Katherine MacKenzie, or Kat as she is better known, is getting excited. Her sport, rodeo, is about to resume with the second half of the North Texas High School Rodeo Association's (NTHSRA) season.
Kat is a senior at Mansfield Timberview High School. She is one of about 20 students throughout the district who compete in the NTHSRA, representing Mansfield High, Legacy, Lake Ridge and Timberview.
"I started riding horses at the end of my eighth-grade year and started competing my freshman year," Kat said. "I have fallen in love with breakaway roping, I just started roping around six months ago.
"I was very fortunate to have bought a horse to run barrels about two years ago. She also knew her way around calves. I was very close to selling her until I picked up roping."
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As the second half of the season is set to begin on Jan. 27, Kat is fourth in the All-Around Cowgirl standings. She is also fourth in both steer undecorating and walk-up goat tying, and ninth in ride-up goat tying. She is also 15th in breakaway roping and 21st in ribbon roping.
The top 15 in the standings of each event at the end of the regular season in May advance to the NTHSRA Finals that month. Last year Kat qualified in walk-up goat tying, ride-up goat tying, and steer undecorating.
"This year I hope to qualify for all five of my events," she said.
Kat also said her greatest success to date is being in the top five in the All-Around Cowgirl standings.
"The girls that I’m competing against have been rodeoing their whole lives and I just started four years ago," she said.
Others from the MISD who are among the NTHSRA leaders in their respective events include:
▪ Mergan Gonzales, Legacy, sixth in steer undecorating.
▪ Cambree Stevens, Legacy, 23rd in barrel racing.
▪ Dylan Matthews, Legacy, 23rd in chute dogging.
▪ Katelynn Timmerman, Timberview, 26th in breakaway roping, also competes in pole bending.
▪ Kaylee Brown, Lake Ridge, 29th in pole bending.
Kat's father, Don MacKenzie, is one of the High School Rodeo Teams of Mansfield sponsors. He credited the old Kowbell Rodeo Arena, which was once where Legacy High School now stands, for much of the tradition and history in the city of close to 100,000 on the edge of the Metroplex.
"There is a lot of rodeo history in this town, but with all of the development there is less land for people to own horses. Fortunately, there are a few good boarding facilities left so kids can have their horses close even if they can’t have them at home," he said.
"One part of rodeo that is growing quickly is bull riding. Mansfield is home to JC Knapp Rodeo Company, which draws in kids from all around North Texas to learn and practice bull riding."
Mansfield sponsored two rodeos during the first half of the NTHSRA season in October and December.
Along with rodeo, Kat stays busy in a variety of ways. She's a member of the Mansfield Future Farmers of America, where she is on the horse judging team, and she is a member of the Rendon 4H, where she shows lambs.
She plans on competing in college and studying agriculture.
Being a rodeo athlete requires something of a balancing act, she said.
"Being a rodeo athlete is hard, I’m not going to lie. There are a lot of long weekends, long road trips, and and even longer rides home if things don’t go your way," she said. "Rodeo is a more time-consuming sport compared to others. There is probably the same amount of practice time, but you also have the time spent caring for your horses.
"Rodeo is a year-round thing. We don’t have seasons like football or softball. Balancing school and rodeo has been hard on me but, I study on the way to rodeos to make it work."
Don said, as with all sports, "Rodeo helps them build discipline."
Any youngsters interested in joining the program should check out the High School Rodeo Teams of Mansfield Facebook page, Don said, or the NTHSRA website, NTHSRA.org.