the po’o wai’u and double mugging. In the po’o wai’u riders must rope a steer and tie it to a Y shaped pole in the arena. Double mugging requires a rider to rope a steer while a runner on the ground subdues the steer. Together they work to tie three legs with a piggin’ string.

Ka’ohu Haalilio took first place in the po’o wai’u event and then teamed up with incoming association student president Dawstin Hoopai to claim the double mugging title.

In the end, two paniolo stood out above the rest and took home the coveted All-Around Cowboy and Cowgirl belt buckles and saddles.

Waiakea’s Trisyn Kalawaia combined a first place finish in bareback riding along with five second place finishes to secure the title of All-Around Cowboy and a chance to represent Hawaii at nationals.

Kalawaia understands that attending nationals is a great opportunity to be exposed to rodeo competition on a grand scale. He believes it will help prepare him for rodeo at the college level and beyond.

“Going to nationals in Wyoming is just a stepping stone to accomplishing my dream of making it to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas,” he said.

With both the district and state All-Around Cowboy titles to his name, Trisyn is certainly on the right path.

Konawaena’s Kilihea Mockchew captured championship buckles in goat tying and cutting as well as recording strong finishes in pole bending, breakaway and team roping on her way to being named Hawaii’s All-Around Cowgirl for 2018-19.

Kilihea also doubled up on All-Around Cowgirl titles, capturing the district title earlier in the season.

Oahu’s Shelby Wallen was named the HHSRA Queen and will represent the association during the upcoming season.

The competition for belts buckles and saddles was exciting, but it is important to note that these student athletes were also competing for scholarships and the opportunity to pursue their sport at the college level. Eight student athletes received scholarships during the awards ceremony.

Ka’ohu Haalilio and Kala’a Andrade were awarded the Skip Shuman Scholarship, while Diana Lopes, Jerikah Valencia Gomes, Ka’ohu Haalilio, Dawstin Hoopai, Sierra Matsumoto, and Lilyana Ferguson received merit scholarships.


The paniolo tradition is strong in the islands and as they head to the mainland next month to represent the state at nationals, this group of young cowboys and cowgirls looks poised and ready to perpetuate the ranching culture in Hawaii.

Thane Milhoan is a fixture on the local sports scene, especially during the high school seasons. He runs the Big Island Sports Network, which you can find on Instagram and Facebook.

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