story by Mackie Ford I caught up with Haze Kuykendall, an Oklahoma Junior High School Rodeo Association member and son of Justin and Mandie Kuykendall, […]
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Meet the Member Kennadee Bickerstaff
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Soccer is a great way to stay in shape for rodeo for Kennadee Bickerstaff. In fact, it lends itself to preparing her for the ribbon roping. Paired with Chism Kuykendall for her last year of OKJHSRA competition, Kennadee enjoys being the runner in the team event. “My other partner moved up to high school this year, so now Chism ropes for me and we’re doing pretty well together in it,” said the quick-footed 13-year-old. Although she enjoys the ribbon roping, Kennadee’s favorite event is goat tying. “I’ve started to get pretty good at it over the years, so it’s becoming one of my favorite events.” With the help of family friends and goat tying experts, Kennadee has learned what it takes to tie quickly and be a fierce competitor. This translates well to her other events too: barrels, poles, and breakaway roping.
“My dad rodeoed when he was a kid; and it’s just been me and my sister’s thing since we were really little.” Hometown playdays led to the MRCA and junior rodeos before it was time to compete in the OKJHSRA. In her final junior high season, Kennadee is hyper-focused on winning all around titles. The Ada Junior High School eighth grader intends to win a rodeo or two in the goats, breakaway and ribbons. “I got a new barrel horse this season, but she hasn’t been working out so I’m probably going to try and find a new one.” Every Monday and Wednesday Kennadee and her sister, Konnor, 15, rope calves, but they try and practice on the dummy every day.
Going into state finals this past summer, Kennadee was leading in the all-around points. “I got really nervous because I wanted to win the all around. I knew I had to be super competitive because the girl behind me could catch up. And she did.” Just before state finals, Kennadee and her family decided she needed to use a faster horse to step up her game a little bit. That probably wasn’t the best decision, but we learned from it. I’m using my sister’s old pole horse this year and we are getting along pretty well together.”
Despite the challenges of state finals, Kennadee still managed to qualify for nationals in goats and ribbons. Unfortunately, junior high nationals were canceled in 2020. This is the second time Kennadee’s had some tough luck when it came to nationals. “In 6th grade I qualified for nationals in ribbons, but two weeks beforehand my pattern broke his wrist. And we weren’t able to go as a team. I went to nationals with another roper, but we didn’t connect well and I never got a run in.” It’s been these tough times that Kennadee has leaned on her parents, Kevin and Lou, the most.
“My dad is probably my biggest influence in rodeo. He pushes me to get better, never gives up on me and always helps me figure out how to fix something when I make a mistake.” Armed with a steady hand Kennadee’s mom is primarily the family videographer, but she’s also been a motivator. “At finals when I was really down on myself for not doing well, I would talk to my mom and she really lifted my spirits.” Just like any competitive athlete, Kennadee doesn’t enjoy losing and sometimes struggles to see the silver lining in it. “I try to keep a positive attitude all the time, but sometimes I struggle with that. My best friend, Gretchen Todd, also rodeos and we try to keep each other motivated and positive thoughts in each other’s head.” Kennadee has enlisted a mindset that she can learn from everyone around her, especially those who beat her. “Junior high rodeo is a lot more fun because it’s a group of people my own age. I get along with everyone really well, but I still don’t know everyone so I can keep making new friends.”