SIKESTON - Typical sisters, they might not always get along.
But they do agree on two things, their love for competing in rodeo pageants and the importance of good sportsmanship.
Now they share something else, rodeo royalty.
Seventeen-year-old Kyleigh Cowger became the new Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri during a four-day pageant in St. Roberts in September. Her sister Mallory, 10, was named Little Miss Rodeo Missouri at a one-day pageant in October in St. Roberts.
The girls are the daughters of Jim and Jeannie Cowger.
There are four divisions in the Miss Rodeo Missouri Association: Miss Rodeo Missouri, Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri, Miss Preteen Rodeo Missouri and Little Miss Rodeo Missouri.
"I think it's great, I'm very proud of them and their accomplishments," said Mrs. Cowger. "I'm glad they won the same year because there's a lot of traveling, they'll travel all over the state of Missouri," she said. "They will travel to Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeos, rodeo pageants, equine seminars and other events and activities."
"I think it will be a long trip," quipped Mallory.
For Mallory, who gladly points out she has the most crowns, competing in pageants is nothing new, she's been doing it since age 3. She's carried the titles of Little Miss 4th of July in Malden and Dexter, Little Miss Snowball, Little Miss Western, Little Miss Snowflake and Little Miss Missouri 2000.
For the past two years she has been involved in 4-H rodeo where she competes in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, team penning and calf riding.
She said her favorite pageant was the Little Miss Rodeo Missouri in which she won the title and the categories of interview, speech and horsemanship. For her accomplishment she received a Little Miss Rodeo Missouri jacket, Montana Silversmith trophy buckle, a trophy, autograph pictures, a crown and a sash.
"I just couldn't believe I won, my mouth dropped," Mallory said. "I was not expecting it. It gave me the confidence to go to the next pageant."
Although starting in the rodeo world later than her younger sister, Kyleigh is familiar with pageantry as well. Her titles have included Junior Miss Sweet Corn 2000, Miss Cotton Carnival 2001, Miss Benton Neighborday 2001, Junior Miss Rodeo 2001 and was first runner-up in the Missouri High School Rodeo Queen pageant. She has been a 4-H member for nine years and competes in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and breakaway.
Those vying for Miss Rodeo Missouri Association were judged in interviews, modeling, impromptu questions, horsemanship and prepared speeches, the latter two of which Kyleigh received an award, in addition to being named Miss Photogenic.
As the result of winning her first trip to the state level pageant, she was awarded a Montana Silversmith Trophy Buckle, a pair of custom-made chaps and a matching shirt from Lucky Star Designs and a Showme Trophy Saddle sponsored by Chariton Vet Supply.
The Miss Rodeo Missouri goes on to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas where Miss Rodeo America will be crowned.
"It doesn't bother me that Mallory has been in it longer, I'm just always happy for her. She likes pageants and she kind of brought me into them. I saw all the nice things she brought home," joked Kyleigh, a junior in high school. "I'm also going to go to college and a lot of pageants offer scholarships."
"She really hasn't shown any interest before," Mrs. Cowger added. "Mallory wanted to go and I just suggested Kyleigh go ahead and try because she was older, she was a good 15 or 16 when she started. She's not been doing it very long and she's done well this last year. She's very comfortable with it. The high school rodeo queen contest was very competitive and I think that brought her to new levels."
Mrs. Cowger describes the two as opposites. While Kyleigh is more reserved and quiet, her younger sibling has never met a stranger and is outgoing.
"When you're giving a speech you always have to look at it as mind over matter, your voice has to protrude over your nervousness," explained Kyleigh. "You can't let it show. If you memorize a speech and you learn it really well, it almost comes to you naturally without even thinking. It's almost like carrying on a prepared conversation."
Both girls agree that the interview category is the most difficult. Contestants know there will be a current event question and an equine question, yet are unaware what exactly will be asked or what kind of answer the judges are looking for.
Kyleigh and Mallory say there's more to competing in rodeo pageants than wearing flashy clothes and performing before a judge. Both agree it's also a learning experience.
"Sportsmanship is really important," said 17-year-old Kyleigh. "I've seen some girls get mad for losing and I've seen some girls really hold up and be good about it. I've learned you just have to take what comes and go to the next one and don't hold a burden. I've learned patience and I've learned understanding, if you do win you can't boast about it because the other girls have feelings too."
As much as the girls enjoy rodeoing, they know the rules: school comes first. And they apparently abide by the laws. Kyleigh has a 3.92 grade point average, while Mallory's is an honor roll student.
Kyleigh has her sights set on majoring in physical therapy/sports medicine and minor in equine sciences. "If I go into solid sports medicine I want to try to get on the Justin Sports Medicine Team which travels from rodeo to rodeo and works with the injured cowboys with pulled muscles and broken bones."
At 6 p.m. March 9 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Sikeston, Mallory and Kyleigh will be guests of honor at a coronation and crowning. There will also be a dinner at 6:30 p.m., followed by an auction at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and the money from the fundraiser will go toward travel expenses for the girls Anyone who would like to attend the dinner/auction or donate an item for the auction is asked to call 471-9427.
Both Kyleigh and Mallory offered some advice for someone thinking about competing in rodeos and pageants
"You can't go out there the very first time and expect to win it all," advised Kyleigh. "I remember my first pageant and it was an experience for me. Even though I didn't win, it gave me more confidence for the next time. I learned about my strengths and weaknesses."
Added Mallory: "Go out there, have fun, smile and do the best that you can do."