Vernon’s Tylee Cooper competes in high school rodeo barrel racing. Local action starts today.

Vernon’s Tylee Cooper competes in high school rodeo barrel racing. Local action starts today.

High school rodeo comes to Armstrong

High school rodeo stop hits IPE grounds this weekend in Armstrong.

As student president of the B.C. High School Rodeo Association’s south region junior division, Vernon’s Tylee Cooper has to worry about more than just her own game.

The 14-year-old Vernon Secondary student not only has to be savvy in the saddle, she has to have sound communication skills in coordinating the athletes and fundraising for the organization.

As the regional rep for barrel racing, she also watches every run and handles any controversy that might arise.

“You just have to understand where they’re coming from and listen to them,” said Cooper, who will compete in five events at this weekend’s high school rodeo, hosted by the North Okanagan Riding Club, at the IPE grounds in Armstrong.

“It’s really helped me learn how to deal with people. I’ve made a lot of new friends and I’ve learned a lot about it.”

In addition to barrel racing, Cooper will also compete in pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying and ribbon roping. She rides Daisy, a paint horse, in barrel racing and pole bending, and Pecos, an unregistered horse, for goat tying and roping.

Action begins today at 4 p.m. with the cutting event at Denton Moffat’s arena. The remaining events go at the IPE grounds starting 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to the IPE grounds is free and there will be a concession onsite.

“I’m really hoping we get a decent crowd,” said Bianca Olsen-Stiles, a Grade 12 student at Pleasant Valley Secondary. “When there’s people there watching it gives you more drive to do better.”

Olsen-Stiles will also compete in five events – barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, cutting and breakaway roping.

One of her horses is older than she is – she rides a 19-year-old quarterhorse named Six for barrel racing and pole bending. She borrows her boyfriend’s (Westwold’s Cole Churchill) mount, Cowboy, for some of the other events.

Olsen-Stiles has been riding for years, but only started competing two years ago. She hopes to go the college rodeo route and is considering nursing as a career.

“I just decided I really want to do it. I love it. I’m disappointed I didn’t start in Grade 9,” said Olsen-Stiles, who enjoys the rush of barrel racing.

“I just like the intensity you get when you’re about to get in the gate and your horse is hot because he wants to go too.”

Churchill, who also goes to PVSS, is looking to build off a tremendous season. He advanced to high school nationals last year in Wyoming.

Cooper, who also plays hockey and soccer, noted there are a number of high school events that spectators won’t see at a pro rodeo. In particular, she said the goat tying is “something different.”

“It’s cool to see the girls go flying off their horses at a full run.”