SHERIDAN — Saige Pollard will compete next week at the national level in a sport that she has taken part in since she has been able to walk.
Pollard, who is going into ninth grade at Big Horn High School, will join five other Sheridan County youths at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M.
“My parents (Chuck and Tracie Pollard) rodeoed,” she said. “I kind of grew up in that kind of world. I rode a horse as soon as I could hold on.”
This is the third time Pollard has competed at the rodeo. She will vie for titles in pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping and ribbon roping.
She has plenty of rodeo accolades to her credit, taking fourth in pole bending at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo last year and won the All-Around Cowgirl award at the State Junior High Finals Rodeo in Casper earlier this month.
“I am really thankful for the health of my horse,” she said. “God blessed me to do well at that level and I vowed to get better every year.”
Six from Sheridan County will compete against 2,500 other young people from 47 states. Emmy Ilgen, from Big Horn has taken part in the rodeo for three years, but this is the first year she has represented Wyoming. As a sixth- and seventh- grader she qualified for the national finals from Hawaii.
“I feel energized (taking part in nationals),” she said. “You get that pressure and get that adrenaline. I love that feeling before a run. This is the national finals. This is it. Anything can happen. You just have to prepare yourself for whatever happens. Sometimes you perform your best and sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
The young people headed to New Mexico often practice together, perfecting their rodeo skills as five of the six are from Big Horn. Shyanna Cahoy attends Sheridan Junior High School.
The young cowboys and cowgirls compete in six rodeos during spring and the top four point totals from Wyoming move on to the national rodeo.
Makenna Balkenbush, who will compete in pole bending and goat tying said she enjoys the individual aspect of competing in rodeo.
“Everything is all you,” she said. “If you mess up it’s your fault.
All of the competitors say the support of their family and friends is crucial for their success. Ilgen noted that when her horse suffered injuries this year, her sister helped by loaning her a rodeo horse.
“With support, it’s a lot easier to stick with it,” she said.
The rodeo will take place June 23-29 and top competitors will win scholarships and prizes.