COLUMBIA — It's a lifestyle, not a sport.
Hannah and Morgan Williams, 16-year-old twins from Odessa, have competed in rodeo events since they were 5 years old.
"The first time I rode a horse, I got bucked off and I didn't like it very much," Hannah said. "But my dad made me get back on.
"I'm glad he made me get back on," she said.
The two traveled with their family to Columbia this week to compete in the Missouri High School Rodeo State Finals.
The state finals, running from Wednesday to Sunday, host high school students from across Missouri at the Central Missouri Events Center. They compete in 11 events: bareback riding, breakaway roping, calf roping, goat tying, steer wrestling, pole bending, team roping, barrel racing, boys and girls' cutting and bull riding.
The four people with the highest scores in each event receive a commemorative belt buckle and go on to the national competition in Wyoming in July.
Hannah and Morgan compete in breakaway roping — where the contestants rope a calf while riding a horse — and goat tying. Morgan also competes in barrel racing.
While the two competed Thursday, their mom, Mary Williams, watched anxiously from behind the metal barrier in the arena.
"I feel like she gets more nervous sometimes than we do," Morgan said.
Hannah later pulled out a video camera with footage her mother took of one of her fastest runs at a rodeo last year in Humansville.
"That was a seven-second run," Mary Williams said after the video ended.
Morgan won All-Around Cowgirl in Missouri in 2012 for receiving the most points at the end of the rodeo season, and Hannah has been a consistent leader in the goat tying competition.
A family effort
Although the rodeo state finals only lasts five days, it can be a yearlong commitment for the competitors and their families.
"You can't go to a football game every weekend, but you go to a rodeo every weekend," Henry Hatfield, 17, said as he sat on his horse, Mox, Thursday.
He wore a blue-and-white striped flannel tucked into blue jeans, a black cowboy hat perched on his head.
"I have had a rodeo every weekend since April 1st to today," he said. "My only free weekend is in September."
Waiting to see the list of calves assigned to each cowboy for the calf-roping event, Tim Hatfield, Henry Hatfield's father, contemplatively looks at the dirt arena.
"It has a lot to do with the draw (of choosing the calves)," Tim Hatfield said. "I videotape every single one of these calves because my son will either have it on the second go or the championship round. I also have a list of what these cattle did in Pacific, Mo., a month ago. It's kind of a big deal."
Mary Williams agreed that the rodeo is a big deal to her family.
"We as parents really like this," Mary Williams said. "It's not like the kids are just going off somewhere by themselves ... We camp near these families all year long. It really is a big rodeo family."
Hannah was the first girl to compete in the breakaway roping competition Thursday evening. She placed eighth in goat tying, and Morgan placed second in goat tying and seventh in breakaway roping.
"I think their hope is to do college rodeo," their mother said. Both girls want to be pharmacists. "They may rodeo the first couple years, but after that, it might be too intense with their pharmacy programs."
"But then we can rodeo for the rest of our lives," Hannah and Morgan said together.
Supervising editor Raymond Howze.