Story by Ruth Nicolaus The Mid States East Rodeo Association member lived in Texas for five years before moving back to her parents’ farm in […]
Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Kayla Keller
story by Michele Toberer
In her fourth season of rodeo competition with the Mid-States Rodeo Association, Kayla Keller is looking forward to the rodeo season picking up again after a mid-season break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Hastings, Michigan cowgirl competes in barrel racing and breakaway roping in the MSRA and is grateful to have rodeo as a part of her life. “I’ve made it a conscious decision to keep rodeo in my life. It is extremely rewarding to see results from the amount of work you put into it. If you are not willing to work for it, you probably won’t last in rodeo long. I appreciate the rewards I get from the work I invest; and being able to do it on horses I love makes it even more rewarding.” Kayla has qualified for the MSRA season finals each year in breakaway roping and is hopeful to qualify again this season. “I came into the 2019 finals as the number one breakaway roper but had a bad finals and left in third place, but hey, this is a new year!”
Kayla grew up in a rodeo family, with her parents, Don and Donna Keller, her older sisters, Chelsea Wallace and Haley Coble and her younger brother Tyler Keller. John, a professional farrier, competed in the MSRA as a calf roper and Donna, a quality assurance coordinator, competed as a breakaway roper and barrel racer. Haley competes in the MSRA also, so rodeos are quite a family affair. Kayla competed in multiple events in the Michigan High School Rodeo Association before graduating from Huron High School in 2011 and qualified for national finals all 4 years. She was the Michigan High School Rodeo Queen her sophomore year, the state champion breakaway roper her sophomore and senior years, and the all-around champion cowgirl her junior and senior years.
After graduating, Kayla spent three years at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas on a rodeo scholarship. She earned an associate degree in Science and then spent a year obtaining her cosmetology degree. While waiting for her Michigan cosmetology license to be approved, Kayla worked part time at a preschool and discovered a passion for teaching. “It was incredibly challenging, but I fell in love with it and knew immediately I was supposed to be in the education field.” Kayla enrolled at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she rodeoed for one year, and spent two years taking classes for her new degree. Two years ago, Kayla enrolled at Eastern Michigan University so she could finish her master’s degree and continue on to her career. She looks forward to beginning student teaching during next fall’s semester.
Kayla is grateful to rope on “Dan the Man,” a 14-year-old buckskin gelding she has owned for two years. “He’s so consistent and reliable; he gives me a shot every time and makes it easy for me to rope.” She is riding a 6-year-old sorrel mare, that she got from her sister in Nebraska, in barrel racing. Her boyfriend, Nick O’Heran also uses her to heel. “I’ve just started hauling her to rodeos, mostly jackpots so far.”
Kayla found a love for running in marathons three years ago and likes to enter when she has time to train for the 13.1-mile races. She generally plans to train for at least three months prior to a race date.
Kayla enjoys watching many of the professional breakaway ropers and appreciates that she can follow them and get so many tips on social media. She is grateful to her family, friends, and college coaches that have helped her along her rodeo career. “I’m especially thankful to my family because they’re the reason I got started and can do all of this. My parents are pretty awesome for allowing me to live this lifestyle.”