'It's a lot of rodeo'

High school cowgirl embarks on three-rodeo roadtrip

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If one were to assign a theme to the 25-day road trip that Kendel Fawcett and her mom embarked upon, a couple of possibilities could be, "The Prestigious," "The Who's Who of Youth Rodeos" or if a musical motto was preferred, "On the Road Again" might do.

The Fawcetts left Wednesday for Shawnee, Okla., to attend the International Finals Youth Rodeo (Monday to July 17), aka "the richest youth rodeo in the world."

If the junior-to-be at Moffat County High School makes it into the short-go at the IFYR she'll have to fly up to Gillette, Wyo., to check in on time at the National High School Finals Rodeo (July 19 to 25), aka "the largest youth rodeo in the world." In the meantime, her mom will drive the trailer up to Gillette.

After the NHSFR it's onto Colorado Springs for the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo (July 25 to 31), aka "the oldest youth rodeo in the world."

Got all that? According to YahooMaps, the mileage for the trip is 2,094.5 miles. The Craig cowgirl was preparing for the trip Tuesday.

"It's a lot of rodeo," she said. "But if I get into the short go in either of the first two rodeos, it will make all the driving worth it."

Fawcett increased her July rodeo list by one when she finished fourth in the season standings for pole bending in June at the Colorado State High School Rodeo Finals.

"The high school rodeo is probably what I'm most proud of," she said. "I had to perform all year to be able to go."

The IFYR and the NLBFR don't require a previous qualifier. The high school rodeo requires a participant to finish in the top four for the overall season point standings for an event.

While going to the NHSFR was a bit of a surprise for Fawcett (she wasn't in the top 15 for an event her freshman year), the bigger eye opener was the event she qualified in.

"I've won most of my stuff in barrel racing," said the former Colorado Junior Finals Rodeo champion in barrels. "It wasn't until this year that poles were my event."

Two developments went into the change of event specialties: Fawcett's barrel racing horse had to retire because of an injury and her new horse, Bones, took to pole bending in the spring.

"He just took off in the spring," she said. "It went from me guiding him to him doing it automatically."

Throughout the spring Fawcett started to move up the standings in poles and in April she earned her first win.

"The rodeo at Rocky Ford I won, and I moved up to sixth overall," she said. "That was when I started to think about qualifying."

Fawcett and Bones' success continued through May, and she moved into third before the state finals. Despite one top-10 finish at state, Fawcett stayed in the top four to qualify for nationals.

The points start over at the national finals, so everybody has an equal chance,

"I want to make it into the short-go," she said.

To do so, Fawcett will need to have an average time in her first two rounds that are in the top 15 of all the riders.

Current Moffat County High School rodeo team members Tia Brannan and Kelly White qualified for the high school finals in previous years. Fawcett said they have given her some advice.

"They said to go have fun and enjoy all of the activities I can," she said. "They also told me not to be nervous."

Usually, nerves aren't a part of Fawcett's routine.

"I think part of it is that I've been doing (rodeo) my whole life," she said. "My mom won three saddles when she was pregnant with me."

The self-described rodeo kid described her feelings as "excited" the day before she left. She won't be alone on the trip. In Oklahoma, her best friend, Becky White, will be competing alongside her for the big bucks.

"Becky and I have done a lot of rodeo together," Fawcett said.

Getting into the short go in Oklahoma could offset the costs of the entire trip.

"Last year's barrel winner took home something like $10,000," Fawcett said. "That would help pay for a lot of rodeos."

A good start in Oklahoma could also be important for Bones.

"He was tired after state so I've been resting him," she said. "It would be nice to do well in Oklahoma to build off of that in Wyoming."

The duo's best time in poles in 20.2 seconds; the 20-second barrier is something Fawcett wants to break.

"(Breaking 20) would be a goal," she said. "But really, it's just as important to have clean runs."

Aside from the rodeo in Gillette there are multiple events to keep the 1,500 participants entertained. Fawcett is signed up for a basketball tournament.

"There's all kind of things for us to do," she said. "They make sure it's a memorable experience."

Memorable experience -- maybe that could be the theme for the 25-day, 2,000-plus mile road trip. How about "Saddle sore" or ... obviously there are a lot of options.

While the theme might be hard to decide on, one thing is for sure, Fawcett said.

"There's lots of opportunities to get new stuff and have fun."

That settles it -- it's the "Lots of opportunities to get new stuff and have fun" trip.

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