She Does Both

Dec 7, 2022

She Does Both

LAS VEGAS – For someone who is relatively new to the sport of rodeo, Ryen Jean Vanderwiel rode like a seasoned pro Tuesday morning at the Junior World Finals.

The Eagle, Idaho, cowgirl had a 21.462-second run in the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas pole bending and followed that with a 15.173-second run in the KK Run for Vegas senior barrel racing as the timed events got started inside the Wrangler Rodeo Arena. Vanderwiel is currently sixth in the pole bending and placed 20th in the first round of barrel racing. Not bad for someone who started competing in the sport just three years ago.

“I don’t come from a rodeo family,” Vanderwiel said. “I’m a first-generation rodeo kid. My stepdad said he would help me into the rodeo family and he would get me my first barrel horse. After that, it just took off.”

Eagle, Idaho cowgirl Ryan Jean Vanderwiel stands with Queenie (Left) and Kita (Right) after competing in the Kelly Kiminski Run for Vegas Pole Bending and Senior Barrel Racing on Tuesday morning. | Photo By: Jack Nowlin

She made her Junior World Finals debut last year, competing in pole bending. The high school senior, who plans to graduate in a few weeks before attending Montana State University, is enjoying one last round of pole bending competition. After that she’ll focus on barrel racing at MSU.

“I always wanted to be a barrel racer,” Vanderwiel admitted. “It always looked like so much fun and I love the adrenaline rush. I snowboard so you’ve got to love the adrenaline. Barrel racing is exactly what I want.”

It helps that Vanderwiel has found her soul mate in Kita, the barrel racing horse she got last year from Brandy McPhee. Vanderwiel and Kita went through a rough patch earlier this year but hit their stride a few months ago.

“We had been fighting a little bit,” she said. “We were really consistent for a while and then I started trying new things and it went downhill. She was so consistent and trained perfectly that she didn’t care what I did until six months into it. And then she just didn’t want to turn anymore and she was knocking barrels.”

Vanderwiel still had Queenie, her current pole bending and former barrel racing horse, but she had invested too much time in Kita to simply walk away. So the Idaho cowgirl got some advice.

“My trainer looked at old videos of Brandi McPhee and she really lifts her around the barrels and gets right out of her saddle coming out of the barrels,” Vanderwiel said. “It works perfect now. She loves it.”

While the adjustment came naturally to Kita, it was a difficult transition for Vanderwiel.

“It took me so long to adjust because it was a whole new technique for me,” she said. “She really likes when I lift her around the barrels and I wasn’t doing that much. But now I’m super excited because I figured things out with her. And she loves small indoor pens so this is perfect for her.”

Vanderwiel’s improved working relationship with Kita has allowed her and Queenie to focus on poles, which has definitely worked to Vanderwiel’s advantage.

“Queenie is so slow in the barrels and so fast in the poles,” Vanderwiel laughed. “It’s two separate things. It’s kind of crazy.”

Vanderwiel will compete in both events again Thursday morning, and hopefully make it back to the short go on Saturday.

Ryen Jean Vanderwiel walks Kita, her barrel racing horse, after their run Tuesday morning. | Photo By: Jack Nowlin

After that, she’ll graduate early from high school before leaving the Idaho cold behind for a few months.

“We’re going down to Wickenburg (Arizona) so I can get out of the cold and we can rope and barrel race,” she said.

And then it’s back to Idaho before heading to Bozeman, Montana, for college. She considered other colleges, but likes being closer to home – Bozeman is a seven-hour drive from Eagle – and Kita and Queenie are cold-weather fans.

“My horses love the cold,” she said. “They work really well in the cold; they’re fresh and ready to run. I just love them so much.”

Leading the way

Adrienne Steffen of Sisters, Oregon, won the first round of senior barrel racing with a 14.538-second run. Rounding out the top five were Megan Lundy of Greenfield, Missouri, with a 14.567; Ainsley Philippi of Hermiston, Oregon, with a 14.652; Tru Blu Most of Longview, Washington, with a 14.721; and Loralee Ward of Fort Lupton Colorado, with a 14.740. Two-time defending champ Morgan Beckstrom of Spanish Fork, Utah, was eighth with a 14.818.

Brentwood, California, cowgirl Brianna Sharp set the pace in pole bending with a 20.159, followed by Lexi Murer of Big Fork, Montana, with a 20.663 and Ashlyn McCleve of Gilbert, Arizona, with a 20.776.

Tyler Bauerle of Jourdanton, Texas, was the first-round winner in the Ote Berry Junior Steer Wrestling open division with a 3.8, with Ryden Martin of Sulphur, Louisiana, finishing second with a 4.6. Martin won the first round of the 16 and under division, followed by Nathan Duvall of Henryetta, Oklahoma, with a 4.9.

In the open team roping, Devon McDaniel of Caldwell, Idaho, and Kurt Bean of Ozona, Texas, won the first round with a time of 4.4 seconds. Owen Clemons of Lake Placid, Florida, and Bryce Hart of Keystone Heights, Florida, were second with a 4.5. The second-round winners were Parker Jones of Solvang, California, and Trey White of Los Osos, California with a 3.9; followed by Azael Esquivel of Odessa, Texas, and Saul Porras of Midland, Texas, with a 5.2.

In the Webb Roping Production 10-and-under breakaway, Keiton Simmons of Stephenville, Texas, was the first-round winner with a time of 2.47 seconds, followed by Haustin Hale of Stephenville with a 5.2. Colton Charleston of Reeds, Missouri, won the second round with a 2.47, with Cash Friesenhahn of San Antonio, Texas, finishing second with a 2.60.

Simmons leads the average with a two-run time of 5.29 seconds. Rhett Fulford of Moore Haven, Florida, is second with a 6.16; Tuftin Becker of Morgan Mill, Texas, is third with a 6.29; Stockton Cribbs of Stotts City, Missouri, is fourth with a 6.61; and Kaden Wyatt of Smithville, Texas, rounds out the top five with a 6.78.