story by Lindsay Humphrey Few father son duos have collected more Linderman Awards than Chip and Kyle Whitaker of Chambers, Nebraska. Kyle alone has 10 […]
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Meet the Member Sydney Graff
story by Lindsay King
Five-year-old Sydney Graff rounds the third barrel and thunders home to the cheers of a PRCA crowd. This was the typical weekend for Sydney: running junior barrels at a rodeo her dad was competing in. She rarely hopped in a rodeo-bound truck without her own mount, perhaps that’s how the sport got in her blood. Unyielding and determined to always make a run, Sydney moved through the ranks of rodeo, landing her at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming. “I’m here on a full-ride rodeo scholarship studying psychology and social work,” said the junior. “After I am done here I want to transfer to a four-year school and get my bachelor’s degree.”
This Lone Pine, Nebraska, native aspires to either become a social worker or counselor at a rehabilitation facility. This is after moving to a warmer climate, say Texas? “There are more opportunities to rope and it is significantly warmer anywhere south of here really.” The daughter to a family of calf ropers, breakaway roping has always been Sydney’s main event. But that doesn’t keep her from running barrels and heading. “I have always grown up riding nice calf horses because that’s what my family focused on the most. Getting a lot of help and having the opportunity to rope a lot of calves easily made it my favorite event.” That trend continues on the collegiate level.
“My rodeo coach, Seth Glause, has really helped me out with my mental game and giving the team plenty of opportunities to rope and get better.” Roping well in practice didn’t always translate to the performances that mattered for Sydney. “I didn’t have the confidence in myself that I needed. Seth showed me a lot of things he did when he was trying to make the NFR. I have read a lot of mind game books in the last year, my favorite being With Winning in Mind.” Sydney’s dad, Terry Graff, also gets most of the credit when it comes to mentoring. But it was a week spent under the tutelage of Lari Dee Guy that got Sydney headed in the right direction. “She really helped break things down, especially on the horsemanship side of things. I think that made a huge difference in my ability to ride multiple horses and win on them.”
Sydney’s always been good, but she went out and roped with the pros this past summer. She missed making the CNFR, but found herself in Wyoming in July anyways. “I won the first round at Cheyenne Frontier Days in the breakaway roping. And I took third in the second round.” It’s clear Sydney isn’t messing around when it comes to the rising-star event. This is her sixth year in the M-SRA and it’s been a major contributing factor to her quick catches.
“Nebraska has some of the best amateur rodeos in my opinion. We have a ton of rodeos across the state: you can hit as many as five in one weekend if you want to.” Good cattle to rope for extra added money doesn’t hurt when it comes to attracting contestants. “All the people I have met through the association and rodeo have become good friends. It’s been really beneficial for traveling in college rodeo if I need help or a place to stay.” The Madison rodeo is easily Sydney’s favorite out of all the M-SRA events, possibly because it resembles the arenas at Pendleton and Cheyenne. “Madison always has the best crowd and the committee is completely there for the contestants.” After this summer however, Cheyenne is the most memorable. “So many of us girls have watched people rope out there and we have just been waiting for our turn. It was such an adrenaline rush to rope on that stage.”