Abi DePriest is a busy young lady, and life won’t be slowing down anytime soon for the Tenaha teen.
That’s because she’ll open up Sunday competing in pole bending and representing Texas at the 15th annual National Junior High Finals Rodeo June 23-29 in Huron, South Dakota.
She tied for the Texas title with one of her best friends, Lauren White of Singer, Louisiana, turning in the second-fastest round in pole bending at the state competition in Gonzales in late May.
DePriest, 14, will be a freshman at Carthage High School in the fall.
“Naturally, I hope I do good,” said DePriest, who has been riding since she was 3 and started competing in rodeo events when she was 4. “It’s go big or go home at this point. I’m not going to be happy jut getting there. It is a real honor. I want to be in the top 15.
“You always have to be determined to do what you want to do. You just keep moving forward. You don’t let the fear or anything else bother you.”
She will be one of roughly 1,000 contestants from 44 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia and Mexico, competing in the world’s largest junior high rodeo.
In addition to competing for more than $80,000 in prizes, NJHRF contestants will also by vying for more than $200,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named a National Junior High Finals Rodeo World Champion.
To earn this title contestants must finish in the top 20 — based on their combined times/scores in the first two rounds — to advance to Saturday evening’s final round. World champions will be determined based on the three-round combined scores/times.
DePriest is not a one trick pony.
She also competes in barrel racing, goat tying, ribbon roping and light rifle shooting.
Besides training for all those events, DePriest is also training a new horse for barrel racing, “Black Betty.”
But at Nationals, it will be her and “Maverick” and it will just be pole bending as they’ll again try to weave through the six poles as fast as she can without knocking any down.
“This is going to be very tough, but Texas is a very tough state to come out of,” DePriest explained. “Our region (Region 5 of 10) is bigger than some of the states. I won’t be seeing anything tougher than I’ve already seen, so I think I’m prepared.
“This has taught me how to handle pressure and not to let bad news get to me. I have lots of other responsibilities as well. I have to keep my grades up. I got all A’s except for a B in algebra.”
Keeping up her grades will be important for her immediate goals, which include playing volleyball and golf for the Carthage Lady Bulldogs in addition to her rodeo training.
“I’m going to keep on competing in high school and then go to Panola (College) and compete,” she said. “They have the best men’s team in the nation. Maybe we can get the women’s team up there.”