Justin Rumford at the Woodward Elks
Rodeo in Woodward, OK. Photo by Annie
Jo Gilbert of Roan Pony Productions.
“I have been to the NFR several times before, but this is the first
time I am going to compete.” Spears added. “I am looking at
everything from a different mindset. I am preparing mentally
to know that the outcome is what it is, but I am also working as
hard as I can so that I can put my best foot forward.”
Three-hundred and sixty-five days are devoted to Oklahoma
and the sport of rodeo, with the ultimate goal of representing
the entire nation constantly in the back of Spears’ mind. Each
state queen travels thousands of miles, visiting every corner of
the United States for rodeos big and small.
It is hard to fathom who covers more ground on their way to Las
Vegas, queens or contestants? Regardless, each position comes
with its own set of challenges and preparation requirements.
“The hardest part about the road to the NFR is the
preparation. All the work for a championship title or for the
Miss Rodeo America crown is done before you get to Vegas,”
Spears explained. “I am a perfectionist. So just going into it
knowing I can’t possibly prepare for every little part and there
are some things I am not going to know or be ready for.”
An integral part to soaking up the full year spent representing
the state of Oklahoma is Spears’ support system: friends, family
and fellow queens. She dedicates her days to rodeo, from
studying and working on horsemanship to giving impromptu
speeches at the drop of a hat. Representing the sport of rodeo,
much like the road to the NFR, takes an insurmountable amount
of dedication and sweat equity.
“I have been working for the chance to compete for Miss Rodeo
America my entire life so my family is invested, I am invested,
everyone behind me is invested,” Spears said. “And I know that
is what helps everything work out on the road to the NFR. I am
incredibly blessed to be living this dream.”
Heavily sprinkled along this road are not only unique experiences,
but people who make the job worthwhile for Spears and her
fellow state queens.
“My goal from the very beginning has been to make the most
of these 365 days,” Spears said. “Through that, I have been able
to share my faith people who I would have never come into
contact with otherwise, I have marketed myself for my future
career and even been able to inspire people along the way.
So truly the best part and my favorite about the road is all the
people who are here on this ride to the NFR.”
THE ROAD TO WORLD CHAMPION
Traversing the road to the NFR a total of six times is bulldogger
Matt Reeves. No two trips are the same, the point at which
Reeves knows his fate for December is the biggest changing
“My very first year, 2007, I made the cut for the finals at the very
last rodeo of the year,” Reeves said with a laugh. “It was wild,
we had gone all year working hard. I went to Dallas for the Texas
Stampede and knew I had to win a round to make it to the finals.”
The first steer wrestler out of the gate on the first night, Reeves
sealed the deal by winning the round. The 11,000 dollars he
pocketed in Dallas moved him from 17th to 14th and eliminated
the chance for anyone to knock him out of the NFR. Getting a
paycheck around the amount of 10,000 dollars is an essential
component of making the finals, Reeves said.
“The main goal should just be to do well at the rodeos you are
at. If you do that it won’t matter which ones you hit throughout
the year,” Reeves explained. “You also need one good lick that
injects between 8,000 dollars and 15,000 dollars into your
standings. It changes things drastically.”
This year that rodeo came early for Reeves. He split $100,000
when he won the American this past February.
With about thirty rodeos that pay so well competitors cannot afford
to miss them, some of the main ones include Fort Worth, Cody, San
Antonio, and Denver. But that barely scratches the surface.
“The worst part about this job is the driving, I really do not like
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