COLUMBIA — When Corrie Evans broke out of the gate, she and her horse, G-Man, raced towards the calf running away from them. Evans wound up her rope and tossed it toward the calf.
At the same moment she caught the calf, her family jumped up from the bleachers. Her stepfather had his video camera pressed up against the gate of the ring, filming each second. The cheers for Evans were the loudest of any competitor before her.
"We know when she cracks a good time and this one might get her to finals on Saturday," said Steven Laffon, Evans' grandfather, said about her performance which judges scored at 13.19.
Evans, a 15-year-old freshman from Centertown, is competing for the first time in the Missouri High School State Finals this week at the Boone County Fairgrounds and hopes to see the final round on Saturday. Previously, she competed in junior high school rodeo, but she said she thinks she stands a chance at the high school level in her events, breakaway roping and goat tying.
"I really want to go to nationals," Evans said, "but if it's not this year, oh well, I still have three years."
Growing up, horses and rodeo were always a part of her life. Evans started riding at age 4 and said she "basically lived" with her grandmother on her farm where she could play and ride. A common activity for Evans was mutton bustin', where she rode a sheep like a cowboy or cowgirl would ride a bucking bull or bronc.
She received her first horse from her grandmother, Jerri Wilson, when she was 9 years old.
"I taught her everything I know about horses, and she took it and ran with it," Wilson said.
Evans' says her mother, Dawn Nowack, was one of the reasons she got involved with rodeo. Last June, she was killed in a motorcycle accident but continues to be a source of motivation for Evans.
"She always made sure I was doing something productive, was always buying me stuff, but she always made sure I pushed myself," said Evans, who now rides her mother's horse, Dillon for goat-tying.
Evans' stepfather, John Nowack, has a kept promise to himself since his wife's death to keep Evans going through her education as well as rodeo.
"You can take her phone, you can take any privilege away from her, but take her horse and she'll do whatever you want," Nowack said.
In the future, Evans hopes to go on to college rodeo, but if that's not an option, she would like to attend MU for veterinary school.