Rachel Nordenstrom wins title in front of home crowd, will represent Minnesota at national contest
Last July, Rachel Nordenstrom had no plans to join the rodeo. This July, she will represent all of Minnesota at the National High School Rodeo Association Queen Contest in Gillette, WY.
Needless to say, it’s been quite a year for the Forest Lake teen. Nordenstrom was crowned the 2012-13 Minnesota High School Rodeo Queen in front of a hometown crowd at the state finals in Hugo on Sunday.
After the runners-up were announced during a ceremony before Sunday’s rodeo started, it took Nordenstrom a moment to realize that her name had not been called, meaning she would be queen.
“I just sat there because it didn’t register at first,” the 16-year-old says. “My heart was pounding and then I started crying.”
Indeed, the title came as a surprise to the girl who joined the rodeo just last August. She proved to be a quick learner, totaling the highest score during the queen competition which took place during a rodeo in St. Peter over the first weekend in June. Contestants earned points in eight categories: modeling, personality, appearance, personal interview, prepared speech, impromptu speech, written test and horsemanship.
Nordenstrom feels her prepared speech helped her outpace the competition. She said she put a fun spin on the speech, which outlined the importance of barrel racing in her life. She also had no qualms with the modeling aspect.
“It was fun,” she says. “That was the easy part.”
The junior-to-be at Forest Lake High School knows the national competition will be a step up, but she is looking forward to it.
“I’m really nervous for that, but excited, too,” she says. “I’ll brush off some of my outfits and fancy some things up.”
Nordenstrom’s relative lack of experience actually played a positive role in her accomplishment. Her inspiration to enter the contest stems from the warm welcome to rodeo she received from the outgoing queen, McKenzie Smith of Lake Crystal.
“She was so sweet and I kind of look up to her and wanted to give back and do the same for the new people,” Nordenstrom says.
In the arena, Nordenstrom has taken it slow in her first season, competing in barrel racing and pole bending. Her horse, Woody, was hurt a few years ago and she is still working with him to get back to his old form.
“It’s been an uphill battle, but it’s been good for me to be a good sport through it,” she says.
Nordenstrom hopes to pick up team roping and breakaway roping next season. She will also have her hands full with royal duties, which include carrying the flags for the national anthem and victory laps and selling raffle tickets in the stands.
Growing up on 10 acres near Highway 97, Nordenstrom has long been a barrel racer, but such honors never crossed her mind a year ago when a neighbor encouraged her to put her skills to use in the rodeo.
“She kind of pushed me into it and I’m glad she did,” Nordenstrom says. “I wish I would’ve joined earlier because it’s so much fun. I love it.”