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Kaylee Nelson is the 2007 National High School Rodeo Cutting Champion

Kaylee Nelson returned triumphant from the competition at the National High School School Rodeo as the 2007 Cutting Champion. The finals were held in Springfield, Illinois.

The July 22 to 28 event included cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation who earned the right to compete nationally at their state rodeos. Nelson, a graduate from Philip High School and the daughter of Tim and Denise Nelson of rural Midland, competed among the best.

Nelson said that two of her most memorable high points in rodeo so far were this from year. One was when she won the South Dakota high point All-around Cowgirl. "As a senior, it was pretty cool. It was pretty special." She has qualified and competed at the South Dakota High School Rodeo for four years.

"The other high point was this year at nationals when I was at 2.5 in breakaway and ended up second in the first go-round." With a time like that, Nelson said, "It just happens. You don't have time to think about it, it's just reaction."

Those times are a long way from her most embarrassing moment of when her barrel horse "completely fell down in the Belle Fourche rodeo. The horse slipped in the wet mud. I got really muddy," recalled Nelson. "I didn't get hurt. The horse didn't get hurt; it just stood there and watched me get up. It's just something that happens."

Nelson has had more shining times than muddy ones. She won the state cutting title last year and went on to take 13th place at nationals. This year she qualified at state to compete at nationals in breakaway as well. She also participated at the state rodeo in barrel racing and in team roping.

Her team roping partner has been Paul Tierney from Oral. "We've known each other a long time," said Nelson, "We're close family friends. His dad is a mentor of mine who helped me a lot with roping.

"My dad used to pro rodeo. Now he would rather be at home helping us than being away from the family. Rodeo has been part of my family; it's what I grew up with. Dad thinks you can go farther in roping (rather than other rodeo events, including rodeo queen). It's cool to see a girl beat the boys," Nelson explained. Team roping tends to be dominated by the guys.

Nelson's younger brother, Jade, is just starting high school. "He'll probably do fairly well in rodeo," said Nelson.

Other influences on Nelson are Jim Whitcher of Scenic, whose horse Nelson used for cutting competition and who tutored Nelson in rodeo. "I owe my success to him and my dad," she said.

Now that high school competition is over, Nelson plans to attend Northwestern State University in Alva, Oklahoma. Her rodeo scholarship includes a waiving of the out-of-state tuition. Nelson said, "They don't have cutting in college rodeo, my favorite, but they do have breakaway. I'm going into pre-vet, then if I really like it I might go to a veterinary school. I haven't decided yet.

"Maybe I'll try professional rodeo in breakaway someday. I guess time will tell.

"If it's something you really want and want to work hard at, go for it. It isn't easy," Nelson continued. "I'll never forget the different levels of competition that I've run into, the people who I've met and the challenge that rodeo gives you."