Trio of youth rodeo stars from Snohomish make it to Nationals
SNOHOMISH — This year, three Snohomish High School (SHS) rodeo stars will be headed to the 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) July 14-20 at Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs, Wyoming to represent Washington state and Snohomish County in the world’s largest rodeo.
The NHSFR has more than 1,500 contestants each year between the U.S., Canada and Australia. The contestants will participate for national titles, prizes and thousands of dollars in college scholarships.
Snohomish students Bree Sterley, Emma Hulse and Hailey Hallerman will be individually competing to make it into the top 20 for their event in Wyoming in hopes of moving on to the final round of competition, also called the “Short Go.”
Eighteen-year-old Sterley, who just recently graduated from high school, will be competing in the pole bending competition with her horse, Hollywood.
For the past five years, Sterley has been honing her craft for barrel racing, goat tying and pole bending. It wasn’t until seventh grade that she got the itch to ride. She was visiting her older brother who played football at the University of Montana and was talking with his girlfriend who was also a barrel racer for the school. The girlfriend invited Sterley out to watch her ride and it was a life-altering experience. Soon after, her father Glen decided to take her to watch a barrel racing event at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.
She was hooked. Weeks later, she started leasing a horse.
Going into the state finals, the last rodeo of the year, Sterley came in ranked 9th overall and was able to finish 2nd in the state.
At Nationals, she will be participating in pole bending. A race where the horse must first run past six poles spaced 21 feet apart. Once she’s passed the last pole she must turn the horse around and weave around each pole to the other end and then turn back around and weave through them again. Once she’s done that she must once again turn the horse around and sprint past the six poles past the starting line as fast as she can. The faster you are able to go the better your score.
“Emma and I are going to be competing in the same event,” said Sterley. The three girls have been training with and competing against each other for years,
“I’d say we are all really good friends, we all want each other to do good,” said Sterley.
Her and Hulse will be competing against the top 160 pole benders in the nation. “For the high school level, this is the big event. This is the Olympics,” said Sterley’s father, Glen.
Bree Sterley holds the reins to her horse Hollywood at the Hines Ranch facility near Snohomish.
Hulse, a freshman at Snohomish, has been riding since she was six years old. She has a pony named Bear and four horses: eBay, Pip, Faith and Five. She will be taking her horse Five along with her to the competition to fight for a spot on the podium.
Last year she participated in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo (NJHFR) in South Dakota where she placed first in pole bending and advanced to the Short Go. She was in the top 20 out of 180 in the country for her event. As of recently, she qualified in pole bending and breakaway competitions to go to Vegas to compete for a title.
This year she is looking forward to meeting the competition and being able to buy new riding gear at the booths in the arena.
“I’ve always had a passion for riding,” Hulse said. “My mom is super competitive so I think I get my competitive spirit from her.”
Hulse said she not nervous for the big stage, showing confidence and poise. “I don’t get nervous. I like to win. I live for the rush,” said Hulse.
Hallerman, who just graduated alongside Sterley, will be competing in the barrel racing competition with her horse, Rebel.
Her mom is the one who turned her onto barrel racing from a young age. Both her and her mom barrel race together
In the race, there are three barrels set up in a cloverleaf pattern. She must be able to cleanly navigate her horse in a complete circle around each barrel and then sprint back to the finish line. Just like the other race, the quicker her time, the more points she accumulates.
Hallerman has been barrel racing for over eight years.
“I love the moment right before the race when you walk up the alley way and you feel that rush that you get, the feeling of excitement,” Hallerman said. She enjoys the competitive environment that comes with racing, explaining the good sense of community that you get after being around the girls for so long.
She emphasized how important it is to be able to have a strong relationship with your horse, “They perform like Olympic athletes, so treat them like one,” Hallerman said.
Furthermore, she is excited to be able to go to nationals her senior year with her friend Bree Sterly. “It’s pretty cool to be able to see all the hard work and dedication we have put in all these years to finally start paying off and getting results,” said Hallerman.
Both being seniors, they had one last chance to go to nationals and prove that they belong among the best of the best.
Watch the competition
You can watch live coverage of the events online at www.welcome.ridepass.com starting July 14-20.
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