Meet the Member Eli Woodyard
story by Jet Toberer Second-generation team roper, Eli Woodyard, of small town Max Meadows, Virginia, has been roping since he was 8 years old, and […]
story by Kyle Eusitce
In many ways, Bear Creek, N.C. native Sage Dunlap is a typical 15-year-old girl. She loves shopping, hanging out with her friends, drinking red Mountain Dew, and eating Reese Peanut Butter Cups. Beneath the surface, however, she’s a fierce JSRA competitor in both team roping and barrel racing, which she’s wanted to do before she was in double digits.
“I started riding when I was 3,” said Sage. “I used to ride around the cow pastures with my dad on our cattle ranch.”
Sage began participating in YVYRA rodeos when she was 9 and really looked up to her older sister Savannah, 20, who did it, too. Her parents, Tina Mitchell and Ben Dunlap, encouraged their young daughter to pursue rodeo wholeheartedly, despite an injury when she was 6.
“When I was little, I was in the barn brushing my horse,” explained Sage. “He was eating, but all of a sudden he started running towards me and bit me on the neck. I was rushed me hospital and had to get a lot of stitches and had a bandage over my neck for a couple months.”
Sage came back more determined than ever and soon joined the JRSRA, NCHSR and NBHA06. Her focus was on breakaway, barrel racing, team roping, and pole bending. In 2015, she was the fourth all-around champion at the Cowgirls With A Cause event in Yadkinville, N.C. In 2016, she was breakaway roper champion at the NCHSR.
“Competing gets me really excited,” said Sage. “I like competing against other people, winning money and buckles, and hanging out with my friends.”
The homeschooler just graduated from 8th grade and is starting high school in the fall. This summer, she’s busy practicing on her horses, Ollie and Casey, and competing at events like the National Junior High Finals in Lebanon, Tenn. “I want to win a national title for team roping or breakaway,” said Sage. “Next year, I want to make it to the nationals again.”
Before each run, Sage has a few tricks to keep her mind focused on the task at hand. It helps her get through every event more smoothly.
“I get nervous sometimes,” admitted Sage. “Before I run, I just pray we have a clean run. Once the call my name, I take a deep breath and just go for it. I pretend it’s another practice run.”
Sage currently lives with her father on the cattle ranch, who buys cattle and ships them out west. During the week, Sage is up around 9 a.m. She goes to the cow stills with her dad, goes home, feeds her horse, and practice for the rest of the week on a dummy. Her dad usually takes her to most of her events. “He likes it,” said Sage. “He loves going with me to support me every weekend. He gets excited when I win.”
Hopefully, there will be a lot more wins in the future. All she needs is a little music to pump her up before each event, a few deep breaths, and then she’s ready to go. Rodeo is her passion.
“I just work, practice, and mostly focus on my rodeo,” said Sage. “I want to win my national title.”
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