STURGIS — Landry Haugen’s debut at the recent South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals was one she might have envisioned.
The 15-year-old, who just finished her ninth-grade year at Sturgis Brown High School, secured state championships in girls’ cutting and barrel racing.
Haugen has already participated in rodeo for 10 years and abides by a simple philosophy.
“I have expectations of myself to do the best that I possibly can,” Haugen said. As for state goals, she recalled, “My mindset was just go make my runs every time.”
Haugen’s state honors started with the girls’ cutting championship. She collected 144 points in the short go-round for 10 standings points en route to 83 on the season.
She said she worked really hard at that event, but the title was unexpected.
“You never know what’s going to happen, so I was obviously very happy,” she recalled.
The horse Haugen used was one her aunt Kailee Webb owns. That family aspect made the title even more special.
Barrel racing’s championship aftermath story was initially a bit different.
“I was honestly relieved initially. I only won it by a point,” she said.
A time of 16.316 seconds gave her eight standings points en route to 69 for the season. New Underwood’s Tessa Caspers finished with 68 points.
Haugen had very lofty goals in her first year of high school rodeo.
“I worked fairly hard at it,” she said. “My goals were to win everything I possibly can, but that meaning, I just want it to play out.”
Haugen earned the Girls’ Rookie and Girls’ All-Around title at the Wall and Sturgis regionals.
Her efforts at Wall included a total of seven event titles: two barrel racing, two goat tying, one girls’ cutting, one pole bending, and one team roping with Jayme Peterson. The weekend consisted of two separate rodeos.
Haugen’s Sturgis weekend featured five event titles: two girls’ cutting, one goat tying, one breakaway roping, and one pole bending.
“I was born into it, and I just happened to like it,” Haugen said of her start in the sport. Her parents Tyler and Dee Haugen competed professionally.
Haugen entered small rodeos at age 5 and started competing about three years later.
Family time, long drives, and movie nights mark some of Haugen’s first memories. They included her small pony tripping during one of her first pole bending runs, ending that effort early.
“I didn’t start walking until I was 14 months old because I had nowhere to walk,” she said. “We were driving to rodeos all the time.”
Barrel racing, team roping, and pole bending are among Haugen’s favorite rodeo events. She loves the work aspect and leans on a parent’s advice.
“In the barrels, my mom always says you get to love your horses,” Haugen said. “I might not love running around through barrels, but I love the animal I do it on.”
Haugen learned lessons through high school rodeo that she likely would not have had otherwise.
“Sometimes, I take myself a little too seriously,” Haugen said. “High school rodeo has taught me, ‘Take a deep breath; go have fun.’”
Haugen most enjoys the relationships that rodeo creates. She said anyone can finish first on any given day.
“I want my friends to win second as bad as I want to win first,” Haugen said. “The competition is still there, but it’s a completely different aspect.”
The biggest challenge can come from having to do this every day.
“You do it enough and enough, and you think you’ve reached that point where you’re the best you can be,” she said. “Sometimes you hit a roadblock.”
Life lessons are taking hold for Haugen, who said she has learned many of them.
“Don’t let one thing affect the rest of your day,” she advised. “You can’t control everything that happens inside the arena, but you can control how you react to it.”
Guthrie, Okla., will host the national finals July 17-23. That is part of a one-month trip to include the Little Britches national finals.
“It’s just maintaining that high level of competence, staying sharp, that kind of thing,” she said of her preparation. She cited the need to keep her horses in shape.
Her goals for the next three years will not change. Time will tell what results.
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