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Rodeo ready

Covington County will be inundated with cowboys and cowgirls this week as the Alabama High School Rodeo state finals kicks off Thursday at the Covington Center Arena.

Of those, two local teenagers — Lexi Keahey of Andalusia and Lane Taylor of Opp — have been practicing all year long for the opportunity to compete in front of a hometown crowd.

Taylor, the 18-year-old son of Larry and Kim Taylor, said he’s been atop a horse since he was 3. He is currently leading Alabama in the team-roping category and is sixth in the state in calf roping.

“I started out with a little pony,” he said. “I guess now you can say I’ve graduated up to a quarter horse.”

Taylor, who recently earned his diploma from Opp High School, has also “graduated up” to securing a rodeo scholarship to Troy University. He plans to attend Troy for two years before transferring to Auburn University, all while competing in the collegiate rodeo circuit. He hopes to one day become a veterinarian or a pharmacist.

There is a deep love of rodeo in the Taylor family, he said.

“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said. “My dad is the one who bought me my horse. My whole family rides. My brother Lucas just won the Jr. High Rodeo. Rodeo is just what we do.”

Keahey, the 16-year-old daughter of Randy and Kym Keahey, became a home school student so that it would give her more flexibility in scheduling rodeo times.

She will be competing in the categories of breakaway roping, the barrel race and team roping.

“(Rodeos are) so much fun,” Keahey said. “I have always loved it.”

The two both agreed that competing in Andalusia is the perfect finish to the 2009 rodeo season.

“It’s just so much better to be out in the arena, to look out into the crowd and see faces you know,” Taylor said. “It’s so much better than going away.”

An estimated 120 teenagers from Alabama, the panhandle of Florida, Mississippi and Georgia will compete for top prizes. Today, the “Queen” competition is set for 10 a.m.; on Thursday and Friday, the slack competition will start at 10 a.m., with the rodeo beginning at 7 p.m. On Saturday, a rodeo performance will be held at 7 p.m.

Admission prices vary. Armbands for the week are $25; daily admission for ages 13 and up is $10; daily admission for ages 6-12 is $5; and daily admission for 5 and under is free.

State rodeo winners will travel to compete in the national competition next month in Farmington, N.M.