The Trigg County students – Jessica enters her sophomore at Trigg County High School while Kayce will be in the seventh grade at Trigg Middle – and Cerulean residents each qualified to compete for national rodeo championships. Jessica competed in the National High School Rodeo Association event, while Kayce took part in the Wrangler (junior high) division.
Both Stewarts earned their way to state after leaving their mark at the Kentucky Junior Rodeo Association’s state final, held in Liberty in June.
Jessica won state titles in breakaway roping, pole bending and team roping and finished third in barrel racing and goat tying. She was named KJRA’s High School Rookie of the Year and All-Around Cowgirl.
Kayce finished second in pole bending, fifth in breakaway roping, sixth in barrels and 10th in goats. She teamed with Lane Shelley to finish second in ribbon roping and team roping. Kayce was also named the KJRA Wrangler Rookie of the Year and Reserve All-Around.
The NHSRA event, held in Farmington, N.M., concluded July 25. Jessica, competing among 1,375 qualifiers, finished 67th (out of 170) in barrel racing, 37th (out of 113) in breakaway roping, 75th (out of 156) in goat tying and 138th (out of 161) in pole bending.
Kayce finished competition at Wrangler nationals in Gallup, N.M., on July 4. She took 30th in poles and teamed with Shelley again to finish 104th in team roping and ribbon roping.
In the two weeks between their national championship events, the Stewarts were also chosen to compete in the National Rifle Association’s Shooting Challenge. Jessica finished second while Kayce took third.
“I was worried about what we were going to do with two weeks of down time,” the Stewarts’ father Danny said. “We got hooked up with a stock contractor. We helped him and got to rope quite a bit. It worked out really well.”
“It didn’t seem like two weeks,” Kayce said.
Through these competitions, the Stewarts have earned a fair amount of scholarship funds, belt buckles and other prizes.
This was Jessica’s first year to compete in the high school division. She qualified for nationals twice while in the Wrangler division and was named All-Around Reserve Cowgirl once.
“I started in rodeo when I was in fifth grade,” Jessica said. “We rode horses since we were little.”
At that time, Kayce shot video of Jessica at events rather than competing herself.
“She got thrown off a horse, and that got her scared of them,” Jessica said.
A year after Jessica got started, Kayce overcame her fear and began training to compete.
“Tina and Jackie Davis had been everywhere with us looking for a horse for Kayce,” Danny said. Eventually, they found the right horse – Opie – through another friend.
“Opie’s a roping horse,” Kayce said. “I was learning to rope and do poles at the same time he was learning to do poles.”
Kayce said team roping and poles are her two favorite events. At about 10 years old, she was training Opie to ride in pole races.
Jessica said roping is her favorite part of rodeo.
“I don’t know if you’d say it’s more challenging, but you can go out and do good at roping whether you’ve got a $10,000 horse or a $50,000 horse,” Jessica said. “I’ve been working with Bay, my roping horse, to run barrels and poles because he can run really fast, but sometimes he doesn’t want to slow down when needs to. Amy [another Stewart horse] isn’t big enough to hang in there with the humongous barrel horses, so I’d rather just go out there and rope.”
Kayce’s interest in rodeo followed her sister’s interest, which started when family friends suggested Jessica might be good at it.
“It’s hard to get started in junior rodeo,” Danny said. “That’s something we’re working on right now, trying to start up a board to get the word out better. We need something in the schools. We go to state events and people ask us how many people are there from Trigg County, and it’s just us.”
The family ropes somewhere nearly every weekend, whether at a pen set up on their farm in Cerulean or with friends in Marion.
The Stewarts will compete again in September before taking the winter off.
Cadiz will host a junior rodeo points competition Sept. 12-13 at the Trigg County Recreation Complex.
Danny said the family wants to send a special “thank you” to family friends who kept an eye on things while the Stewarts were away at competitions this summer.
Said Danny: “If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened.”