Rodeo runs deep for Jacey Schlegel. She has two brothers who compete on the pro circuit and she’s been roping and riding herself from her family’s Burns ranch since she was 5 years old.
It wasn’t until she developed an equally deep self-confidence in her riding that she managed to rise to the top, however. She did that this season, riding to a championship in breakaway roping at the Colorado State High School Rodeo finals earlier this month.
“Last year I wanted to win, but I wasn’t wanting to work at it. This year, I looked at who had won last year and said, ‘I’m just as good as they are. I can win,’” said Schlegel, who’s preparing for her senior year at Soroco High School in Oak Creek.
“I knew I had the horse and I knew I had the ability. I just decided to boost my confidence,” she said.
That paid off big as Schlegel galloped to her first high school championship, winning at the five-day state finals in Lamar.
Riders carry points from the season into the finals. Schlegel entered the event as the top-ranked rider in the state, but she held only a slim lead. She managed to build on that by catching her calves in each of the first two preliminary rounds.
She got a slow start in her first attempt but caught her calf at the end of the arena. Her second-round time of 2.3 seconds was as fast as anyone in the division clocked all week. Needing only to catch her calf in any amount of time to secure the title during the final round, she again slipped under 3 seconds, to 2.99, to lock up the win.
She took home three belt buckles, one for winning the second round, one for having the lowest combined time and one for winning the overall championship. She also won a custom saddle she plans to have made with her name, her sponsors, her new title of “2013 Breakaway Champion” — and maybe a zebra-striped seat.
“I used some of the stuff I use in basketball and volleyball,” said Schlegel, a multi-sport athlete at Soroco. “I always tell myself, ‘I belong out on the floor.’ So I said, ‘I belong in the arena.’ That’s how I overcame the you-can’t-do-this feelings. I can do it.”
Next up is the National High School Finals Rodeo, set for next month in Rock Springs, Wyo. After that, Schlegel hopes her success can pave the way for even more rodeoing.
“Since I won state in the breakaway and I’m hoping to do well at nationals, I hope I can get a scholarship to rodeo in college,” she said. “I want to get a good offer to go to college then make the college finals. I just want to keep rodeoing.”