It has been two years since Tia Brannan competed in high school rodeos for Moffat County, but the Laramie County Community College sophomore hasn't stopped doing what she loves.
Brannan was recently named the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association barrel racing Rookie of the Year and the Wyoming Rodeo Association female Rookie of the Year.
"I think it's my biggest accomplishment," Brannan said. "Because the others (competitors) are much older, being able to compete at that level is huge."
Brannan said winning the CPRA and WRA awards was a goal she had for a long time.
"It was one of the accomplishments I'd always wanted to achieve," Brannan said. "It's such a big step from high school rodeo and Little Britches."
The CPRA and the WRA decide their rookie titles based on how much the rodeo competitors earn in winnings. Brannan finished 10th in barrel racing for the CPRA in winnings and fifth in overall winnings for the WRA.
But Brannan hasn't accomplished all her dreams.
"It's always been a long term goal to qualify for the national finals, and this is a step in the right direction," Brannan said.
Another goal Brannan would like to cross off her list soon is getting her pro card, but before that can happen she'll have to bank a few more dollars.
To earn a pro card one must first submit an application to become a member, then before being able to compete for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association -- PRCA -- or the Women's Professional Rodeo Association -- WPRA -- the person must bank $1,000 in winnings at qualifying rodeos.
Brannan said she takes her winnings and puts them back into rodeoing, as entry fees can get expensive and going to multiple rodeos stretches her pocketbook.
"If you break even, you're doing pretty good," Brannan said.
Brannan is currently a CPRA member, qualifying for the CPRA finals in September. She learned of her rookie award during the rodeo.
Brannan said she was taken by surprise to hear her name, but nonetheless was elated to receive the honor and the belt buckle that went with it.
Along with competing in CPRA and WRA events, Brannan is a Laramie County Community College rodeo team member.
In her final season on the team, Brannan is continuing to balance academics and rodeo time.
"I think growing up around the rodeo atmosphere helped a lot," Brannan said.
As an education major at the Wyoming community college, Brannan said she has a lot of classes on her plate this semester, but because she planned her schedule accordingly, she was able to put the time and effort into rodeo.
"Usually during the week I try to do all the homework I have," Brannan said.
The biggest difference between high school rodeo and college rodeo for Brannan is the way rodeos are scheduled and how many she travels to.
"You're just going to a lot more rodeos in a weekend," Brannan said. "The more experience you get, the tougher you are in college rodeo."
Brannan said because the way the college circuit is set up, she can have up to three events in one performance, but it all depends on the draw.
"I could rodeo on Friday afternoon, Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday," Brannan said.
With a break through the winter months, Brannan is happy to have a little time off the rodeo circuit, but is gearing up for the spring season that begins March 23 in Torrington, Wyo.
Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.