Three Okeechobee teens compete in international rodeo

OKEECHOBEE — McKenna Hickson, Morgan Tripp and Shelby Kirton are in Shawnee, Okla. to compete in the 26th annual International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) starting today, July 8.

This is McKenna Hickson and her horse Tootles shortly after winning the world championship in the 19-and-under girls breakaway roping category at the 2017 junior National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas. Special to the Okeechobee News.

Here Shelby Kirton is competing at the 2017 International Finals Youth Rodeo. Special to the Okeechobee News.

The Okeechobee trio will compete from July 8 through 13, hoping to win their share of more than $250,000 in prize money and championship saddles and buckles. Kirton is vying for prizes in barrel racing, Hickson is competing for prizes in breakaway roping, goat tying and team roping and Tripp is contending for prizes in barrel racing.

More than 850 of the top high school rodeo athletes from around the world will compete in 10 events running simultaneously in three arenas throughout the week. Events include barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding.

Both Hickson and Kirton competed in the 2017 IFYR.

More recently, Hickson won the world championship in the 19-and-under girls breakaway roping category at the junior National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas in December of 2017. She won with a breakaway roping time of 2.29 while riding her horse Tootles which she received from Okeechobee horse trainer Jason Hanchey.

In an interview with Okeechobee News shortly after winning the world championship, Hickson credited Hanchey for playing a huge part in her success.

“Jason has been a huge help,” explained McKenna. “I’ve been training with him for five years, I’ve gained a lot of experience and dramatically improved my roping during that time.”

She’s hoping for a repeat performance in breakaway roping in Oklahoma at the IFYR.
The International Finals Youth Rodeo, held annually since 1993, is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization that presents top high school athletes with a professional rodeo. In 2017, more than 920 contestants and their families traveled from 34 states and Australia to participate in the event.

“The International Finals Youth Rodeo attracts the best youth rodeo athletes in the world,” said Chris Dunlap, assistant director of the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center and International Finals Youth Rodeo. “The IFYR was developed to provide a professional level competition to high school athletes and now, more than two decades later, the IFYR is where any hopeful rodeo champion wants to be and be seen.”

Results will be posted to the IFYR website as they become available at

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