Vernon’s Tylee Cooper

Vernon’s Tylee Cooper

Cooper going to Gallup

Vernon’s Tylee Cooper qualifies for National Junior High School Rodeo Finals in Gallup, N.M., June 23-29.

Vernon’s Tylee Cooper is ready to gallop in  Gallup, N.M., June 23-29.

The Grade 8 Vernon Secondary student qualified for the National Junior High School Rodeo Finals for goat tying and ribbon roping.

Cooper, 14, booked her trip stateside after placing first in ribbon roping with partner Owen Perry, a Grade 7 student out of Monte Creek (Cooper is the runner and Perry is the roper), and third in goat tying at B.C. championships.

Featuring more than 1,000 contestants from 41 states, five provinces and Australia, the NJHFR is the world’s largest junior high rodeo. In addition to competing for more than $75,000 in prizes, contestants will also be vying for more than $100,000 in college scholarships.

“Mostly I’m just looking forward to the experience,” said Cooper. “Not many people get to qualify for nationals and there’s no other rodeo like it.

“And there’s some really good prizes.”

Cooper leaves June 18 as it will take her and her family three or four days to haul her horse, Molly, down to the event. They plan to stay at rodeo grounds along the way.

There is one slight hitch – Cooper has never ridden Molly, who she is borrowing from a friend. The two will have a chance to get acquainted at a rodeo in Merritt the week before she leaves.

“They’ve used her for goats before so she should be good,” said Cooper, who normally rides her own horse, Pecos, in goat tying.

“He’s kind of slow and he’s not really that great of a goat horse,” said Cooper, a member of the North Okanagan Riding Club. “He doesn’t give me the best chance down there, and he doesn’t like to be away from my mare and it would be expensive to bring two horses.”

To earn a shot at the national title, contestants must finish in the top 20 in their events (based on their combined times/scores in the first two rounds) to advance to the final round. Champions are then determined based on their three-round combined times/scores.

Cooper, who plans to one day compete on the college rodeo circuit, played defence with the Five Star Awards Bulldogs in Bantam hockey last season. She is also student president of the B.C. High School Rodeo Association’s south region junior division.