RANCHESTER — Tara Stimpson has found success in a number of her athletic endeavors. From the basketball court to the rodeo arena, Stimpson knows what it takes to compete at the highest level.

In just a few short years, Stimpson has gone from a two-time state champion with the Tongue River girls basketball team to Rookie of the Year on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Montana Circuit. The athletic feats come as little shock for people close to Stimpson, such as Montana State-Northern rodeo coach Doug Kallenberger.

“No one outworks her, and that’s why she’s winning,” Kallenberger said. “She’s not afraid to put in the time and effort.

“It’s no surprise whatsoever on what she’s been able to accomplish.”

Couresty photo
Tara Stimpson

Stimpson currently competes for the Skylights’ rodeo team in Havre, Montana, but just five years ago she ascended a ladder with a pair of scissors and cut down the second of her two state titles at Tongue River. And while the basketball endeavors remain memorable and celebratory, Stimpson’s true calling came in the rodeo arena.

Simpson grew up on a ranch in Lodge Grass, Montana — while also having a second home in Ranchester where she’d live during the weekdays — and ever since she could walk, Stimpson’s spent a good amount of time atop a horse.

Stimpson’s work ethic and prowess on horses landed her a chance to compete collegiately at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana, before transferring and finding a home at MSU-Northern.

“I really liked Havre, the rodeo coach and whatnot,” Stimpson said. “The school was small, and they had the degree I wanted, so it worked out.”

Havre provided the environment and stage for Stimpson’s work ethic to blossom. That helped her quickly climbed the ladder, and in 2017, Stimpson was awarded the WPRA Montana Circuit Rookie of the Year honor for her expertise in barrel racing.

“To do as well as she did at that stage, it was overwhelming,” Kallenberger said. “It’s neat to see for our program.

“It’s humbling more than anything else. It’s humbling to see those kids go on and have success.”

Stimpson would like to make the most of her final semester with the Skylights and qualify for the College Nationals Finals Rodeo in Casper this June.

To reach the finals, however, Stimpson has plenty of work to do. Stimpson encountered a little bit of bad luck and tipped barrels during four of the five rodeo meets this past fall and currently sits 13th in the standings within the Big Sky Region. Stimpson needs a top-three finish in the final standings in order to qualify — something that doesn’t worry Stimpson or her rodeo coach.

“I have no doubt in my mind, she will be in Casper, Wyoming, in June,” Kallenberger said. “I have no doubt whatsoever.”

As for what the future may hold, Stimpson remains undecided but knows the sport she has done for as long as she can remember will factor in somehow.

“I’ve just thought about rodeoing,” Stimpson said. “I’ve kind of made that my life, and as long as I can keep rodeoing and make things work, that’s what I’ll do. I really like it down (in Arizona). I know in the next year or so I’ll branch out and go to more stuff than just Montana competitions and try and go a little further for everything.”

Stimpson’s rodeo career has gotten off to a good start with a Rookie of the Year honor as proof, and her laudable work ethic may just vault her to a high-level of success, similar to what Stimpson experienced on the basketball court in Dayton so many years ago.