By BRIANNA KWASNIK
Faith John was about to leave the International Finals Youth Rodeo when her friend suggested she check the scores one more time—just in case.
The 18-year-old Punta Gorda resident was shocked to find out she won the “All Around Cowgirl” title for the event, held in Shawnee, Oklahoma last month.
“I had no idea that I won it (the title), because most girls were in three to four events, and I was in two,” she said. “I was in total shock.”
The All Around Cowboy and Cowgirl are the top money earners for the duration of the six-day span. Their earnings from every event and from each round are totaled up at the end, and the winner is determined. She participated in team roping and breakaway roping.
John took home $5,700 for her performances.
More than 825 competitors participated in the 27th annual International Finals Youth Rodeo, including those from DeSoto County. The top 15 contestants with the highest average scores from each event progressed to compete in the finals.
“These athletes gave it their all, proving that they deserve these hard-earned titles,” said interim director of the International Finals Youth Rodeo Stephanie Meiler-Gideon.
“With contestants from 31 states, Australia and New Zealand, the IFYR rings together the world’s top youth rodeo competitors,” she added.
In team roping, two ropers, a “header” and a “heeler” compete together.
The header ropes the head of the steer and brings him across the arena, and the heeler ropes the feet of the steer.
“When both horses are facing each other at the run, that’s when the time stops,” John explained.
If the heeler catches only one leg, it’s a five-second penalty. If they catch two legs, there’s no penalty.
John started roping a decade ago. She said she comes from a family of ropers, and her father and her uncle have both roped, too. Her family is supportive of her rodeo career, taking her to all of her events, regardless of whether it’s just down the road, or out of state, she said.
At their Punta Gorda home, she has five horses. She can’t remember a time when her family didn’t have a horse.
She’s lost count of how many rodeos in which she has competed. She was involved in the Arcadia Youth Rodeo, which holds competitions every month.
“I’d go to pretty much everything they had to go compete,” she said.
The International Finals Youth Rodeo was her largest rodeo.
“It means a lot because I put in a lot of work trying to be the best I can,” John said.
John graduated from Sonshine Christian Academy in Fort Myers this year. Next month, she will head off to Cisco College in Cisco, Texas, where she plans to study nursing. She will also compete on the college rodeo team.
After college, John hopes to become a nurse, but plans to still compete in rodeos, too.