Area cowgirl has high hopes entering National High School Rodeo Finals
Like a lot of little girls, Alex Little enjoyed riding horses as a kid.
Growing up in Adams County, Little got her first experience riding a horse at 9 years old, but never had any expectations of competing across the country.
“I just had a pony and I thought having a pony was the coolest thing ever once I got one,” Little said.
Nine years after she first rode a horse, Little is headed to Nebraska this weekend to compete in the 2021 National High School Rodeo Finals. The event begins on July 18 and ends on July 24.
The championship event this weekend won’t be Little’s first experience in a national competition.
Little has qualified for premier events since 2015 and that’s where her first win came. She was awarded a belt buckle after finishing first in breakaway roping at the national finals and it showed her how much potential she had in the sport.
“That was a big deal,” said Little, who trains in York County with J.R. & Jayme Myers Performance Horses in Felton. “Usually you'll get buckles at jackpots or local rodeos and whatnot, but my first buckle came from a national event, which was a huge deal to me. That just kind of sealed it that I was really able to go somewhere with it.”
Little was in the Bermudian Springs school system until high school, when she enrolled in The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Taking classes online helped with the long hours that Little spends daily taking care of the four horses her family owns and she uses in different competitions.
Dominant at the state level: While Little is still working toward more national success, locally she has been dominant. She qualified for the championship event this weekend after winning her third Pennsylvania High School state all-around title. She also won her third barrel-racing title and won pole bending the year before.
It may appear to observers at events these days that Little has been dominant since day one. That’s not the case. She said that she tries to speak to younger competitors after they battle through poor performances to remind them it will be OK.
“I try to talk to encourage everyone, because I know how it was to struggle,” Little said. “I do my best to encourage everybody and let them know that you know, we've all been there and we've all struggled. World champions have bad days, you know, everyone's got rough days. So they're not alone.”
Last year at the national finals, Little said she was making a run at the top 10 before one of her horses needed to be pulled from the event because of a medical issue. This year, she will be after the all-around title while competing in the barrel-racing, pole-bending, breakaway-roping and goat-tying events.
Looking to close her high school career in style: Six years after her first win at a national competition, Little will try to close out her high school career with one final victory and enjoy an event she will remember forever.
“I feel ready,” Little said. “I feel as ready as I'll ever be. I'm very excited (and) I’m sad that it's my last one, but I definitely think that we have a real shot at winning the national title this year. I've got four different events to rack up points in and I've got horses that are solid as the day is long, and I think they're ready too and they're all feeling good.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.