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Two York-area girls are helping to put Pennsylvania on America's rodeo map

Dante Green
York Dispatch
Taylor Reever, left, and Mariah Byers a the High School National Rodeo finals in Georgia.

Two 13-year-old girls from the York area recently left quite the impression at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo — and took steps to put Pennsylvania on the nation's rodeo map.

Taylor Reever from Thomasville and Mariah Byers from Quarryville both took home hardware from the final, held in Perry, Georgia.

Mariah participated in the breakaway roping event and caught all her calves to take a top 10 finish overall. She also competed in pole bending and barrel racing.

Taylor posted a eighth-place finish in pole bending and competed in goat-tying for the short go and ended up in the top 20. She won the reserve rookie all-around trophy buckle.

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Team Pennsylvania finished 21st in the world standings.

Mariah said she was shocked by how well she performed in the finals. 

“I’ve never been able to rope at that level," she said. "To even make it to that level was an accomplishment. For anyone from this state to finish so well is great. We thought we couldn’t be more than happy to make it, and then we were like we couldn’t be happier to make it to the top 20.” 

Parents of both girls attended the event and saw firsthand how their daughters impressed the Georgia crowd.

“I was more excited than she was,” said Monica Byers. “She is very humble. It doesn’t come easy; she works extremely hard at it.”

Both members of the Pennsylvania High School Rodeo Association, the girls competed all year, earning top spots for the opportunity to represent Pennsylvania in the national competition. There were 1,115 competitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico in the finals.

The top 10 finisher said that despite the excellent results in only her first national, she’s just happy her hard work paid off.

“I have lessons once a week," Mariah said. "I rope at home with dummies and practice a lot. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I have a bit of experience.”

Mariah and Taylor aren’t just girls who compete together. They’re friends and have been for years. The girls were introduced to rodeo at a young age by family and friends. They are the same age — and, in fact, share the same birthday, Sept. 18.

The Top 10 finish buckle Mariah Byers won in the girls breakaway roper competition at the High School National Rodeo finals in Georgia.

They are first-generation East Coast cowgirls. Many of those they faced off against are multigenerational competitors who had the advantage of learning from those who had been around the sport their whole lives.

“It’s tough,” Taylor said. “They’re born into this, and they’ve been trained into it. But when you have trained and worked hard at it, you just have to be positive about it and do your best.”

Taylor faced a further setback during the event itself when her horses weren't feeling well enough to go. Terry Shetron, of Shippensburg, and Aimee Getgen, of Etters, gave her horses to compete, and she didn’t let them or her family down.

“We are so proud of Taylor being a first-generation East Coast cowgirl,” said her mother, Heather Reever. “She couldn’t have done it without the help of her PA team. Taylor has been blessed beyond measure this year. She’s helping put team Pennsylvania girls on the map.”

Taylor started rodeo at the age of 7. She received her first rodeo saddle seven years ago from Dare To Be A Cowboy in Minden, Nevada, an organization whose mission is to help youth get started in rodeo and to keep the western heritage and agriculture roots alive.

She thanked her coaches and said trusting her horses helped her to have an exceptional performance at nationals.

“I trusted my horse and I wanted to go out and make a run. I wanted to go out and have fun at the event. And not think of the pressure,” Taylor said.

Both girls plan to continue participating in rodeo even as they start high school in the fall. They will move up in level of competition as they compete with more high school-aged kids. Both said they are hoping to make it back to nationals.

“I want to do high school this year and make it to nationals. Try and do better,” Taylor said. “Not letting the pressure get to you is important. You have to keep it fun.”