By Sherry Vogel
The competition, under the direction of Bernette Wagner and her assistant, daughter Jeana Wagner, both of Whitehall, began at 10 a.m. as the contestants met in the foyer of the Longfellow School for a meet and greet introducing themselves and their families to each other. The young contestants were sporting beautiful western casual wear, each wore a white hat. The three contestants (listed in alphabetical order) are: Opal Harkins, Lockwood cowgirl, who is the current reigning 2015 Miss Montana High School Rodeo Queen, and is here defending her title. She is a sophomore in high school and also currently enrolled as a Connection Student at MSU-Billings earning her associate degree in English. She has been in high school rodeo for two years. She competes in goat tying, barrel racing and shooting. She plans to go to college at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD next fall and earn her bachelor’s in English. Her goal is to attain a degree in law. Opal’s parents are Jason and Charlotte (Beckers) Harkins of Billings. She is the granddaughter of Leonard and Dorothy Beckers of Baker and Jerry and Leola Harkins of Ekalaka.
The second contestant is Cheyanne Morrison, a junior at Polson High School. She has been in high school rodeo for three years, and a 4-H member for nine years. She also plays basketball, volleyball and softball. She has three rodeo royalty titles in Idaho. Her future plans are to become a combat medic. She has already pre-enlisted in the U.S. Army.
The final contestant, Jaqueline Van Vleet, is a 16 year old sophomore from Wibaux High School. She has been in high school rodeo for two years. She competes in barrel racing, goat tying, and break away. She is an FFA member. Jaqueline breaks and trains horses in her spare time. She plans to attend Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD to study chiropractics for equines as well as humans. As the first day of competition progressed, the contestants took a written test which was composed from the 2014-2015 NHSRA Rule Book. The written test counts for 25 points of the master score of 275 points.
After lunch the competition convened with personal interviews. Later that evening all queen contestants demonstrated their horsemanship skills, in draw order, while working the same pattern in the arena at the Fallon County Fairgrounds.
June 7, the modeling, speech and impromptu questioning division of the contest got underway on the Longfellow Gym stage. Each contestant adorned in a beautiful, glittering western gown, boots and hat, gracefully moved across the stage modeling. They followed their modeling debut by giving a speech. The three speeches presented were: Cheyanne Morrison of Polson – “How About the Weather?” A rendition of Montana’s unpredictable weather and how it affects the rodeo cowgirl. Second presenter, Opal Harkins of Lockwood, shared “Unique Montana”, a discourse on the many wonders that are unique to the State of Montana. The final draw saw Jaqueline Van Vleet of Wibaux sharing a speech entitled “The Big Skys”, which was a verbal tour that started in western Montana highlighting the wonders of various regions, ending in southeastern Montana and at the State High School Rodeo Finals in Baker.
The finale for these three charming ladies will be in the Fallon County Fairgrounds arena Sunday at 9:30 a.m., as one will win the title of Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, or the all coveted title of 2016 Montana High School Rodeo Queen. The public is encouraged to attend.
l-r: Jaqueline Van Vleet, Cheyanne Morrison
and Opal Harkins
Photo Courtesy of Schaffer’s Photo Express
Kathy & Trenton