Colorado State Fair junior champions
Lausanne Hillmuth: English, ages 8 to 13, Level III/IV
Mackenzie Holmberg: Western performance, ages 8 to 13, Level III/IV
Alexis Len: Gymkhana, ages 11 to 13
Steamboat Springs Three Routt County girls cleaned up at the Colorado State Fair this summer, taking top belt buckles in their 4-H horseback-riding events.
Lausanne Hillmuth, Mackenzie Holmberg and Alexis Len won their respective divisions in English, Western performance and gymkhana. The girls competed Aug. 28 and 29 in Pueblo. Lausanne and Alexis tested their skills at state for the first time this year, partly because Mackenzie participated in 2008, said her mother, Lani Holmberg.
"It was this thing that everybody thought it was going to be so scary, and she tested the waters last year and said it's not that bad," Holmberg said.
The girls helped and encouraged one another throughout competition, Lausanne said.
"We weren't setting goals to beat each other," she said. "It just seemed probably normal. It didn't really seem like we were competing each other at all, we were just riding with each other, happy for each other."
Lausanne is home-schooled, Mackenzie is in eighth grade at Christian Heritage School and Alexis attends Steamboat Springs Middle School. The girls do 4-H but aren't always around one another.
Jocelyne Hillmuth, Lausanne's mother, said that was part of why their cooperation was noteworthy.
"They're not naturally together all the time, so that to me stands out the most, how impressive that was when obviously you go to state fair to be competitive, and amongst all that, those girls came together as a team," she said.
Alexis won the gymkhana competition, partly because of her 15.34-second barrel racing run. That beat the times in every age group, from 8 to 18, said her mother, Maribeth Len.
"I kind of knew it was pretty fast," Alexis said. "My pattern felt really good, and we just blew through it."
She said it was fun to compete alongside the other girls.
"We worked really well together," Alexis said. "We all are really good friends, and even though we do totally different things, we're still helping out each other, and it's really fun."
Mackenzie's experience was a bit nerve-racking for her mother, Lani Holmberg said. She was tallying the points and watching nervously as her daughter competed.
Mackenzie wound up ahead of the boy she lost to last year, which added to the excitement, Jocelyne Hillmuth said. Mackenzie didn't have much to say about that, instead praising the other riders.
"I ended up winning first, and I was really excited because there's definitely really good people down there," she said.
The girls celebrated their trio of champion belt buckles with junk food and rides on the midway at the fairgrounds.
The State Fair 4-H competition is open to Level 2 riders and above, and the skill scale goes up to Level 4. The girls said they planned to compete at state again. Mackenzie urged others to give it a try. If a young rider is uncertain, she said, he or she could go down and just watch one year to see how it goes.
"I would just say do what you think you can do," Mackenzie said. "I mean, if you're a little hesitant going down, I would just wait a year or wait a few months or so and work on getting really good, so that when you go down there you're confident."