Two cowgirls from the southern end of Utah Valley — Jade Rindlisbacher, a sophomore at Payson High School, and Autumn Snyder, a junior at American Leadership Academy — battled for much of the season for the top spot in the pole bending competition.

“Her horse is a little bit quicker in between but my horse is faster through the end poles,” Rindlisbacher said on Saturday. “Sometimes I’ll beat her, sometimes she’ll beat me. I love being friends with my competition.”

After the two Juab rodeo club representatives went back and forth throughout the year, Snyder managed to hold off Rindlisbacher to win the state title at the 2018 State High School Rodeo Finals this past week in Heber City.

“I pulled it together, I kept calm and I made three clean runs,” Snyder said. “That’s what I needed to do. A lot of hard work went into it.”

That talented duo and Payson High School junior Amanda Butler (who won the state title in barrel racing) have felt the thrill of victory on the big stage — but they have also seen tough times as well.

Both Snyder and Rindlisbacher believe that competing against each other has made them better.

“We practice together,” Snyder said. “I always wish her the best. We both did the best we could and that’s how it ended up.”

Rindlisbacher added: “We are really good friends and I’m happy for her. I’m glad she won it.”

Whenever Snyder sees a challenge, she values the perspective she had gained from watching her older sister, Amberlee Snyder.

“Amberlee took fourth place at nationals her senior year,” Autumn said. “She’s been with me every step of the way to help me compete and get to where I am today.”

Amberlee Snyder’s story is one of perseverance and determination.

“She was in a car accident when she was 18 years old, back in 2010,” Autumn Snyder said. “She rolled her truck and is paralyzed from the waist down. She still competes, still rodeos and still wins. She outruns most people. She’s been a major hero to me.”

The cowgirl from Elk Ridge said Amberlee told her she was ready.

“She said keep calm, that I was prepared and ready to do this,” Autumn said.

Rindlisbacher, who lives in Lake Shore, enjoyed a stellar freshman year and won the state title in pole bending in 2017, but said there were some tough times in 2018.

“I tried to take everything just one run at a time,” Rindlisbacher said. “Even if one event didn’t go my way, I tried to use all the emotions I had from that and put it into the next one. I missed going to nationals in the barrels by one point and ended up second in the poles, so I’m going to nationals again. I’m a lot harder on myself this year because I won state four years in a row. I’m going to come back stronger. You’ve got to work harder than you did yesterday.”

The sophomore said she has learned the value of putting in the time to be at her best.

Butler said she hadn’t quite gotten to the top in barrel racing in previous seasons.

“I came into state last year sitting first, but I had a bad run and it dropped me,” Butler said. “I went to nationals sitting third.”

This year, however, everything came together.

“It obviously went pretty good for me,” Butler said. “I was pretty lucky and fortunate. It’s hard. You have to make sure you and your horse are working together well all the time. You have to be sharp. Consistency is what wins, so you’ve got to be consistent.”

She gave a lot of credit to her 9-year-old horse, Tic.

“I’ve only had him for two years, but I love him so much,” Butler said. “He’s pretty good. Sometimes he doesn’t like to do his job that much when he’s sore, but other than that he does great.”

She is going to have a busy year ahead. Not only will she continue to work on her barrel racing but she is also improving in girls cow cutting and is also the 2018-19 student president.

“Cutting has been fun for me,” Butler said. “It’s a totally different riding aspect compared to barrels. I’ve been very frustrated with it, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’m hoping to make it to nationals in cutting as well next year.”

She added that running for student president of the high school rodeo association was following in her father’s footsteps.

“My dad was the president and I wanted to be involved more with him,” Butler said. “Once you are on the board, you get to help make decisions and pick prizes out. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good year.”

Off to nationals

Here are the local cowboys and cowgirls who earned the right to represent Utah at the National High School Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, in July by finishing in the top four of their respective events:

  • Amanda Butler, SUC (barrel racing)
  • Jack Christensen, Lehi (boys cow cutting)
  • Dawson Zaharias, Lehi (boys cow cutting)
  • Colton Humphries, Juab (bull riding)
  • Will Wright, Juab (bull riding)
  • Josie Penrod, SUC (girls cow cutting)
  • Faith Fitzgerald, Wasatch (girls cow cutting)
  • Autumn Snyder, Juab (pole bending)
  • Jade Rindlisbacher, Juab (pole bending)
  • Clayson Hutchings, Wasatch (saddle bronc)
  • Scott Lauaki, Wasatch (saddle bronc)
  • Samuel Carson, Lehi (steer wrestling)
  • Wyatt Crandall, Juab (team roping)
  • Branham Haskell, Juab (tiedown roping)
  • Waylon Brierley, Wasatch (trap shooting)

Ponying up for a good cause

Every year, the Utah High School Rodeo Association holds an auction and collection to aid a member of the rodeo family who is facing a big challenge.

This past week, the beneficiary was Casey Muscaro, owner of the Circle J Rodeo Co. that is located west of Cedar Fort. The efforts raised approximately $25,000 to help Muscaro in his battle with cancer.

What’s in a name

The state high school rodeo finals feature an annual goat-naming contest to go along with the goat-tying event.

Some of the top names from 2018 included Vincent Van Goat, Nanny Pelosi and Selena Goat-mez.

The new queen

For the first time in 25 years, a freshman was named Utah High School Rodeo Association queen as McKardy Kelly ended up winning the position.

The family of the young lady from Midway is well-known at rodeos, since her dad Jason, uncle Todd and grandfather Brent are the announcers on the microphones who call all of the action.

Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.