When people think of New Jersey, rodeo is probably one of the last things that comes to mind. But the Garden State isn’t just home to the Jets and Giants of the NFL (yes, it says New York on the schedule, but both teams play their home games in Jersey) and Tony Soprano.

New Jersey has more than 700,000 acres of farm land and Pilesgrove, N.J., is home to the Cowtown Rodeo, which began in 1929 and bills itself as the “Oldest Weekly Running Rodeo in the USA.”

Brooke Klinger and Dancer

New Jersey is also the home of Brooke Klinger, who is in Las Vegas this week competing in pole bending and the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas barrel racing at the Junior World Finals.

The 18-year-old high school senior made the trip west with her dad shortly after Thanksgiving.

“It’s 42 hours without stopping,” Klinger said after her second turn on the cloverleaf pattern Tuesday at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena. “But we stopped in Maryland and I did a rodeo there and we went through Oklahoma and I did a barrel race there, so it took us about four or five days to get here.”

While Klinger and her dad, Scott Klinger, made the drive out here with her two dogs and two of her horses, Brooke’s mom and “a bunch of friends from back home” flew out to Vegas to watch her compete.

Klinger’s first run of the day in breakaway roping, which is making its inaugural appearance at the Junior World Finals this year, didn’t go quite as planned – although she was still in 12th with a 31.737-second run – and her first barrel racing run had her in the middle of the pack in the senior division. But it was determined that the third barrel was slightly out of position during Klinger’s run so she was given the opportunity to try again.

“I was like, ‘Oh, man!’” Klinger said. “But then my dad said it was meant to be. And I knew I could tighten up a lot from my first run so I took the option of a re-run and it worked out.”

Her time of 14.093 seconds aboard Dancer has Klinger in sixth place after the first go-round.

Not bad for someone who has only been barrel racing competitively for six years.

“We went to a rodeo when I was about 12 and I saw the speed events and I said, ‘I want to do that,’” Klinger said. “So we got my barrel horse and I just started doing some local shows.”

Klinger has competed on Dancer, a 16-year-old Quarter Horse, in rodeos across the Eastern seaboard and in Pennsylvania, which is where they punched their ticket to the Junior World Finals.

“They had a qualifier in May in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and we run there a lot,” Klinger said. “We won the pole bending qualifier on Friday and then on Sunday morning we ran barrels and we got second in that. And that’s how we got to come to Vegas.”

It was the trip to Vegas, and not Brooke’s times in the arena Tuesday that Scott Klinger most wanted to talk about outside the Convention Center. Scott, an eighth-degree black belt in Isshimyu Karate, who owns and operates the East West Karate Academy in Sparta, N.J., was able to take time off from work in order to bring Brooke to Vegas.

“It was invaluable because it’s time that I can never get back,” Scott said. “Driving cross country was an experience. We had several stops that we made along the way from Brooke being involved in the rodeo circuit. So we had several places we could stay, which made it really nice.

“It was a great bonding time for us. We never get to see the center states because we travel down to Florida and along the East Coast. So for us to get to spend that time together was awesome.”


Tuesday winners

Madison Murphy of North Fort Myers, Florida, won the first round of the KK Run for Vegas senior barrel racing with a 13.820-second run. Rounding out the top 5 were Bayleigh Choate of Cohutta, Georgia, and Cahsen Turner of Plains, Kansas, who tied for second with 13.833-second runs; Kylie Perra of La Belle, Florida, with a 14.016; and Payton Schoeppach of Lincoln, California, with a 14.034.

In pole bending, Saige Smith of Touchet, Washington, leads the way with a time of 19.717 seconds, followed by Brianna Sharp of Brentwood, California (21.129); Allison Storts of Coquille, Oregon (21.141); Cashen Turner (21.204); and Payton Johnson of Aurora, Oregon (21.628).

The first two rounds of 17 & Under #10.5 team roping were also completed with Callahan Taylor of Cantillo, Texas, and Caleb Carpenter of Powell Butte, Oregon, winning the first go with a 6.63-second run and Arizona cowboys Kenzie Kelton and Denton Dunning taking the second go with a 5.77.

The first section of Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling saw Logan Kenline of Penrose, Colorado, take the early lead with a time of 5.4 seconds. Rounding out the top 5 were Colton Leech of Billings, Montana, with a 6.1; A. Sebastian Franco of Richmond, Texas, with a 6.3; Clay Clayman of Highlandville, Maryland, with a 6.7; and JP English of Las Vegas with a 6.8.

The Tuf Cooper 10 & Under boys and girls breakaway roping completed its first three rounds Tuesday. Hudson Hermes of Yoakum, Texas, and Rance Winters of Agua Dulce, California, tied for the first go win with 2.4-second runs; Devon Eakin of Pecos, Texas, won the second go with a 2.23; and Kensley Mudge of Bossier City, Louisiana, had the fastest run of the day with a 1.99 to win the third go. Eakin leads the average with a three-run time of 7.13 seconds, followed by Hermes with a 7.72 and Creed Busby of Amarillo, Texas, with a 7.77.

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