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Skills, thrills and plenty of hills marked a unique year for local sports in and around Jefferson County.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Dan Horne, of Bend, set an Oregon state skydiving record by making 41 dives in a single day at the Madras Municipal Airport. The previous record for one day was 40 dives.While these pages are most often filled with prep sports stories from the local high schools, there's much more going on in Jefferson County than just the Buffs and Bulldogs.

As the country started to come out of its shell with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, more and more events were able to be held outdoors. For the sporting crowd, that meant a chance to finally get back out to the activities they loved.

From free-falls from the skies above the Madras airport to faceplants in the dirt at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, here are the top five local sports stories of 2021.

Boots Raccoon wins All-Around Buckle as Cowdeo returns

PMG FILE PHOTO - Boots Raccoon was the grand prize winner at the 2021 Cowdeo, the 52nd annual edition of the Jefferson County kids' rodeo. Boots received the All-Around Buckle for his efforts.A familiar staple of Jefferson County sports came back this fall, as the Cowdeo made its triumphant return to the fairgrounds.

The annual event, which was not held in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, drew a massive crowd for its 52nd installment. Fans packed the bleachers for a chance to watch a herd of youngsters try their hand at a number of rodeo events.

Kids as young as five and as old as 14 took to the arena at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for a full day of fun. Events included sheep riding, cattle roping, barrel racing and much, much more.

The 2021 Cowdeo began with emcee Kelly Simmelink giving a heartfelt reading to honor the late Delford Johnson, who had been a central figure in the Cowdeo for years. As Simmelink spoke, two of Johnson's grandchildren sat horseback by his side.

In a heartwarming twist of fate, one of those children — young Boots Raccoon — went on to win the All-Around Buckle, which is the grand prize at the event.

Bend skydiver sets record after jumping from Madras airport

Afraid of heights? If so, you may want to skip ahead to the next story.

For most people, age is just a number. But as Dan Horne, a Bend resident, celebrated his 40th birthday, the number took on a new significance.

It became a challenge.

At some point around his birthday in January, Horne realized that 40 was more than just an age. It was also the state record for the most skydives in a single day.

With that knowledge in mind, Horne planned it out and waited for a perfect day in the early summer. On June 15, he headed up to the Madras Municipal Airport with a clear goal in mind: 41 dives.

With the help of the crew from Skydive Awesome, which operates out of the airport, Horne hit his goal on the dot. In the process, he set a new record with the United States Parachute Record.

Kalani Kepa'a takes 1st at National Senior Bowling Tournament

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks — but for Kalani Kepa'a, the old tricks are working just fine.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Local bowlers Kalani and Tami Kepa'a were all smiles after Kalani won the National Senior Bowling Tournament in Las Vegas.Kepa'a, a star of the local bowling leagues at Madras Bowl & Pizza, took his considerable talents to Las Vegas over the summer for the National Senior Bowling Tournament.

"I've been to (the event) a couple of times, but I've never won it," Kepa'a said after the victory. "So, this is pretty great."

His supporters in the stands may have been the difference-maker.

"I had the best cheering squad," said Kalani. "We had family from Washington, Hawai'i and Nevada there."

"That whole bowling alley knew his name by the time we were done," laughed Tami Kepa'a, who is Kalani's wife.

She added, "[Kalani] won, yes, but all the ohana that came to watch him ... having them there was definitely the highlight of our trip!"

After virtual challenge, MADras Runners ready to hit the road again

PMG FILE PHOTO - Gabby, Derek and Kaden Torres pose at the top of M Hill, one of the sites included in the MADras Runners Challenge, a virtual event that let runners take part in courses around Jefferson County while also maintaining social distancing guidelines.The pandemic forced the MADras Runners club to nix most of its cornerstone group events. Rather than hang up their running shoes, though, the club had a genius idea.

In March, the group began the MADras Runners Challenge, which consisted of a series of predetermined courses around Jefferson County. Each course could be rune alone or in a group, and time was not a factor. Those who completed the runs would be eligible to receive prizes, thanks in part to the sponsorship of St. Charles Health System.

The "virtual" event was a hit with the running crowd, so the MADras Runners may keep it going in the future. More recently, though, the group has gotten back together for in-person runs.

Check out the group's website at for more information.

Bonecrusher bike race crushes expectations as hundreds register

PMG FILE PHOTO - Landon Farnworth, of Bend, was the Elite men's division winner at the Bonecrusher XCO mountain bike rice in Madras.While local runners were going virtual, other racers were champing at the bit to get back out on the courses.

Take, for example, the folks at Madras Trails mountain biking.

Led by race organizer Andrew Loscutoff, the group set up an event called the Bonecrusher Race, a cross-country mountain biking set in the Madras East Hills.

Given the cloudy COVID situation, there was no guarantee that many folks would register for the race.

Instead, 200 riders ended up dragging their bikes out to Madras, including racers from all over Oregon and Washington, including one racer who came all the way from the San Juan Islands.

Landon Farnworth, of Bend, ended up winning in the men's Elite division, while Emma Maaranen, also of Bend, won the women's Elite race. Hannah Young, of Madras, was the only local winner, taking first in the junior women's (12-18 years) race.

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