postheadericon Youngster excels close to home

9-year-old Brazos Heck enjoys being part of youth rodeo in Oklahoma City

KINGFISHER, Okla. – Mike Latting has simple thoughts toward the International Miniature Rodeo Association.

Now in its first year in existence, Latting wants the association to be a launching point for youngsters who like the sport and want to compete in it. Brazos Heck of Kingfisher, Okla., is just one of those children, and he was part of the IMRA event in January held in conjunction with the International Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.

“We wanted to make sure kids had a place to start in a safe, positive and successful manner,” said Latting, who also operates Illinois-based Latting Rodeo Co. “As with any sport, if a child has success at it early, he or she is going to enjoy it more.

“We feel it is important to have appropriate livestock to compete on, meaning we have appropriate livestock depending on the age level and ability level. It’s all about building the heart in young kids.”

Brazos Heck

Brazos Heck

As a third-grader in Kingfisher, Brazos is just 9 years old but has proven to already have the heart of a champion. He showed it again in Oklahoma City, where he won three of four rounds in saddle bronc riding to claim that title, then placed in two rounds of bareback riding to finish as the reserve champion.

“It felt good to be there,” Brazos said. “That rodeo is a really good rodeo, and it was awesome to be part of it.”

In December, he won the pee wee division’s all-around championship at the Jr.NFR in Las Vegas. Combined with his performance in January, the young Oklahoma cowboy is proving to be quite a hand.

“When you watch him ride and watch him get ready and listen to him tell the stories, you see his love for the sport,” said Shasta Yost, Brazos’ mom. “I can’t deny him that. It’s what makes him thrive and what makes him who he is.”

The IMRA events took place in the mornings of Thursday, Jan. 18-Friday, Jan. 19. The top two in each age group competed during the IFR’s third go-round on Saturday, Jan. 20, to showcase the tremendous talent of the young athletes.

“That was great,” Latting said. “To see our kids compete head-to-head all week and then come back and let the world see … it was a good time for parents. Their chests puffed up, and they were all proud. I had that same feeling seeing those kids compete in that atmosphere.”

Brazos enjoyed it, too. It was a big-time event in his young career, and his father, Odie Heck, was right there by his son’s side every step of the way.

“It was great because all my family and friends came,” Brazos said. “It was awesome that I got to compete with my friends.

“I think I did good. I had a few things I could’ve done better and probably would’ve won it in bareback riding. You just learn from your mistakes whatever you do and move on.”

That’s part of growing as an athlete and as a young person. For a young man who rides mini bucking horses and bulls, there is a passion that is on display during every ride and every opportunity he has.

“We just let him chase that dream for as long as he has it,” Yost said. “Braz’s love for it is undeniable.”

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