story by Lindsay Humphrey Very few people get the opportunity to compete on their childhood unicorn through high school rodeo. But that’s exactly the case […]
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Meet the Member Sterlin Mitchell
story by Lindsay Humphrey
When Sterlin Mitchell heard his named called as the Rookie All-Around Cowboy at the 2020 National High School Finals Rodeo, he was more than surprised. “I was just standing down with the other kids at the awards and I didn’t think anything of it when they started announcing the all-around awards. When they announced my name, I had no idea it was coming,” said the 15-year-old. The first time Sterlin was introduced in Rodeo News, he was a 13-year-old competing in the NMJHSRA. He loved ribbon roping but also competed in breakaway and team roping. He’s since quit roping calves, continued heading steers, and taken up cutting and the working cow horse in the NMHSRA.
He’s no stranger to performance events though, Sterlin’s been riding in the cow horse classes since he was 8 years old. Cutting is a different story. “I’ve watched my brother, Trey, showing in the cutting for the last two years.” Last fall, this Lamy, New Mexico, freshman decided to give cutting a try. Clearly, he had been taking notes from his brother because Sterlin was the NMHSRA Boys Cutting Champion this past season. Of course, he only had the fall season to prove himself in all of his events before COVID changed the trajectory of rodeo in late March 2020. “Everything for nationals was based on how we performed in the fall, we didn’t have state finals this year.”
Sterlin tied with his brother for the state title in the cow horse and was named rookie of the year and his mount was horse of the year for the second year in a row in the NMHSRA. The brothers also team roped together in the NMHSRA, but they didn’t have as much luck in that event. Even though the pair didn’t get to show much in the spring, they felt prepared going into nationals. “As soon as we got to nationals, Josh King helped us quite a bit. Trey borrowed one of his horses because his mare had a baby so he couldn’t show her. Josh helped quite a few things click for me at nationals.” Trey graciously let his younger brother ride the mare he’s been showing in the cow horse for most of his high school career. “That helped me a bunch: having a good horse to ride. We stayed in tune with each other as much as we could.”
At 10 years old, Turner (SCR Crackin One Time), has been showing with the brothers for the last 4 years. “We’ve had a lot of time riding her. She likes to do all the cow horse stuff. Her favorite part is working the cow, she always seems more perked up about it than anything else.” Turner was named the AQHA Boys Horse of the Year at the NHSFR. Sterlin and his brother also show Turner in the Ranch Horse Association where they get to rope their cow at the end of their other cow work. It basically combines all three of their high school rodeo events into one class.
Even though nationals were different than anything Sterlin experienced in his two trips to the JHSNFR, he thoroughly enjoyed his time in Guthrie, Oklahoma. “I was a little more nervous for this than I was for junior high nationals. There were a lot more people competing and a lot more spectators in the stands. Showing was my favorite part of the whole thing.” Sterlin also enjoyed spending time with old friends while meeting new people at the event. This fall Sterlin will be a sophomore, but he won’t be going back to public school. Quarantine helped Sterlin and his parents, Grant and Connie, decide that homeschooling might be the better route. “I’ve been working for my dad since March, so I’m going to keep doing that. I’ll pretty much be doing a little bit of everything on the ranch.” This fall starts weaning for calves and colts alike, but that’s the perfect opportunity for Sterlin to put his arena skills to good use out in the pasture. NMHSRA kicked off their season early with cow horse and cutting on August 1. Sterlin enjoyed the opportunity to get back into the arena so quickly after nationals. He’s looking forward to repeating his success from 2020 in the coming season.