If work ethic and dedication are indeed keys to success, Pine teenager Chelsie Stodghill should soon be reaping the rewards of the hours of practice she spends honing her skills as a high school rodeo performer.
Since Stodghill first took up barrel racing, about five years ago, she’s practiced almost daily — especially the past few weeks as she prepares for her first appearance in the National High School Finals Rodeo to be held July 15-21 in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Stodghill is the only Payson High School student to have qualified for the national finals and will be a member of the Arizona team along with high school student-athletes from around the state.
Stodghill says she’s anxious to test her riding skills against the nation’s best barrel racers because her goal is to eventually earn a college scholarship in rodeo and possibly someday compete on the pro circuit.
Stodghill qualified for the national showdown June 7 to 9 at the Arizona state finals in Payson and has since practiced, aboard her horse, Peso, at the family arena in Pine.
Her goal at nationals is to ride the cloverleaf barrel-racing pattern in about 16 seconds, which is what she was timed in at the Arizona state finals.
“But the pattern at nationals is bigger, so I’m going to have to be fast,” she said.
If Stodghill has a competitive edge for the finals, it could be the time she spends practicing visualization.
“I visualize so that I know what I am going to have to do in the arena,” she said. “No surprises.”
Early next week, Stodghill, accompanied by her parents, Travis and DeeDee, will leave for Rock Springs, where the Pine teen will have only a few days to acclimate herself before jumping head first into the competition.
Among those elated to see the teen qualify for Rock Springs is her coach and teacher at Payson High, Jadee Rohner, “She’s an outstanding young lady.”
The state finals
At the Arizona championships held last month at the Payson Event Center. Stodghill rode her way to a state runner-up barrel racing finish.
Most impressive about her silver-medal finish is that Stodghill is only a sophomore and was competing against other riders possibly older and with more experience. Because she is only a second year competitor with two more years to train, mature and master the nuances of the event, the future could contain state, and possibly national, barrel racing crowns.
Stodghill entered the state finals sitting fourth in AHRA barrel racing standings, but it didn’t take her long to move up in the rankings.
After the first go-around on opening day, she was third in 17.3 seconds. The following day she was first in 16.8 seconds and in the final go-around on Saturday, turned in her fastest time — a sizzling 16.6 seconds.
Her times on Friday and Saturday were Payson Event Center records.
In addition to finishing as state barrel racing runner-up, Stodghill won the average buckle for the weekend.
While barrel racing is Stodghill’s favorite event, the teen competes in other prep rodeo events including team and breakaway roping.
Stodghill credits much of her success to “Peso” saying the steed is one of the best on the prep circuit.
Rohner credits the horse’s performance to his owner, “Chelsie trained Peso to run barrels and has obviously done a great job.”
Evidence of the teenager’s rodeo prowess first appeared at the 2010 Gracie Haught Memorial Roping held at PEC.
As a 12-year-old crowd favorite competing against adults, Stodghill wowed onlookers with a performance befitting an older, more experienced competitor.
Teamed with Joe Mike Clem in team roping, the duo finished fourth among the No. 10 ropers.
The evening before, Chelsie turned in the fastest time (17.93) in the barrel racing competition.
At PHS, Stodghill is actively involved in Future Farmers of America and is president of the high school and middle school rodeo club.
For others interested in the sport, a Friday Night Barrel & Pole 4D Jackpot with $250 added money will be held July 20 at Payson Event Center. Books open at 5 p.m. Competition starts at 7:30 p.m. Time-only runs are 5:30 to 7 p.m., and cost $3 per run, with a one-minute time limit. There is a $25 registration fee and $5 arena fee, with 60 percent cash payout.