Navajo Mountain cowgirl wins Beshbetoh rodeo

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

BESHBETOH, Ariz., June 13, 2013

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I t remains to be seen who will get qualified for this year's 38th annual Indian National Finals Rodeo.

But for 11-year-old Ki'eli Gilbert, she may have the best chance of getting qualified in two events.

On Saturday, Gilbert won both the ladies and junior barrel racing events at the Beshbetoh Stampede. Unofficially she leads both events in the Navajo Nation Rodeo Association standings.

The year-end winner receives the association's automatic bid to the INFR, which will be held Nov. 5-9 at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas.

Last year, the Navajo Mountain, Ariz., cowgirl earned her first INFR qualification in the junior event.

This year, however, she is trying to get qualified in the open barrel racing.

"I think this is fun," Gilbert said when asked on why she competes in both events.

Her mom, Kori Gilbert went on to say that her daughter has a passion for barrel racing so it's hard to undermine her determination.

"Ever since she could talk she wanted a horse," her mother said. "She's been riding for three years now and she loves to do this so all we do is support her."

Most of that support comes from her two grandmothers – Sara Ateno and Susie Gilbert – as the Naa Tsis'Ana Community School fourth grader wanted to thank them.

During Saturday's rodeo, Gilbert rode her two gelding – Dodge and Lynx – in the competition while adding that she's been using Dodge a lot longer

"They are the same but in match races Lynx is faster and Dodge is better at turns," Gilbert said.

For the most part she said both horses have been consistent, which is a big plus since they have nine more rodeos to compete in the NNRA season.

Another contestant credited his horse for his recent rise in the standings.

"He's doing really well," Chinle steer wrestler Ashkie Antone said of his horse Mac. "He has his days off but he's been giving me a shot."

In Beshbetoh, Antone placed second with a 14.6 run. That finish unofficially bumped the lanky bulldogger in first place in the year-end standings with 34 points.

"I really want to go, it's always been my dream since I was a little kid," Antone said when asked about the prospects of making the INFR.

Last year he missed going based on one bad performance during the NNRA finals.

"All I had to do was catch my short-round steer last year but it didn't happen," Antone said. "I'm trying to take it one step at a time because I've been winning and losing. I want to get back where I left off last year."

His dad Jacob Antone also moved up the standings as the two-time INFR world champ placed first with a 10.5 run.

"It wasn't pretty but I'll take it," the older Antone said. "The horse was kind of moving out on me so I did the best I could to stay in there."

Next week the pair will be heading out west to try their luck at the San Juan Day Rodeo in Porterville, Calif., one of the tour rodeos set up by the INFR.

"We haven't missed an (NNRA) rodeo this year but we're going to miss the next one," Antone said of the Crownpoint Summer Rodeo.

In the calf roping, PRCA member Donovan Yazzie made it look easy as he got his calf tied in 8.8 seconds.

"I wish I could say it's automatic but I still have to work at it to make my runs happen," said Yazzie, who competed in his first NNRA rodeo this year on Saturday. "I just drew the best calf and everything just fell together."

Most of his time was spent on the PRCA tour, which includes his first-place finish at the Yuma Jaycees Silver Spur Rodeo in early February where he roped two draws in 19.0 seconds.

T.O. Yazzie was another cowboy who got a late start to the NNRA season.

The 50-year-old saddle bronc rider broke a string of riders who missed their mark outs and placed first with a 64-point ride on "Millennium."

"There were three bronc riders who did that," Yazzie said. "It's pretty good that the judges are looking out for that."

The Aneth, Utah cowboy said he has to play catch-up since most of the other bronc riders already have four rodeos under their belt.

"I'm playing the chasing game," he said. "I have to catch up with those guys so that I can go back to Las Vegas and win the title again."

His last and only title came in 1991 but he credits his exercise regimen, which consists of running and swimming as a way to keep him in shape.

"The swimming part helps," he said. "I do that three times a week."

Other winners on Saturday include: Serena Dahozy (breakaway), Darryl Ben (team roping), Lyle Ben (team roping), Amos Monroe (senior team roping), Fritz Roanhorse (senior team roping), Larson Largo (sr. breakaway), and Eric Becenti (junior coed breakaway).

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