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Mancos student hopes to become first-generation rodeo star

13-year-old will compete in barrel racing, breakaway roping
Mancos cowgirl Rhiley Montoya finishes up her run in the pole bending competition of the 2016 Four States Junior Rodeo. She will compete this year in the National High School Rodeo Association’s junior high finals.

Rhiley Montoya will compete in three events at the National High School Rodeo Association’s junior high finals next week, in what she hopes will be another step in a lifelong career.

The 13-year-old Mancos Middle School student will test her skills in barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping during the 10-day event in Lebanon, Tennessee. She is one of several members of the Ute Mountain High School Rodeo Team to qualify for finals this year, but she’s the first person in her family to compete in rodeo. This will be her second year at the national competition.

Last year she said the finals were “super fun,” even though she didn’t place in any of her events.

“Everyone was very nice,” she said. “I think I will do better this time because I know what to expect and I’m not as nervous.”

Rhiley said she first got into her sport at age 5, when a preschool teacher recommended her parents take her and her sister to a beginners’ day camp in Bayfield. Since then, rodeo has become a major part of her life.

Although Rhiley has trained in several different events, she said her favorite is goat tying, because it requires more skill on the rider’s part.

“It’s not just about how good your horse is or how much money you spent on your horse,” she said.

She said she’s looking forward to making new friends at finals, although she’s a little worried about being a spectator at their events. Watching other people sometimes makes her nervous, she said, and that can lead to mistakes.

Eventually Rhiley hopes to get a college rodeo scholarship and keep competing.

“If I can’t do rodeo when I’m older, I would hope to be a teacher or something, so I can still do what I love,” she said.

She’ll be joined in Tennessee by her family and her Ute Mountain teammate Cooper McClain, who will compete in bull riding.

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