story by Mackie Ford The Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association prioritizes high school students and the sport of rodeo, implementing renewable energy in the rodeo […]
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Meet the Member: Whitley Flynn
Story by Lindsay Humphrey
In her first year as the OHSRA tie-down roping director, Whitley Flynn simply enjoys being involved in an additional event. But she also gets a front row seat when her twin brother, Jackson, ropes a calf. Even though the 16-year-old doesn’t rope herself, she appreciates the event and interacting with the contestants. “I decided that I wanted to be more involved with the association this year and becoming a director was a great way to do that,” said the Perkins, Oklahoma, cowgirl. “The OHSRA is a fun association to be involved in. It has a lot of tough competition, but it’s a fun environment and I really love all the people in it.”
In the last two years, Whitley followed in her brother’s footsteps but not in the calf roping. “My brother has been cutting for about six years now and I only started it when I got into high school rodeo.” Whitley rides 22-year-old Heza Smart Mate (Captain) who’s been with the family for eight years. He’s a rock-solid cutter who first taught Jackson the ropes and is now showing Whitley how its done. “He’s a really special horse to my family, and we probably won’t ever sell him. We have a really good relationship and I’ve learned how to ride him the way he likes. He never gives me any problems and just knows how to go out there and do his job.” Captain has started packing around a special little girl who is the daughter of Whitley’s neighbor, Jana Turner.
“Jana rodeoed professionally back in the day, and she took me to my very first barrel race when I was 6. We ended up borrowing one of her horses, Dunny, and my brother and I went to a bunch of little playdays and junior rodeos when we were growing up.” Whitley’s older sister, 20-year-old Sydney, was the first to get bitten by the horse bug. She begged for a horse when she was little, and the rest is history from there. Even though Sydney never competed, she supports her siblings from the stands as often as her college schedule allows. “Horses and rodeo was pretty much all new to us when we got started because my parents (Kyle and Belinda) didn’t really grow up in any of it.”
Jana has been a huge asset for Whitley when it comes to working on her other OHSRA events: barrels and poles. “She’s always willing to help me when I’m having trouble and she’ll even get on and ride for me if I need her to. She’s also helped me pick out horses that will be good for me and that she thinks I will get along with.” Last August Jana helped Whitley find her speed-event mount. The 6-year-old mare is talented, but it’s taken almost a year for the pair to find their groove. “Learning how to get with a new horse has been a big challenge for me. My 6-year-old mare and I have struggled to figure out how to work together.” All the time Whitley’s spent bonding with this mare outside of the arena finally paid off last summer when the team won their first jackpot together.
Even though every rodeo competitor aspires for gold buckles, at the end of the day it’s about so much more than that. “Rodeo is such a fun experience and I’ve learned a lot about responsibility. It’s helped me mature quicker and become more responsible. And I’ve made lots of friends in rodeo. I still have some of my friends from rodeo when I was really little.” The time demands of rodeo have helped Whitley zero in on her plans for the future. During the school year she attends Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater for her math and science classes. Whitley’s also enrolled in the STEM Biomed program so she can decide if pursuing a career as a radiologist is right for her. Whitley finishes up her school day of her junior year at Perkins Tryon High School where she’ll graduate from in 2023.