Two local cowgirls have earned their third trip to Las Vegas this December to compete in the KK Run for Vegas/Jr. NFR Barrel Race.
Sisters Taylor Shurden, 12, and Reagan Shurden, 11, of Winona, daughters of Jim and Sheri Shurden, will compete against 160 other riders in the prestigious event, which is in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale, held December 10-14.
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by these kids, and they have all earned the right to compete in Las Vegas,” Kelly Kaminski, the event’s organizer and two-time world champion barrel racer in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, said in a release.
This year, the girls qualified for the trip early on in the season. Taylor qualified in the Senior Division (12-17 year olds) on March 13 at a show in Georgia, and Reagan qualified in the Junior Division (11 and under) on May 10 in Marshall, Texas.
Last year, both girls competed in the Junior Division in the KK Run for Vegas, with Taylor finishing in the Top 20 and making the finals. She unfortunately hit a barrel in the finals.
“[My goal this year] is not to hit a barrel,” Taylor said with a grin.
Reagan said, “Mine is to make it to the finals.”
Competitors come to the KK Run for Vegas event from across the country and Canada. Each competitor competes twice, and the Top 20 girls with the fastest averages will advance to the championship round.
“Each of these kids will be competing for over $150,000 in cash and prizes,” said Kaminski, a five-time NFR qualifier who also was a two-time reserve champion.
Although the girls qualified early, they still work hard each week to improve their skills. The girls practice three to four times a week with their trainers, Quay and Ashley Eaves of QE Barrel Horses of Louisville.
After breaking her arm on the school playground, Reagan just recently returned to the ring to compete, and she said she is ready to compete in Vegas.
However, for the girls, showing well isn’t the only reason they are looking forward to traveling to Las Vegas again. They have made many friends along the rodeo trail.
“All of our friends will be there,” Taylor said. “We made a lot of friends the last time we were there.”
In fact, this past summer, the girls traveled to Texas to spend a week with a friend they met at the show.
Although both girls want to pursue barrel racing professionally, they dream of being veterinarians, so school must remain a priority. Taylor is a seventh grader at Winona Secondary School, and Reagan is a sixth grader at Winona Elementary School. They also are members of the archery team and take dance lessons.