Madison Steele was sitting in the stands at the Northwest Mississippi Community College rodeo in April when Three Rivers College rodeo teammate Trevor Dorris got her to come outside with him.
When Steele stepped outside, she heard Dorris say, “Madison, you won the region.”
Steele started crying.
“I didn’t believe them,” Steele said. “... I told them there’s no way because if last year you told me I was going to win the region this year, I wouldn’t have believed it. I started crying. I was so excited.”
Steele finished with 460 points to win the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) Ozark Region by a nine-point margin to reach the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming. It was a dream to make it to that stage, and when she got there, it was an experience she won’t forget.
Steele finished 39th in the overall standings for breakaway roping, clocking 3.3 on her third go.
“It was a lot of fun,” Steele said. “It was definitely an experience I was blessed to have. I got to meet a lot of new people.”
Despite competing against 49 other breakaway ropers at nationals, Steele said the people she met were welcoming, friendly and helpful.
“What I do love about rodeo is even if we’re in the same event or a different event, we’re all for each other even though we’re competing against each other. We’re just always there to help out,” Steele said. “A girl I was competing against during the breakaway, she still pushed my calf or I still pushed her calf because we all want to see each other win.”
That camaraderie is something Steele has experienced since she was first introduced to breakaway roping in her hometown of Albertville, Alabama, at 12 years old. Steele originally grew up barrel racing from the age of 2 because her mom, Dannielle Steele, barrel raced.
Madison became friends with Meleah Hester, whom she went to school with. Hester took Madison to a barn where they were roping cattle. It didn’t feel like work for Madison, and she had a knack for it. She was hooked as soon as she started.
“Another family, they just took me in like their own and taught me how to rope,” Madison said. “I didn’t own a rope horse, and at the junior rodeos that summer, they let me borrow a horse because they wanted to see me do good.
“I always keep that in perspective, like, hey, somebody lent me their horse while I was learning. So if somebody else needs something, I’m going to lend them mine because I know how it is to be there.”
To Madison, the only downside about breakaway roping is she wishes she would’ve started sooner because she enjoys it so much. She said her roping skills would be more developed, which would have benefited her even more at nationals.
“I think it’s easier to learn when you’re young. … When you’re older, you have other responsibilities you have to tend to like working and stuff, but if you start when you’re younger, you can come home and get cows up and go roping,” Madision said.
Madison has one more season to compete for Three Rivers, and she hopes to make a return trip to nationals now that she knows what to expect and can mentally prepare herself.
“Mentally, I had to get back in the box and say, hey, I can compete with these girls,” Madison said. “I battled with that the first year.”
Three Rivers coach Chad Phipps has been instrumental in boosting Madison’s confidence. Prior to the start of nationals, Phipps said, “Madison has all of the talent in the world, she could definitely win the National title,” said Phipps. “She has had a great year with a lot of learning experiences. I expect her talent and experience will help her do well in Wyoming.”
Hearing remarks like that opened Madison’s eyes to her full potential and pushes her to unlock it.
“I didn’t I had as much talent or was as good as I was, and it gives me confidence to say, hey, I can do this, and I do have the ability to qualify next year,” Madison said.
With added confidence and another year’s worth of experience under her belt, Phipps expects Madison to take a repeat trip to nationals in a year.
“I think she’s got a really good shot at making it back next year to the college finals,” Phipps said. “We’ve got a lot of great, great talent coming in next year.”
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic