MOSES LAKE — Naomi Yager, 14, said it was a mixture of excitement and nerves when she found out she made the top-four at the Washington State Rodeo finals three weeks ago. After placing third in the goat tying competition in Walla Walla, Yager will compete in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Huron, South Dakota next week.
The NJHFR is the largest junior high rodeo competition, bringing contestants from around the country and the globe. Contestants in Huron will compete for more than $80,000 in prizes and $200,000 in college scholarships.
Yager said she enjoys competing in rodeo competition because it gives her a chance to do something a little different than other sports.
“I consider rodeo a sport, but it’s just fun because you get to do something new,” Yager said. “You get to meet new people from everywhere.”
Yager said that when she started participating in goat tying, she just kept practicing just kept improving.
“I realized I was actually pretty good at it,” she said. “Then just kept practicing and just got really good.”
Yager will compete on her horse, Blue, next week, a horse she’s been riding for about two years. She said this familiarity comes in handy.
“It helps me because I know that I can trust him, and I know that he’ll do good,” Yager said.
Yager’s mother Allison said her daughter has been on horseback virtually her entire life.
“We’ve done junior rodeos since she was a little kid,” Allison Yager said. “She started out goat flanking, or goat tying, since she was a little kid and it’s one of her better events.”
Allison Yager said it was ultimately a love of horses that keeps her involved in the sport, with the chance to spend her weekends at rodeos among friends a nice plus.
Practicing every night, and competing in events when she can, Allison Yager said she’s confident her daughter can be very competitive if she competes like she practices.
“You just don’t know ’til you get there,” Allison Yager said. “The elements, the goats, anything can change once you get to a competition at that level. Plus, you’re competing against the nation’s best.”
When asked if she felt like she had a chance to come away on top next week on the national stage, Naomi Yager responded simply, “Yeah.”
Naomi Yager said, before competing on any stage, she just tries to tell herself it’s no different than when she’s at home.
“It’s not about doing good,” she said. “I’m obviously still going to try and do good, but it’s more about just going out and having fun, and the experience.”
Naomi Yager said she’s still nervous going into next week, but mainly, it’s just excitement.
Contestants at the NJHFR placing in the top 20 over the first two rounds will advance to the finals with the chance to be named World champions. Finals will be aired live on www.RidePass.com.