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Teen rodeo queen more than a pretty face
There's more to being a rodeo queen than looking pretty and putting on a cowgirl hat and some shiny buckles.
While kickin' up dust is one way Miss Teen Rodeo Washington contestants score points during the three-day pageant, there's also the technical aspect, said Miss Teen Rodeo Washington 2014 winner Brielle Stevens.
"I tried out and had such a great time," said 17-year-old Stevens, a fifth generation Washington-born native.
Stevens, of Bremerton, has been riding since she was a toddler.
On Saturday, Stevens and her family will host a coronation fundraiser to help fund the teen rodeo queen's travel and future pageant endeavors. The event will be held at 6 p.m. in Bremerton at the West Side Improvement Club.
On Oct. 12, 2013, she took the crown at the conclusion of the contest after she made top honors in presentation, appearance, sales, knowledge, photogenic qualities and speech.
Now, Stevens has the responsibility of representing Washington State rodeos through her travels by promoting the culture, tradition and western heritage through educating others.
Getting to the top wasn't easy, though.
While training last year, Stevens suffered a severe leg injury in May just months before she was due to perform.
Moments after her grand entry into a rodeo, her performance went awry. Stevens fell off her horse and suffered a spiral leg fracture and broken ankle.
Three screws and a rod later, Stevens was back to practicing for her big debut. With one crown already under her belt buckle--as the Miss Kitsap Fair and Stampede Queen--Stevens knew to train hard with mentors.
The teen said she wasn't scared to get back to riding. It was all she thought about during her six weeks of healing. She was ready to get back on her "trustworthy boy," a chestnut brown horse named Hot Pocket.
In order to come out on top of the contest, teen rodeo queens are required to be knowledgable in a variety of areas before trying to obtain the title. Stevens studied equine diseases, current events and even had to learn manners.
The hardest thing to do is look elegant eating barbecue, which is often served at rodeos, Stevens joked.
For one hour every night leading up to the pageant event, Stevens spent time studying in addition to school other activities.
After being crowned, Stevens immediately went to work and hopes to "be able to promote western culture, heritage and values across Washington state and the United States," she said. She'll spend the next several months trying to get sponsors for the rodeo.
As an eleventh grade honors student at Klahowya High School, Stevens stays active in multiple clubs and extracurriculars.
She is a member of DECA, science club, Rachel’s Challenge (with a group mission to combat bullying), Students Opposing Suicide and National Honor Society.
She is also a church youth group leader and a youth camp leader. Additionally, she has held leadership positions during her nine-year membership in her 4-H club.
The judges aren't the only one who Stevens impresses. Those who worked with her after she received her title continue to be awed.
"She is very wise beyond her years," said Sara Prchal, vice president and director of Teen Miss Rodeo Washington. "It's hard to believe she's young as she is. She's very mature for her age. I really admire her family values, and she's got a really great supportive family."
To stay grounded, Stevens leans on her family and attends church, which really helps her focus, she said. Keeping track of the day's agenda is also a must for the busy teenager.
"My family helps me stay really focused," she said. "I wake up every morning and thank God for my blessings. I literally sit down and write down what I've got to get done."
Ultimately, Stevens hopes to one day take home the title of Miss Rodeo Washington. Participants must be at least 21 years old, so Stevens will head to college before getting back in the saddle for the pageant.
She hopes to become a physical therapist with a specialization in equine for special education children. Until then, she's happy just being a teen rodeo queen and representing what rodeos are all about.
"I am so blessed to have this experience," she said. "I'm thankful to God to live in a free country and be a rodeo queen."
And others, like Prchal, are thankful that someone like Stevens is willing to step into her title as a teen rodeo queen.
"She is the ultimate positive role model for young women and children throughout the community," said Prchal. "She's very involved with her community. She's very well-spoken and very polite toward everybody."