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Kelsch, Miller take different path to Finals

Courtesy Photo by Jason Waskiewicz / Bowman County Pioneer Amidon's Kit Miller dismounts her horse, Star, in the goat tying competition during the North Dakota High School Finals Rodeo in Bowman. Miller is making her first National High School Finals Rodeo appearance.

Lexus Kelsch of McLaughlin, S.D., and Amidon's Kit Miller closed out their high school rodeo careers in two very different ways.

Kelsch has won multiple North Dakota High School Finals Rodeo championships and will make her third straight National High School Finals Rodeo appearance, while Miller has spent a majority of her career coming up a couple points short of the national finals.

Miller exhaled a huge sigh of relief after qualifying for the NHSFR in goat tying. For the Amidon cowgirl, she is making her first NHSFR appearance after coming up one-point short last year and a handful of points short two years ago. The NHSFR begins Sunday in Rock Springs, Wyo.

"I'm really excited," Miller said. "Missing out last year by one point was a heartbreaker. I've been right on the bubble for the past two years, so this year I was excited and try to hit points at every rodeo. I wanted to be smooth and steady throughout the season and it really paid off."

Kelsch has won back-to-back barrel racing and pole bending titles. She uses her horse, Tigger, in both events.

The South Dakota cowgirl, who competes in North Dakota, knew there was a possibility of repeating state titles in each events. However, she knew it would come down to running fast times.

"I knew it was big accomplishment," Kelsch said about repeating as barrel racing and pole bending champion. "I've worked really hard."

Kelsch ran away with both titles, winning the barrel racing by 50 points and pole bending by 39 points. She finished with 155 event points in barrel racing and 114 in pole bending. The next closest points in barrel racing were Kintyre's Chantel Fettig with 105 and in pole bending it was Killdeer's Lakken Bice with 75.

Miller, who played basketball and volleyball for Bowman County, claimed the fourth and final spot for North Dakota in the goat tying. She ended the season with 76.5 event points.

The Amidon cowgirl and her horse, Star, are just looking for two solid runs in goat tying at the NHSFR. Miller knows her capabilities and she plans on building off her final high school season.

"I'm feeling pretty confident," Miller said. "I've had my horse ever since she was a colt and I trained her myself. I know she does a perfect job and I have confidence in her. I'm going to go in and try to make two fast, clean runs."

Kelsch is looking to use her prior experiences at the NHSFR to her advantage.

Not to mention, she'll be competing against the top barrel racers and pole benders in the country. Kelsch knows competing against other cowgirls from North Dakota makes the transition a little easier.

"The competition up here is tough, but it's going to be a lot tougher down there," Kelsch said. "The experience of being there before really helps."