If Jessalyn Gingrich wins any more competitions, she’s going to need a bigger jacket. The Rockford resident has been riding horses since she’s been able to walk, and has racked up so many wins in competitions from barrel racing to roping that the list of her championships, embroidered on her coat, literally can’t get any longer. But she continues to win. Jessalyn is a junior at Grand Rapids Christian High School. Competition in 2011 represents her sixth year of involvement in Michigan High School Rodeo. She competed at the junior high level (sixth through eighth grade) and now competes at the high school level (ninth through 12th). Jessalyn uses three horses in her competition. Booker is a Palomino that she uses for barrel racing, Jax is a big black mare used for pole bending and goat tying, and Nick is the roping horse used in breakaway roping and team roping. Jessalyn was selected to be a member of Team Cinch, which is the All Star team. In order to qualify, riders must be a top contestant in one of the seven events. Jessalyn’s selection was based on her team roping event. She was a national qualifier in three events: pole bending, goat tying, and team roping. To qualify for nationals, Jess ended the season in the top four of the event. National finals were held in Gillette, Wyo. in July 2010. The Gingrich family made the trip with all three horses along with another family to share expenses. Competition consists of qualifiers from each state, Canadian provinces and even Australia. High school rodeo is also committed to community involvement in Michigan. Jessalyn participated in a Special Needs Rodeo held at Bristle Farms in Tecumseh, Mich. last October. High school contestants gave demonstrations of rodeo events to kids with varying degrees of disability. They also pair up with the kids and teach them the events with roping dummies, stick horses, and a mechanical bull. It’s hard to say who has more fun, the high school contestants or the kids with the disabilities. Jessalyn is also involved in open rodeos outside of high school competition. In February, she had the privilege of carrying the American flag at a rodeo held at JDJ ranch in Evart, Mich. It […]
Jessalyn Gingrich is no stranger to leaping off a running horse, tying goats or even competing nationally in rodeo. However, she isn’t quite as used to being featured on the cover of her sport’s international publication. Gingrich of Courtland Township is a repeat selection to the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) All Star team. This highly prestigious accomplishment requires being in the top four in all of the rodeo categories in which she competes. She was also surprised that the association chose her picture for the front cover of the magazine, which is distributed in every state in the United States and also in several other countries. Born in November and riding by the following spring, Gingrich is a life-long horse lover and also a practiced rodeo competitor. On her horse Jax, and more recently Booker—the seventh-ranked rodeo horse in the state of Michigan—the Grand Rapids Christian School sophomore is pretty excited about this season’s accomplishments. “I wondered how he had a picture of me at nationals,” Gingrich said of the rodeo friend who first told her she was on the cover. Gingrich’s mother, Julie, said she is very proud of her daughter’s achievement. Rodeo is not only very competitive and requires year-round practice, it is also known for values of sportsmanship and teamwork. “This is one of the few sports where they actually help their competitors,” Julie stated. Her daughter, for example, borrows a roping horse and gear from another competitor for her roping events. The practice is common in the sport, and Jessalyn in turn loans out her horses during national competition. The NHSRA said Jessalyn was selected to the All Star team “based on leadership qualities, academic eligibility and athletic achievements.” Two years ago Jessalyn also earned All Star team status. “I didn’t make the All Star team last year:I had a rough go,” she said of her national competition scores. The next nearby event held by the NHSRA is an expo in March at Michigan State University. It is one of the largest Michigan events. “We invited Canada to come rodeo with us,” Jessalyn said. To find out more, visit the association’s website at www.mihsra.com.