The Frederick News-Post
MYERSVILLE, Md. (AP) — Morgan and Lauren Keeney sparkle as they expertly navigate the rodeo ring — literally, because they’ve got bling.
The sisters from Myersville find every opportunity to spice up their ensemble, including glittery cowboy boots, large belt buckles (the rodeo equivalent of trophies), jeweled breastplates for their horses and shimmering belts.
“Some people don’t like bling,” Lauren said. “But we do.”
But once they mount their horses, they mean business. This past year, the Keeneys joined Maryland’s first high school rodeo team, and they both did well enough in competitions to earn spots in the National High School Finals Rodeo beginning July 13 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Morgan also won Maryland’s Rookie of the Year award.
The National High School Rodeo Association has members from 41 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia, encompassing about 12,500 students, according to the National High School Rodeo Association. At finals — dubbed the “world’s largest rodeo” — about 1,500 contestants will compete, as the top four athletes from each event are invited to compete for national titles, prizes and scholarship money, according to the association’s website.
In Wyoming, Morgan, 17, and Lauren, 14, will compete in both barrel racing and pole bending. Lauren also recently picked up goat tying.
Barrel racers complete a clover-shaped pattern riding on their horse, while pole benders try to weave through six poles as they ride. Both are measured by time. Goat tying is a bit different, where riders dismount from their horses to tie together three legs of a tethered goat as quickly as possible.
The girls have been involved in rodeos since they were little and would ride ponies, but they’ve grown to love the competition. Even though they said they are friends with most of their competitors from years of riding alongside each other, they want to win.
“I don’t really care if (Lauren) beats me, but if someone else beats me, it’s different,” Morgan said.
“As long as one of us wins,” Lauren said.
But winning sometimes comes at a price. Together, they’ve spent many weekends on the road, many days at rodeos all over the area, hours taking care of their horses, and lots of time practicing.
“It was nice to see them choosing that over a party,” said their mom, Pam Keeney. “It’s taught them a lot. It’s not just fun and games.”
Morgan even missed the first two days of her senior week to compete in state finals, where the points were essential to qualify for Wyoming, making that decision “definitely worth it,” she said.
“When I found out about the dates, at first I was like, `No, I don’t want to do it,”‘ Morgan said. “But when you think about it, you’ve been training all year for it, it would be worthless to throw it all away for those two days that I missed.”
Winning at the finals will be tough, but it means more for the Keeney sisters, as it’s the last time they will compete together at the high school level. Morgan just graduated from Middletown High School and is heading in the fall to West Virginia University, where she will join the equestrian team, which is different from rodeo.
“(Lauren) is going to miss her,” their mom said.
With the competition growing closer, Maryland’s national director and president, Karen Anderson, said the Keeneys are both great racers, but “it’s anybody’s game.”
“What you get, you have earned,” Anderson said. “The state of Maryland is sending out a team, but they’re competing as themselves.”
Morgan and Lauren don’t know what to expect because it’s Maryland’s first year.
“I like planes!” Lauren said. “I’m also excited for all the people there. There are people from Hawaii and Canada. … It’s crazy.”
“I’m excited for the competition, because there are going to be new faces around us,” Morgan said. “And, of course, the shopping.”
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)