TORRINGTON – Last season when Jay Em’s Kaylee Smith rolled into the College National Finals Rodeo, she found herself star struck.
Smith attended the Little Britches National Finals but hadn’t competed in a national event since her eighth-grade year.
This weekend when Smith makes the return trip to Casper, that won’t be the case.
“I feel I have a lot more confidence this year,” she said. “I have a better idea of a game plan and how to attack it.”
After struggling with consistency during the fall portion of the rodeo season, Smith found her groove in the spring, making the championship short-go in five of the six rodeos, winning four.
“The one of the five I didn’t win, I finished third in the mud,” she said.
With the strong spring season for the Panhandle (Okla.) State University Lady Aggie program, she qualified for the CNFR as the Central Plains Region goat tying champion and will once again compete in front of her family and friends in Casper.
“It’s really rewarding to be able to compete in front of them again. It’s cool because they get to see me doing something I love,” Smith said. “It’s a rewarding experience, especially for my parents. They’ve done so much for me growing up and have always been there. My mom has only seen me compete in three college rodeos my whole career. For them to get to see me compete for a national title is a blessing.”
And that national championship is what she is gunning for.
“I’m going for it,” Smith said. “I believe it’s all in God’s plan. If it’s his will to for me to win, it’ll happen.”
Smith comes into the CNFR ranked No. 4 nationally, scoring 1,055 points for the season.
She will begin her bid for a championship on Monday morning. Smith will compete again Tuesday morning and for a third time on Tuesday evening.
Going in, Smith’s game plan is finding out what goat she drew and hopefully will have opportunity to see the goat in action prior to her run. If she is draws a fresh goat and she doesn’t have an opportunity to scout it, things get a little more complicated.
“If it’s a fresh goat, I’m going to go a little bit to the right of the stake so that if it goes left or right, I’m safe,” Smith said. “If that goat sits there, I’m going to hang on a lot longer and get off closer to the stake, but if he runs, I’m getting off a little further back so I can have a better angle to get to him.”
Whether it’s a new goat or a goat Smith has seen in action already, one thing never changes about her run.
“I always pray right before my run and give it up to God that whatever I do will glorify him to the best of my abilities,” she said.
Smith is one of four goat tiers from Panhandle State competing this week in Casper.
"We just barely missed winning the region as a team," she said. "We are sending four goat tiers up which is weird. We won 1-2-3 in the region and for our fourth team member, we took another goat tier."
Smith feels like the team has a chance to win the school’s ninth national title in school history.
“That’s our team goal,” she said.