Dec 5, 2022
From Junior World Finals to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – Bayleigh Choate
By Patrick Everson
Just one year ago, barrel racer Bayleigh Choate was competing in her fourth Junior World Finals Rodeo. Twelve months later, her burgeoning career has already come full circle.
Monday morning, as this year’s Junior World Finals barrel racers prepared to compete in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, Choate was addressing the fresh-faced youngsters – still a fresh-faced youngster herself, and now the reigning WPRA Rookie of the Year and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier.
“It’s a weird feeling because I am so young. I’m only 19,” Choate said with a laugh. “I actually spoke with the girls this morning, just gave them a little piece of advice. It was a special moment because I was in their seat just last year. I never would’ve thought that a year later, I’d be here at the NFR. It’s kind of crazy.”
But Choate is already proving wise beyond her years, knowing the impact she can make on these up-and-coming riders.
“I was always that kid who looked up to everyone. There were times when I was shunned by people I idolized, so I try really hard to not be that person,” Choate said. “I try to go out of my way to be approachable, so if they feel like they want to talk to me, they can come up and talk to me.”
Choate is riding consistently well through five rounds but is still working on getting that first NFR check. She’s been sub-14 seconds three times, including a best of 13.93 on her backup horse in Monday’s fifth go.
She’s staying patient and is humbled to be in the massive Wrangler NFR spotlight, just one year after racing a couple of miles up the road in the Junior World Finals arena. And her goal in mentoring this year’s Junior World Finals barrel racing crop is to let the girls know that the Wrangler NFR is an achievable goal.
“We’re no different. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s not unreachable,” Choate said. “With a lot of hard work and dedication, you can do it too.”