Emerald schoolgirl youngest ever to win national title
RODEO: Emerald schoolgirl Ellysa Kenny has become the youngest competitor to win the all around cowgirl title at the Australian Professional Rodeo Association national finals.
The 15-year-old was a model of consistency over the four days of competition, racking up five top-four finishes to secure the title in Warwick.
She started the finals with a second in Round 1 of the breakaway roping and finished with a fourth in the barrel race in Round 4 on Sunday. She was first in breakaway roping in Round 2 on Friday night and had a second and fourth in Round 3.
It was a great event for Central Queensland competitors with Emerald's adopted son Campbell Hodson edging Ellysa's dad Shane to take out the all around cowboy and Alton Downs' cowgirl Jorja Iker winning her first Australian title in the breakaway roping.
Quietly spoken Ellysa was still coming to terms with her incredible success when she arrived back in her home town.
"It was so exciting and I didn't really believe it,” she said about receiving the cherished buckle and the prize saddle.
"I had a pretty good finals, a finals that most people would like to have.
"You have to be confident going into an event like that but I didn't think I would win the title in my first-ever national finals.
"It feels pretty surreal.”
Ellysa's greatest inspiration is her dad Shane, an iconic figure on the rodeo circuit who has won an unprecedented 15 national all-around titles, the first of them in 1992.
The talented teen would love to emulate her dad's achievements and admits his success is a great source of motivation.
"Before we went to the finals, I asked dad how old he was when he won his first all-around title. He said he was 17 so I really wanted to beat that,” Ellysa said.
"What I would really like to do now is win one with my dad.”
Ellysa has grown up around rodeo, and first started barrel racing when she was four.
"I would go to the rodeos when I was really little to watch Mum and Dad so it's been part of my life for a long time,” she said.
"Now I'm a bit older, I just love competing with my family.”
Shane and mum Leanne were understandably thrilled with Ellysa's success.
"It's massive,” Shane declared.
"We talked about it a few months ago and we figured that if everything went right she would have a good chance but you still have to go out there and perform on the day.
"It was fantastic that she was able to hold it together and get the job done.”
Leanne said it was "very special” to witness her daughter's historic win.
"I don't think it's really sunk in.
"I don't think Ellysa realises just how significant it is.
"She's really dedicated and she works hard and she's got a big future ahead of her.
"She looks at the titles that Shane was won and she's really keen to do something similar and she's certainly started off well anyway.”