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Dixie barrel racer welcomes pressure as she looks to defend her state title

HEBER CITY — Most people look for ways of minimize or ignore the pressure that comes with competition.

But Dixie High’s McKenna McAllister finds it as comfortable as a well-worn saddle.

“I like pressure,” the sophomore said after earning the fastest time (16.709 seconds) in the barrel racing competition at the Utah High School Rodeo Finals in Heber City Thursday morning. “I do better (in high-stakes situations).”

McAllister last summer earned a state championship in barrel racing, as well as a trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo, and she’s poised to do so again this season. The competition, however, couldn’t be any tighter.

She and her horse, Lainey, ran the fastest time Thursday morning, but they’ll need to it again Thursday night if she wants to defend that title and make the national team.

After the first round of the state finals, McAllister led the barrel racing by less than one-hundredth of a second. In the overall, which determines the state championship, as well as the top four representing Utah at the National rodeo, she is in second place by one point, while Kaytlyn Miller, Enterprise, is in first place. In third place is McLayne Pearson, Dixie, who trails McAllister by a single point.

“It’s tough,” she said of the field.

McAllister’s grandmother trains barrel horses, which made it easier to find a horse that clicked with her.

“You have to try a few to figure out which one you like best,” she said. “My grandma raises our barrel horses and trains them, so I get to run them.”

She said the sport, “has always just been in the family.”

And while she enjoys barrel racing, she said she also enjoys roping events because that’s what her family does together.

“I grew up doing everything,” she said. “Roping is kind of more in the family, and so that’s fun to do it together.”

Another cowboy looking to defend his state championship and earn a third trip to nationals is Altamont senior Bodell Jessen. “I had a rough go yesterday, so I’m not going to be able to defend my bareback title,” he said. “But I’m still close on the all-around and some other events. So I’m just going to try my hardest until the end.”

Jessen had the fastest steer wrestling time during Thursday morning’s competition (7.02 seconds), but that was only the seventh fastest time in the first round, which includes both Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening performances.

He is, however, currently in second place with 10.68 seconds in tiedown roping, and he said qualifying for nationals in a timed event is a goal he’d like to accomplish in his senior season.

“I’ve been to nationals twice – my sophomore and junior year,” he said. “I went in bull riding the first year, bareback and bull riding the next year. I’ve never made it in the timed events, and I want to make it in calf roping and steer wrestling.”

Regardless of what happens this week, Jessen will continue to rodeo. He’s headed to Odessa, Texas, on a full ride college scholarship to rodeo.

The rodeo performances continued through Saturday, with the top 10 qualifiers competing in Saturday’s championship round at 6 p.m. Friday’s times are 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The leaders of the first round of the finals are:

Wyatt Johnson, Bareback; Emma Hodson, Breakaway; Hays Weight, bull riding; Kaytlyn Miller, goat tying; Rylee White, pole bending; Troy Flanigan, rifle shoot; Stetson Wright, saddle bronc; Samuel Carson, steer wrestling; Taylor Boren and Gates Hadley, team roping; Stefan Ramone, tiedown roping; Jordon Pierce, trap shoot.

More results can be found at www.uhsra.org.

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports