CASA GRANDE — Three Casa Grande middle school students will vie for World Championship titles in June when they head to Des Moines, Iowa, for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo.

John Boyd IV, 13, a sixth grader at Villago Middle School, will compete in the boys breakaway competition.

Nita Bennett, 13, an eighth grader at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic school, qualified to compete in the girls breakaway competition and 13-year-old Nolan Andersen, a home-schooled seventh grader, will compete in tie-down roping, team roping with partner Colter Lee Todd of Willcox, ribbon roping with partner Abbie Wells of Cochise and chute dogging.

“This was a year of dedicated, hard work from our Casa Grande kids. Competition in the junior high rodeo is tough and our kids did great,” said Julie Andersen, Nolan’s mom.

The three teens, who have been competing in rodeos since they were young children, will travel to the national event June 20-26, where they will face more contestants from around the globe.

John is the son of Sammy Jo and John Boyd III. As an Arizona High School Rodeo Association competitor this past season, he also competed in team roping, chute dogging, ribbon roping, goat tying as well as boys breakaway.

Nita, whose parents are Shannon and Tyke Bennett, also takes part in AHSRA events. While she qualified for nationals in the girls breakaway event, she also competes in barrel racing, pole bending, ribbon roping, team roping and goat tying.

Nolan, son of Julie and Jason Andersen, competes in several AHSRA events. He qualified for the national competition in the tie-down roping, team roping, ribbon roping and chute dogging but also competes in the goat tying. He has been a rodeo competitor since he was four years old.

The three teens have family members who also compete in roping and rodeo events.

“All have siblings and family members that rope and rodeo. Rodeo is a family event, not only with your own family, but the rodeo community becomes like family,” Julie Andersen said.

The National High School Rodeo Association is an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of sportsmanship, horsemanship and character.

The annual final competition is among the largest rodeos in the world, bringing together the top four competitors from 44 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.

More than 1,200 teens in grades six through eight will compete for a world championship title at the event this year, which will be held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

As well as a national title, winning competitors receive scholarships and jackpot money.

The event will be livestreamed online at


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at