By: Kendra Santos
Only two cowboys in rodeo history—Cowboy King Trevor Brazile and the late, great Dale Smith—have qualified for the National Finals in four events. Rodeo fans convened on the Texas Coast for Rodeo Corpus Christi this week have been buzzing about a cowgirl qualified here in four events of her own. The kicker is that heading, heeling, breakaway roping, barrel racing phenom Kaitlyn Torres is only 13 years old. And she’s one of five handy young cowgirls who have earned the right to go head-to-head with their heroes here through the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s DY (Division Youth for contestants 13-18), and have now advanced to the Progressive Round at American Bank Center in downtown Corpus alongside some of this sport’s living legends.
“It’s pretty cool to be here competing with the pros,” said the home-schooled seventh grader from Alice, Texas, which is just 30 minutes down the road. Torres will be joined by fellow young gun barrel racers Jada Trosper, 15; Hailey Beal, 13; Hannah Bass, 16; and Rainey Skelton, 16, in the Progressive Round performances the next three nights before Sunday’s Showdown Round. “Nowhere else in the world can a 13-year-old girl compete with the best in the business. This is fun.”
That’s no exaggeration, and some of Kaitlyn’s network of mentors are among the best this sport has ever seen. Torres—who headed here for Slade Watson and heeled for Tres Canales in the qualifying rounds at Rodeo Corpus Christi—regularly enlists guidance from Tiffani Sonnier in the barrel racing, Shelby Boisjoli in the breakaway roping, and Rainey’s dad and eight-time World Champion Team Roper Rich Skelton in the team roping.
“Kaitlyn loves to rope so much that when we’re practicing, I sometimes have to make her stop,” said Skelton, who’s heeling here behind Casey Hicks, and also has advanced to the Progressive Round at American Bank Center, as has Canadian-born Boisjoli in the breakaway. “Lack of effort is not a problem. She ropes really good, and rides good horses. The sky’s the limit for this kid.”
This girl’s original goal was to be the first-ever #8 female roper. Whitney DeSalvo—who’ll heel for 10-time NFR header Charly Crawford at American Bank Center tonight—beat her to that particular punch.
“Rich says if I put my mind to it, maybe I can be the first #9 girl team roper,” smiled Torres, who’s here with a whole herd of horses—Rango, Termite, Shorty and Josie. “I’d like to make the NFR someday in the breakaway or heeling—maybe both. Getting to compete at rodeos like this is sure a good start.”
Torres, Trosper, Beal, Bass and Skelton will all do barrel racing battle against the big dogs at American Bank Center in downtown Corpus, starting tonight. Skelton is doubling down, as she’ll also breakaway rope against a lineup of “best evers.” The talented group of teens assembled here on Rodeo Corpus Christi’s Team DY have earned a pretty grand total of 20 qualifications into the Progressive Round across disciplines.
“We might be young, but we’re all here to try and win the money,” Torres said.