Abi DePriest didn’t win the pole bending competition at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo this past week, but she did end up with a much better idea of what will be expected of her to return to the national stage.

The 14-year-old from Tenaha ended up placing a disappointing 122nd out of 172 competitors assembled in Huron, South Dakota for the event, in the results by average with a combined time of 52.261.

Her ride on the opening night was good enough for second in 22.277 on that night and 46th among all first rides.

However, in the second go-round a week later, she was clocked in a disappointing 29.984, and finishing 25th in the go-round and 145th among all second rides.

“When it came time for my second ride I really had to go for it,” said DePriest, who will be a freshman at Carthage High this year. “It was go big or go home. I tried to go a little faster than I did on my first run. I knocked one down and that was disappointing, but I kept on hustling. When I came back I knocked another one down, which really hurt because I had the fastest time of the finals.”

DePriest did take some satisfaction in that a Texan won the event, Jaylee Lane of Morse.

And as a member of the Texas team, she was a national champion as the Team Texas finished first in the girls competition, finished first in the boys competion and combined to beat second-place Utah by more than 5,000 points.

“Just competing for Texas was an honor,” she said, “and to do it on the national stage is even bigger. I enjoyed being part of a team. The fact that the girls and boys teams both won and the combined team had like 12,780 points to 7,450 points for second shows why it’s so tough to come out of Texas.”

DePriest thinks she’s learned some valuable lessons and definitely hopes to be part of the Team Texas next year in the National High School Finals Rodeo.

“I learned a lot this time.” she said. “But I have to stay focused the whole time and not let anyone or anything get into my mind or head. I know I have to put in a lot of work and time if I want to make it back to Nationals.”

DePriest figures she’ll compete in a few jackpot rodeos for the rest of the summer, but most of her time will be spent training her new barrel horse, Black Betty, and getting ready for her AP classes in the fall.