Three teens from White Pine County made the county proud during the week of July 17-23, when they competed on the Nevada state team for top honors at the 68th Annual National High School Finals Rodeo, held in Gillette, Wyoming. The Nevada team finished 5th in the competitions out of 166 teams from 46 states, Canada and Australia. The Nevada team was made up of the top four qualifiers in each event
Sadie Leyba, 18, finished just 1/10th of a second from being the number one high school barrel racer in the world in an event that included 186 riders and competition from Canada and Australia.
“Coming second in the world is a pretty big surprise,” Leyba said. “I knew I had a high enough caliber horse to compete on that level but I didn’t anticipate coming in like that.”
Despite her close finish, Leyba said she was not the least bit disappointed in finishing second as her goal was to make “short go” and compete in the final round.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I was not really expecting to place that high. I did well in the first two rounds but wasn’t at the top of the pack.”
Leyba, a 2016 graduate of White Pine High School, also competed in the .22 rifle event, where she placed out of the top 20. Despite the tough finish, Leyba is a five-time repeat top shooter in the state qualifier and Nevada’s number one barrel racer in the state this year.
“I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember,” said Leyba, who rode her first horse at age 2. Leyba said she plans to attend Southern Utah University and compete as a member of the school’s rodeo team, where she hopes to capture the same success as a rider.
“I’m going to ride and find something to study,” she said, laughing about her future school plans. She has competed for all four of her high school years and for a year in junior high.
“It’s just what I love to do,” she said.
Leyba said while her interests in high school included sports, science, gymnastics and dance, rodeo has captured her heart more than anything else.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” she said, describing the allure of the competitions. “The shooting, the thrill of working under pressure, and riding. It’s more of an adrenaline rush.”
Leyba said the great things about the rodeo lifestyle is traveling every weekend to events, developing a relationship between her and her horse, and seeing the growth in her performances from week to week. While she’s rode many horses during her career, the current horse she won with this year, “Makn Witch Money”, aka “Tink,” is owned by Jamie and Ben Noyes, friends of her who are looking to start breeding and hope their horses can make a name for themselves.
This wasn’t Leyba’s first trip to the national finals rodeo. She competed in .22 rifle her freshman and sophomore years, as well as attending the junior high finals. She added barrel racing last year and this year.
Chuck Odgers, a local director along with Jimmy Jordan for the White Pine Rodeo Club and an executive on the board of the Nevada High School Rodeo Association, said Leyba also competed in pole bending and team roping with her partner, Jamie Wines, during the regular season, as well as breakaway, goat tying and trap shooting.
Leyba said she was thankful for all the “love and support” she had received from the community
For the second year in a row Tyler Whipple, 16, tied for the number two spot in trap shooting, but finished third as he did last year, when he lost a coin flip, which determined his third place finish out of 111 competitors.
“Tyler needs to learn how to flip a coin right,” Odgers said.
Whipple has been trap shooting for seven years, learning his craft when his parents bought him his first shotgun at age 5. He said it’s the suspense and nervousness that he enjoys most about the sport.
“Trying to keep your concentration,” he said. “It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s hard to keep your mind in the right place.”
Whipple said his shooting has gotten more consistent in the last two years.
“I like the feeling you have in your stomach when you’re trying to beat yourself — your last score,” he said. “You get nervous… it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.”
Whipple said he was glad to have made it as far as he has in the trap shoot competition, and that finishing third two years in a row kept him motivated, rather than discouraging him.
“I’m going to go back and get first next year,” he said. “I hope luck is on my side.”
Whipple is also into team roping and steer wrestling while participating on the club team. He is also a football player for White Pine High.
Odgers said Whipple qualified for the state finals in steer wrestling before he tore ligaments in his ankle at a rodeo in Winnemucca that prevented him from competing in the state finals.
“I’d like to go to the nationals for steer wrestling,” Whipple said, citing a goal for next year.
Catherine Odgers, 16, a White Pine High junior and the reigning Ms. Nevada High School Rodeo Queen two years running, placed 17th in the world-wide queen competition at the national finals. It was her second attempt at the nationals crown.
Odgers won her second Ms. Nevada High School Rodeo Queen honors during the state competition during Memorial Day weekend, where she faced a grueling two-day long competition in modeling, speech, impromptu questions and interviews with six judges, a written test based off the national rule book, and judge horsemanship pattern to show that she could ride and control a horse and work with it, getting it to do what she wanted.
Odgers, who has been riding since she was 8, developed a love for rodeos growing up and listening to her father’s stories about bull riding. Growing up in Las Vegas, Odgers’ often went to the PBR and met her father’s friends who had horses.
“Starting out, I never thought about being a rodeo queen,” the younger Odgers said.
She said the thought first appealed to her when, as an eighth-grader, she helped her mom put on a contest.
“That got me stuck on it,” she said.
Odgers won the Ms. Nevada High School Rodeo Queen title in both her freshman and sophomore years.
“There was a lot of pushing from my parents to study and practice all the time,” she said about her eventual win, adding she received a lot of support from her friends and other family members that encouraged her.
Odgers refined her skills by, what she said was, “having to put herself out there,” speaking at events put on by local community clubs, such as the Elks, and having to bravely talk to people who would stop her and express interest in her accomplishments.
Odgers, along with the other club members, would work alongside the parents to raise funds to continue the club, which is a privately-funded entity not related to the local school district. Events include the Elks Crab Crack, the horse races, the NRA dinner and similar events. The White Pine High Schools Rodeo Club has 17 members this year and anticipate 14 next year.
She said that she doesn’t have plans to run for the queen title again next time the opportunity arises, but she’s focused on graduating and attending New York University and eventually, teach high school English.
At White Pine High, Odgers is the drama club president and active in theater. She is also the 2018 class vice-president and a member of the FFA. As a member of the rodeo club, Odgers also competed in barrels, pole bending and breakaway.
Director Chuck Odgers said, as a club director and a state director, he was “very, very happy” with the performance of the kids on the state and national level. He invited the community to attend the club’s next rodeo on Sept. 24-25 at the fairgrounds.
“This will be the first rodeo of the season for the high school and junior high kids,” Chuck Odgers said. “I encourage the community to come out and support as they’ve done in the past.”
Chuck Odgers thanked White Pine County residents who have supported the club through donations as well as their volunteerism, helping to put the club on the road.
“It takes about 40 volunteers as well as club members to put this rodeo on, annually,” he said.
Chuck Odgers also encouraged younger kids to step up and participate.
“The only way the sport of rodeo continues to grow is if we have kids of younger ages stepping up and wanting to participate,” he said.
He said the club accepts kids grade 6 through 12, and they can join by contacting any club member, calling the club’s president, Catherine Odgers at 702-808-2079; or approaching the junior high representative, Maggie Wines, at the middle school.
There are 18 clubs in the state of Nevada, with 150 high school contestants and 50 junior high members. Rodeos are held every other weekend from September up to the third week of November, and the end of February to the middle of May, with finals held on Memorial Day weekend.