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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Sikeston girl will attempt to become national high school rodeo queen

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mallory Cowger
If there's one thing Mallory Cowger isn't, it's shy. "I just love going out and talking to new people," the 15-year-old said.

Her bubbly attitude will come in handy Thursday as she begins the competition for National High School Rodeo Queen in Springfield, Ill.

Cowger said the thought hasn't really sunk in yet, since she won the state crown a few weeks ago.

"It will hit me when I get there," she said. "Right now, it's just mainly the stress of getting everything done and everything ready."

One of the biggest preparations is gathering and packing plenty of sparkly, shiny, color-coordinated clothes. "Your jeans, boots and belt have to match your shirt," Cowger explained.

She is also memorizing and putting the final touches on her two-minute speech. Contestants could choose from three topics: rodeo, America or their home state for their speech, and Cowger chose Missouri.

"A lot of girls do theirs on rodeo," she said. "If you do it on your state, you are a little bit different and it makes it more interesting.

Cowger incorporates Sikeston into her speech, mentioning Lambert's Cafe, the Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo and famous people hailing from here.

A rodeo pageant is like any other, except for a few details. "Height doesn't matter," laughed the 4-foot-11 Cowger. A rodeo pageant also looks at horsemanship skills, in addition to the way contestants model and speak.

Cowger is studying the National High School Rodeo Association rule book, from which she will have a 50-question test, and practicing horsemanship patterns. Contestants complete a figure-eight pattern and also exhibit their skills of riding with a flag -- which must be straight, she said. She'll also answer an impromptu question, that may be about horsemanship or current events, so she's preparing for that, too.

This is the first year Cowger, who will be a sophomore at Kelly High School, was eligible to compete in the pageant.

"I was shocked when I won," she said.

Her older sister, Kyleigh, had also competed and won first runner-up one year. "She helped me a lot, and we've learned a lot from when she's been in there," Cowger said.

Her mom, Jeanne Cowger, said that was helpful, too. "We know more what to expect."

Cowger said the hardest part will be waiting - competition activities will wrap up Monday, but she'll have to wait until July 28 to know if she won. She said she's sure it will have her nervous, but she hopes to keep busy with her other duties.

As the Missouri queen, Cowger is responsible for carrying all the flags to and during the grand entry at state rodeos, representing Missouri at the national finals and promoting the sport.

At the state competition, Cowger won five of the seven events: interview, horsemanship, speech, modeling and appearance.

If she wins nationals, Cowger will do a lot more traveling to promote the sport nationwide, and be eligible for scholarships. She'll miss quite a bit of school, but hopes she can keep up.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Cowger said.

And even if she doesn't win, she has two more years to try.

Cowger also participates in barrel racing and pole bending. In fact, rodeo is a family sport for the Cowgers.

That's why she chose her dad, Jim, and brother, Andrew, who competed in the June bull riding event at Sikeston, to escort her at the state pageant.

And by far, the most help has come from her mom. Cowger said: "If it wasn't for my mom, there's no way I could have went this far."