Chelsie Stodghill, Payson High’s lone entrant in the Arizona High School Rodeo Association state championships, rode her way to a state runner-up barrel racing finish setting two Payson Event Center records along the way.
The silver medal, as impressive as it is, might only be a prognostication of things to come. Because she is only a sophomore 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.
The 2012 state finals, which were held June 7 to 9 in the Payson Event Center, drew more than 200 of the state’s finest rootin’, tootin’ teenage cowpunchers and cowgirls.
Stodghill, who entered the finals sitting 4th in AHRA barrel racing standings, was third on Thursday’s go-around in 17.3 seconds. The following day, Friday, 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 PEC records.
In addition to finishing as state barrel racing runner-up, Stodghill won the average buckle for the weekend.
The teen competes in other prep rodeo events including team and breakaway roping, but says barrel racing is her preference.
“It always has been my favorite since I first began in rodeo more than five years ago,” she said.
Stodghill credits her excellent showing in the state rodeo to her barrel horse “Peso” saying the steed is one of the best on the prep circuit.
Stodghill’s PHS teacher and coach, Jadee Rohner, credits the teen for the horse’s performance, “Chelsie trained Peso to run barrels and has obviously done a great job.”
Because the Stodghill family home in Pine features a complete arena where Peso can be trained and Stodghill practice her horsemanship, the teen spends most of her out-of-school time prepping for competition.
With the state win, Stodghill has qualified to compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo when it begins July 13 in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Rohner believes Stodghill is extremely deserving of the national berth because of her “hard work and dedication.” She also calls the teen, “An outstanding young lady.”
Evidence of the teenager’s rodeo prowess began to turn evident 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 much more 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 American and is president of the high school and middle school rodeo club.
Stodghill’s goal is to eventually continue her rodeo career on the collegiate level, “I don’t know just where yet, but I’ve been looking.”
At the state finals, champions were crowned in the usual rodeo events as well as others not seen in PRCA events such as breakaway, pole bending and goat tying.
While the competition was the main attraction, the finals also featured a queen contest, cowboy prom, banquet and awards ceremony.
Of course no rodeo is complete without a grand entry, and Payson’s were doozeys with throngs of cowboys and cowgirls parading onto the PEC grounds before each performance.
The queen contest turned into a test of nerves and wherewithal when contestants were asked to prove their horsemanship in the main arena on opening day and later that evening give speeches, model and answer questions in the Payson High School Auditorium.
For the prom, which was held in Mazatzal Casino, AHSRA members chose “Las Vegas” as the theme.
The finals marked the culmination of the 2011-12 season that began Sept. 17 and 18 in Payson and continued with events around the state including Wickenburg, Sonoita, Parker, Cottonwood, Buckeye, Wilcox and Prescott.