story by Ruth Nicolaus The COVID-19 pandemic gave Whitney Lake an opportunity to do “lunch” with her dad, Andy. And lunch usually preceded, or followed, […]
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Meet the Member Katie Jo Knez
story by Darlene Craven
Fourteen-year old Katie Jo Knez has been competing in rodeo most of her life and riding since she was two. Winning came early – Katie won a barrel racing round in Steamboat, Colorado at age five on her dad’s horse, Duke, who stood a whopping sixteen hands high at the time. The videos from that big win show a tiny cowgirl with a big smile happily running around the barrels like a pro. “I try to never quit anything I put effort into,” say Katie, who is now ranked fifth in the Colorado State Junior High Rodeo Association goat typing and breakaway roping.
Katie is halfway through her eighth grade year at Craig Middle School where she is a point guard on the basketball team. She loves social studies and writing about current events but doesn’t like reading unless the story is interesting. School is a family affair for the Knez family. Bother Chance is in the fifth grade and mom, Erin, teaches fourth grade. Toby Knez, works at Yampa Valley Electric, and has rodeoed with the team roping club in Craig, where the Knez family lives, and team ropes with Katie on occasion.
Katie qualified for nationals last year, despite some setbacks, and posted a personal best time of 7.83 in goat tying. Traveling to nationals in Huron, South Dakota, was the most fun she’s ever had. She met a ton of people from all over and loved competing in a new arena as one of five qualifying girls representing Colorado. Going into the state finals last year, Katie was sitting at fourth and ended up winning the state championship. It doesn’t always go that way. At nationals in Huron, South Dakota last year, Katie was third in her first performance but drew a no-time in the second round after drawing an eliminator goat that didn’t stay tied. When the runs fall apart, she works to focus on something good to stay positive and happy. Having supportive and encouraging parents always helps. “They tell me that life isn’t over when you mess up.” And she lives by these wise words from her coach’s husband, “Big players make big plays on the big day.” Katie has used that advice in learning confidence that keeps her practicing and most importantly, praying to keep her mind positive.
Another element to Katie’s drive is partnering with really good horses. She practices three times a week, and on the weekends, riding Cash, her breakaway horse and Storm, the goat tying horse. She got Cash last winter because he was such a great fit after trying him out. And she’s had Storm since he was a yearling. “He’s bullet proof and good with the rope.” Katie saved her rodeo winnings and bought her first horse, Storm, the goat tying horse, at seven years old. Other prizes including 17 buckles, four bridles and breast collars and two saddles. Her practice sessions include focusing on her goals during warmups and paying special attention to her dismount during the goat tying which is particularly challenging and sometimes requires ankle braces.
Katie is no stranger to the challenge of recovering from injury. When she was eight, she and her mare knocked heads turning a barrel resulting in a concussion and the horse going up for sale. When she was five, a 4-wheeler accident put in her a wheelchair with a severe cut on her leg for her first week of school, and then a walking boot after that. “But blood doesn’t really bother me at all.”
That’s a good thing because hunting with her family is among Katie’s favorite pastimes. She dropped a 6 x 7 buck last fall and the mount features prominently in her bedroom. Katie also shows pigs at the Moffat County Fair every August, not because she’s fond of pigs, mind you, but because “they are easier and don’t take much time to train.” In fact, Katie would much rather be outside mucking stables and cleaning pig pens than doing inside work.
Going into the spring 2020 season, Katie has set a goal to finish first in the state. She knows it’s going to take practice and focus and staying positive. “Never quitting is key.”