LOVINGTON, N.M. – Kynzie McNeill reflects on her youth in southeastern New Mexico with great adoration.
She should. She’s awfully proud to be from Lea County, where she’s done some brilliant things. But the biggest piece of her life came in June when she claimed the barrel racing national championship at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
“I hope I remember this forever,” said McNeill, who also was the driving force behind Texas Tech winning the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association women’s title. “It’s something that I can look back on when I’m struggling or in a slump. I can reach the top. It just takes more effort and time.”
And like anyone who is from this community, she is looking forward to being part of the the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8-Saturday, Aug. 11, at Jake McClure Arena.
“My great-great grandparents were on the board and started to help with all that,” she said. “We’ve had a box at the rodeo forever. We usually go every year and watch a few performances, and I’ve entered it. It’s a big deal for our community. It’s a really good rodeo.”
Yes, it is, and it’s a big deal for the community that has a strong rodeo background. Lea County is home to rodeo greatness, where gold buckles are forged with sweat dispensed through hard work passion. It’s where Jake McClure developed his tremendous talents and where Troy Fort set the ground work for world titles and Sonny Davis battled through a ProRodeo Hall of Fame career.
“We’ve always had lots of locals,” said Trey Kerby, a Lea County Fair Board member who serves as chairman of the rodeo committee. “It says a lot about the local girls and guys. For them to come back and show up at our rodeo means a lot. Kynzie comes from a ranching family. She knows how to work hard and get things done.
“Like a lot of ranch kids, she’s always ready to accept the challenge and do the best you can with the opportunities presented to you.”
That’s exactly how McNeill grabbed the top prize in college rodeo. She struggled through the regular season and didn’t qualify for the CNFR as a barrel racer. But since the team finished atop the Southwest Region standings, she made the trip to Casper as part of the four-person team.
From there, she placed in all four rounds and won the title.
“I’m actually the first one in my family that’s ever rodeoed,” she said. “We’ve always ridden horses because of the ranch. I started going to the playdays in Lovington when I was little, and things just escalated from there.”
The escalator reached the top of the college world a month ago, and now she’s going to show her hometown and her friends in southeastern New Mexico just how much she loves the game when she arrives in Lovington for the ProRodeo.