Gauge McBride from Kearney.

Gauge McBride from Kearney.

The harder they work and the more they practice … the luckier they get.

Those of whom I speak are those athletes, specifically young ones in our discussion today, who have that edge. Whatever ‘it’ is, the kids I’m talking about have a shade more than most of their peers.

You can see ‘it’ and sense ‘it’ but ‘it’ resists quantification.

What makes athletes such as these stand out? I believe the two biggest factors are dedication to the hard work required to excel and, of course, natural athletic genetics.

I wonder if young Gauge McBride from Kearney, pictured here getting summarily pitched off a bronc (comes with saddle, horn and stirrups) during this trip during the 2019 Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo at Hastings, might be an example of just such an athlete.

On the surface of it as we see things going a bit south for Gauge on this ride, we might think he doesn’t make the grade as one of our ‘it’ athletes. If we were to think that we would be very wrong.

The fact is when Gauge jammed his hand into the rigging of a bareback horse (no saddle, no horn, no stirrups) he was the best of the best in Nebraska this year … and not by a little bit.

Young Mr. McBride rang up the high school rodeo circuit cash register to the tune of 224.25 points in the bareback event to the runner-up’s 91.75.

On top of that this young top-hand finished third in bull riding, too.

The result is that despite the setback we see here – and lots more like them I’d wager – Gauge’s over-the-top effort and ability have transformed him into an elite rough stock contestant.

Another Kearney rodeo standout is Gus Franzen who was first in steer wrestling and fourth in saddle broncs.

Nebraska’s national rodeo qualifiers, including these two, will compete in the High School NFR this Sunday through next Saturday at Rock Springs, Wyo.

Dedication to training and a core of competitiveness will take these two young men far, but one can find examples of this ‘it’ factor in much younger athletes, too.

Case in point: Our granddaughter Annie, a seventh grader.

Annie is playing softball on a 12-under Denton team that just won its league championship. To accomplish the feat Annie and her Dentonators teammates had to defeat a very good squad that clubbed them 20-2 during the regular season. The Dentonators beat them not once, but twice in the tournament.

They got the job done and our own Annie contributed lots of great plays at second base and at the plate with bat in hand.

She hit the ball hard. She caught four infield fly balls with the title on the line in the second contest. She scored the first Dentonator run in the championship game sliding in a cloud of dirt. She threw out a runner or two at first and had her head in the game from the first pitch to the leaping celebration at the end.

Annie has come so far and every step of her progress has been the result of caring, competing and constant hard work to get better.

No doubt about it: Annie is more competitive, athletically mature, coachable and serious about softball and her other passion, competitive gymnastic cheerleading, than I was about sports as a senior in high school.

I didn’t get it in 1967, but man I see it now in vivid, living color every time fearless Annie lays it all on the line and goes for broke.

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