story by Lindsay Humphrey Blonde hair and glitter fringe is about all you’ll see of Sydnie Wynn Graves when she’s astride one of her two […]
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Meet the Member McKenna Rud
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Six years ago, McKenna Rud swung her leg over a 3-year-old gelding named Laredo and he’s been her main mount ever since. “I got him when I was in the sixth grade and we’ve been learning together since then. We’ve grown a lot as a team,” said the 17-year-old. Laredo is a high-level athlete in both barrels and poles. He’s come through for McKenna when points get close in both high school rodeo and at other events. “It’s super nice that he can do both events well. I can always count on him.” Now a senior at Mondovi Public School in Wisconsin, McKenna is sadly selling Laredo after graduation. “Laredo deserves to keep running poles because he loves it so much and I can’t do that after high school. It’s going to be really hard to sell him because we’ve bonded for such a long time.”
Since their rodeos are numbered as a team, McKenna is taking advantage of every opportunity to weave through the pole pattern with Laredo. That’s exactly why McKenna ended up in Waterloo, Iowa, at a KK Run for Vegas event. Competing in the senior division, McKenna is not only headed to Vegas in the poles but also in the barrels. “Obviously I would want to win the whole thing or just make it to the short go in both events, but my main goal is to set a new personal best in the poles.” When the pressure’s on, McKenna and Laredo are accustomed to rising to the challenge. Her freshman year at national finals is a great example.
“Coming into state finals in the poles I was in fourth and by the end of the weekend I was second. My sister (Morgan, 19) was first and she came into it 30 points ahead, so nobody could touch her.” Both sisters made the short go at nationals and even competed one right after the other in the draw. “She got third and I placed eighth, it was really neat. That’s probably my favorite moment in rodeo for sure. It’s hard to make it to the short go, but to make it back with my sister is really cool. It was a proud moment for my parents (Mike and Michelle) too. It’s not very often that people from Wisconsin make it to the short go, so that was neat also.”
Morgan and McKenna have been best friends since they were little. They always rode and practiced together until Morgan headed off to college four hours away this fall. “It’s weird not having her at home. She was always helping me get better and wants me to succeed. I miss her a lot.” McKenna has two older sisters: Justine, 34, and Dani, 28, but they were not rodeo competitors. Her 10-year old brother, McAlister, hasn’t quite gotten the rodeo itch just yet. Perhaps growing up in a big family was the catalyst for the social butterfly that McKenna’s become or it’s just the welcoming rodeo environment that brings out the best in her.
“It’s crazy how different the environment is between rodeo and school events. I just love rodeo; I feel so accepted in every way.” Since COVID-19 is still around, McKenna and her fellow Wisconsin high school competitors are doing everything they can to solidify their position for state finals. “Last year we only had four rodeos, in the fall, for the whole season. Our points from the fall season determined who made it to nationals.” McKenna was only five points away from the leader in poles and was sitting fourth in the barrels coming out of the fall rodeo season. “The pressure is really on this year. People are trying to get a lot of points this fall in case something happens to our spring season.” McKenna is currently leading in the barrels and tied for third in the poles.