Undaunted: Sulphur’s Kaylee Kinney has eyes on All-around title

Rodrick Anderson

Many obstacles have piled on Sulphur senior cowgirl Kaylee Kinney over the last year.

First, there was the coronavirus pandemic that almost caused the 2020 Louisiana High School Finals Rodeo to be canceled. Despite a late-season ACL surgery, she managed to finish third in the state allaround cowgirls standings.

Entering her final season, a pair of hurricanes plus a major ice storm put further limitations on training and competition. But she has found a way past each hurdle and finds herself on the cusp of winning the coveted 2021 Louisiana High School Rodeo Association All-Around cowgirl title.

“You have to keep your focus and your head in the game,” Kinney said. “I would really hope to stay where I am at in my events and advance in events that I can.

“I have been practicing every day, but God has control, and whatever his plan is I will be thankful I even got to ride my senior year because of hurricanes, floods, ice storms, and COVID. Whatever happens, happens, but the best of luck to everyone competing this week for sure.

“I am just trying to make nationals. I would love to win the all-around and get that saddle. This is my senior year, so I am definitely going to shoot for first in all of my events.”

The Louisiana High School Finals Rodeo starts today at the West Cal Arena with the first round of cutting at 4:30 p.m., followed by round one of reined cow horse at 6 p.m. and the second round of cutting at 7:30 p.m.

Kinney is looking to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, the late Edward Lee Kinney, who won the first LHSRA all-around cowboy title in 1950.

She leads the standings with 157 points in an all-Southwest La. top-four that includes Camryn Richard (Lake Charles, 116), 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo All-around Cowgirl Kylie Conner (Welsh, 110), and Alyssa Gary (Lake Charles, 103).

“All-around is definitely a big part of how we do around the year,” Kinney said. “Not all of my events count towards all-around, so to be in first without that means a lot to me.

“Obviously, the top few girls are tight in almost all the events, not just the all-around. It will definitely (depend on) state and what each of us does and who will win what.”

Kinney ranks first or second in three events and expects all three to come down to the wire.

She leads barrel racing standings by five points over Conner, trails DeRidder’s Laney Walker by one point in girls’ cutting, and sits seven points behind pole bending leader Mariah Crosby. Kinney also ranks ninth in breakaway roping.

“The tightest event is definitely going to be cutting and breakaway,” Kinney said. “I am sitting second in cutting right now by one point.

“You can only do so much with cutting. I can train with my cattle at my house, but the cattle handed to us for state is definitely a lot different. It is going to be a tight (event) because this is the first year in a while that we have had more than four girls cutters, and the top four make it to nationals. I am definitely trying to make it to nationals in the breakaway.

“I have struggled a little bit this year, and I have broken the barrier a lot. I have caught more than I have missed, but the barrier adds 10 seconds to your time.”

The top four in each event qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo in Lincoln, Nebraska, July 18-24.

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Sulphur High School senior Kaylee Kinney leads the LHSRA All-around cowgirl standings.

Rick Hickman / American Press