Tia Brannan has grown up in the tradition of rodeo in her family, following her two older sisters who were riding and roping before her.
This week Brannan will begin a new family tradition that she hopes will continue for three more years.
The Moffat County High School sophomore will be the first in her family to head south Thursday for the 54th Annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Farmington, New Mexico.
"I'm looking forward to the experience of nationals," said Brannan, who will finish her first high school rodeo season in Farmington. "The focus of the rodeo world will be in Farmington next week and I'm going to be part of it."
There will be more than 1,500 contestants from 39 states, four Canadian provinces and Australia at the world's largest rodeo from July 22-28.
Brannan will be competing in the goat tying competition, which she finished first in the finals of the Colorado State High School Finals Rodeo and third overall for the rodeo season.
The high school rodeo season is the longest of any high school sport, with a fall season followed by the championship season in the spring and summer.
"I was pretty intimidated my first couple of rodeos in the fall," Brannan said. "But my previous experience and the long high school season helped me get over my original nerves."
Brannan said she has been riding horses since she was eight and her two older sisters, Tammy and Tonya, have been big influences. In Farmington she will be riding Dusty, who is Tammy's horse.
When the young rider will compete is uncertain until the draw in Farmington. The only thing for certain is that there will be a total of 14 performances and Brannan will be in two of them. If she finishes in the top 20, she'll move on to the final championship performance July 28.
"I'm anxious for the competition, but all I have to focus on is making my runs and we'll see what happens," Brannan said. "When I'm out there I need to think about my performance just like any other rodeo."
After talking to past national rodeo competitors, Brannan said that they told her the goats at nationals are going to be bigger than what she has been tying this season but, "We have a lot of different sizes of goats on the ranch. I've tied down almost every size of goat before."
One of Brannan's highlights in her freshman season was tying a goat for the first time in less than eight seconds. That and keeping a good average is a goal for her at nationals.
"I love the competition of the rodeo," she said, "It is what you practice for year 'round and it keeps it exciting."
The national competition will be more than just a rodeo. Brannan and her entourage- parents, sisters, brother-in-law and friends will be treated to concerts, dances, a trade show and a volleyball tournament.
"The whole community of Farmington gets into it," Brannan said. "It will be fun."