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Meet the Member Tayla Thorstenson
story by Lily Weinacht
Tayla Thorstenson is the 2019 SDHSRA Breakaway Roping Champion, and the 18-year-old from Pantry is representing South Dakota at the NHSFR for the first time in her high school career. “I’d never won a state title before, and I’d never even placed at state before either. It was a great year!” says Tayla. “I was leading my region, and that was different from the past few years when I came in with the minimum of points.” She and her dad kept a close watch on the points as Tayla roped consistently and led the average going in to the short go. “I was the last girl out of 15 to go, which was super nerve wracking to wait and watch everyone go. I knew all I had to do was catch, and I was a 3 flat to win the round.”
Tayla comes from a family of serious rodeo athletes, from her parents, Julie and Justin Thorstenson, to aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was a trip down to Arizona to rope with her aunt and uncle, Jeff and Kristie, this winter that made the difference in Tayla’s rodeo season. Her uncle Jason in Arizona also helped her with roping. “My parents always tell me I have the ability, but I was so low on confidence. I took a break and roped this winter, and my aunt Jacque really helped me too. She’s really good on the mental game. It’s by far my parents who support me and tell me that it’s okay and there’s another rodeo,” Tayla adds. “I’ve met friends that I probably would’ve never met without rodeo. With the hard work, it all falls together in the end and it’s totally worth it.”
One of eight Nationals qualifiers from her school, Dupree High School, Tayla is excited to be representing her state alongside her teammates. She’s been going to jackpots and roping on different horses in various conditions to prepare herself for whatever may come at Nationals. Tayla competed in the NJHFR in ribbon roping her eighth-grade year, and she also competes in 4-H rodeos in her same three high school rodeo events, breakaway roping, goat tying, and team roping. She can head and heel, but has primary heeled the last three years. “Breakaway is by far my favorite. I come from a long line of breakaway ropers—my mom is a great breakaway roper and my aunts Jacque, Jordan, and Joanna, and my dad is a really good calf roper, so that’s how I fell in love with it. My horse Hollywood is one of the main reasons it’s so much fun. This is my fifth year riding him—my mom and dad bought him for me after my eighth-grade junior high season. For goat tying I ride my brother’s horse, Hawk, and in team roping I ride my dad’s rope horse who does both ends, Bomber.” Her younger brothers, Tanner and Treg, do junior high and 4-H rodeo, and their older sisters, Alix and Autumn, also rodeoed through high school. Practice is always a family event in the arena, and they also enjoy going to the lake and riding together.
Since graduating from Dupree High School as valedictorian of her class this spring, Tayla’s latest plan is attending the University of Wyoming this fall and competing on the college rodeo team. “I’ll probably do breakaway and goats, and I’m going to study kinesiology to become a physical therapist. It could be up to six years but I already took some college classes in high school. And as far as college rodeo, I’d like to make the College Finals next year now that I know what I can do and I have some more confidence in myself. I’m ready to go and chase the college rodeo trail.”