Story by Ruth Nicolaus Because of his parents, Scott and Jenee Holub, and his granddad, George Rachau, Dillin Holub is involved in the sport he […]
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International Finals Youth Rodeo
By Lindsay Whelchel
The International Finals Youth Rodeo celebrated its 25th year this month, drawing hundreds of youth competitors from across the United States and beyond. Contestants came from as far away as Australia to compete for lucrative prize money in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
The IFYR, sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association, is the soil in which many professional rodeo competitors establish their roots. Mention any high-profile name in the rodeo world over the past 25 years, and they will have likely made the trip to Shawnee in their youth to compete at the IFYR.
And this fact is celebrated by the IFYR Hall of Fame inductions that take place every couple of years. Criteria for induction is that the contestant must still be involved in rodeo but be at least 10 years removed from the IFYR competition, says Suzanne Gilbert, a longtime IFYR volunteer.
The first inductee, Mike Outhier was an IFYR champion who won the All-Around Cowboy title in 1993 through 1996 consecutively, as well as the IFYR Saddle Bronc Riding Championship in 1995 and 1996 and claimed the IFYR Bull Riding and Bareback Riding championships in 1995. He went on to compete professionally in the tie-down roping, bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding. He qualified for the International Finals Rodeo in multiple events winning multiple world titles, including All-Around World Championships. He also qualified to the National Finals Rodeo. Outhier was inducted in the IFYR HOF for 2007.
Perhaps the most famous in the mainstream media in terms of inductees are Oklahoma brothers, Jet and Cord McCoy. They are IFYR champions, both won multiple All-Around and saddle bronc riding champion titles, who grew up to become multi-time IPRA world champs. Cord also qualified for the NFR and PBR Finals. They were no doubt stars in the rodeo world already, but what made them Hollywood stars was their success and relatability on the popular reality television show “The Amazing Race,” where they competed multiple times, giving the world an honest look at the grit and determination of cowboys. They’ve both also run for public office in Oklahoma since. They were inducted in 2009 alongside the late and esteemed rodeo announcer Mark McGee, called the “Voice of the IFYR,” who was heavily involved in the IPRA and with the IFYR from its inception as a narrator of the rodeo action year after year. He was inducted posthumously after he was unexpectedly killed by a drunk driver.
A well-known name in the barrel racing world, Jackie Dube Jatzlau, who competed in the IFYR taking multiple All-Around titles, as well as individual event titles in pole bending, barrel racing and breakaway roping, during her high school years. She then went on the qualify for the NFR and become a fixture in the barrel racing futurity world and was inducted into the HOF in 2011.
For the IFYR’s 20th year in 2012, two special inductions were held for Suzanne Gilbert for her time invested in making the IFYR possible each year since its inception and her commitment to community involvement in Shawnee, as well as Ken Etchieson, the IFYR founder and longtime rodeo announcer in the IPRA, where he also served as office manager in the 1970s and General Manager of the Expo Center.
Another All-Around cowboy, Justin McDaniel, a bareback rider and bull rider who qualified multiple times in both events for the International Finals Rodeo, taking the bull riding Rookie of the Year title, as well as being a PRCA World Champion, was the IFYR Bareback Champion in 2003 and 2004, and All-Around Champion in 2004. He was inducted in 2014.
And one of the many aspects that make the IPRA special is their inclusion of Cowgirl Breakaway Roping at the Pro-Rodeo level. Talented cowgirls are able to qualify for the highest levels of rodeo competition and compete for world championships at the IFR. Oklahoma cowgirl Jenna Lee Hays has seized this opportunity, becoming a multi-time IFR qualifier and an IFR Average Winner. Not surprisingly, she got her start right there in Shawnee as an IFYR champion and is the IFYR’s latest HOF inductee for 2017. Jenna says the experience competing at IFYR growing up was always something she looked forward to, and the rodeo gave her something to prepare for each year. It was valuable competing against contestants you wouldn’t normally compete against beyond your high school association, she assures. Another benefit to the experience was being put into an environment akin to a pro-rodeo setting at an early age. “I think that it was really fun to be able to compete in front of a crowd like what they had, because being in high school you really didn’t ever get an opportunity to compete in front of a large group of people, so that was always fun,” she says. On being inducted into the IFYR HOF, Jenna says the honor was a surprise. “I’m humbled and appreciative I was thought of to be inducted,” she enthuses.
Clearly, the IFYR is helping lay the foundation for rodeo’s rising stars and the preservation of the sport.