Grand Lake's Mudd blocks out distractions to excel in arena

By By Chris LeBlanc / Special to the American Press

Chief among the many obstacles for young athletes today are distractions.

School, friends and family can play havoc on the minds and emotions of high school athletes in all sports. This, however,

is not the case for Marle Mudd.

Mudd, an 18-year old Grand Lake resident, has been atop the standings in the pole bending event for much of the last year.

She will try to win the state high

school championship and advance to the national finals Saturday night when the

prep rodeo championships

conclude at Burton Coliseum. The top four finishers in Lake

Charles advance to the national event.

For those unfamiliar with the pole

bending, it involves a cowgirl’s ability to negotiate two serpentine

laps among six poles

spaced 21 feet apart atop a quarterhorse, at a full sprint. All

poles must be left standing, as there is a 5-second penalty

for each pole hit.

As with most rodeo events, the fastest time wins.

According to Mudd, her fastest time is just over 19 seconds. She breathes rare air with this speed, as the National High School

Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) record for the event is 19.579 seconds.

Atop the leader-boards for most of the past year, Mudd has not paid much attention to any of the athletes nipping at her heels.

“I don’t look at the standings,” she said “I mean, I know I’m winning it. But I can’t do anything to change what anyone else

does, so there’s no point in getting all stressed and worried about it.”

Throughout her rodeo career, Mudd has developed this self-centric focus through trial and error. “When I was in junior high,

I used to pay attention to the points,” she said, “Then when I rode, if I hit a pole, I’d get upset and cry.”

This “less stress” approach has lent itself to Mudd’s success this rodeo season. However, she doesn’t take all the credit.

When asked how much of her success can be attributed to her horse she quickly responded, “All of it.”

“People always say that it’s not a team sport, but that’s your teammate,” she continued. “They’re depending on you to train

them right and work with them. But you’ve also got to trust them too.”

The countless hours of work and focus Mudd has poured into her craft will be put to the test this week during the Louisiana

state finals at Burton Coliseum. In this, her last run for nationals before the end of her rodeo career, Mudd must remain

in the top four in her event in order to advance.

Asked about her emotions heading into the week, Mudd responded “I feel good, pretty relaxed because he (her horse) took me

to finals last year.”

The NHSFR will take place in Rock Springs, Wyoming from July 14-20.