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Highmore's Talon Ping, a two-sport standout, carries on family rodeo tradition
A score of 76 in the short go-round of the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association state finals clinched a state title for Highmore's Talon Ping in the bareback riding competition.
Rodney Haas - 605 Sports
Jul 2, 2024
 

By Rich Winter

605 Sports

HIGHMORE —- On July 15, 2024, Highmore’s Talong Ping scored a 76 in the short go-round of the South Dakota High School Finals Rodeo to win the bareback title and join some family history from decades ago. 

In 1973, his grandfather, David Ping captured the state bareback riding title, and after a short clap to celebrate his success, he came over to share the moment with his family.

“He thought his rodeo season was over after getting hurt in Philip so to come back and win state was something he didn’t think was going to be possible,” Katherine Ping, Talon’s mother said. “He has amazing family and community support that everyone is so proud of him and the hard work he puts into anything he does.”

Ping is nursing an LCL (knee) injury, and has been running and lifting to stay in shape. He noted he most likely won’t ride until the national finals that start in mid-July in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Ping comes from a rodeo family as parents Katherine and Travis rodeoed at the high school and college level. His three younger sisters are also rodeo and working their way up the ranks in the junior divisions or rodeo. 

Talon Ping remembers getting on a steer at the age of seven to begin his rodeo journey. The first time he competed in bareback came about because of his prowess in bull riding. 

“I wanted to do bareback riding at a rodeo in Mobridge but they said the event was full,” Ping said. “They told me that if I did the bull riding, and won, that they would let me into the bareback competition.”

 Ping won the bull riding that day, and was allowed to compete in the bareback riding. His first year in bareback riding resulted in winning a qualifier in Rock Springs, Wyoming and placing high at National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. 

Ping calls the 76 he scored in the short-go at the state finals as the best ride he’s ever had. 

“I drew a good horse in the short-go and drawing a good horse makes up half the score,” he said. “The first go-round and the short-go were probably the best rides I’ve ever had and I was really excited and happy after winning a state title.” 

In addition to playing football for Miller/Highmore-Harrold, Ping is a standout in the wrestling room. Over the last two seasons  Ping has won 79 matches, finishing sixth (113) and seventh (120) at the 2023 and ‘24 Class B state tournaments. 

He spends a lot of time in the practice room with two-time state champion Kellen Hurd and Hurd’s younger brother Chase Hurd. Wrestling is something Ping has always done and he does find some similarities between wrestling and bareback riding.

 “You have to train hard for both,” Ping said. “You have to have the same mindset in all sports which is to do your best and have fun while competing.” 

Concerning bareback riding Ping says a good bareback rider has to have a certain mentality. 

“You have to be a little wild and not scared of anything,” he said. “You can’t clamp down, you have to spur on every jump. Most of the time I just try to be well prepared before a ride. Right when the chute opens everything is a blur until the whistle blows and then you can think.”

His best friends in the absence of riding are common to bareback and saddle bronc riders across the world. 

“The spur board is important,” he said. “I put on my bareback riding rigging and work on the board every day. I also have a bucking machine that I get on occasionally and that feels pretty much like a horse.” 

After finishing fifth in the bareback riding at the 2023 South Dakota state championships, the 2024 state championship and a trip to the national finals is something  Ping has been dreaming about since he first started rodeoing.