By: Julia Dondero
Savannah Shumpert of Mooreville, Miss. found herself atop a competitive pack of Barrel Racers as the dust settled at the 2023 CINCH World Championship Junior Rodeo (WCJR). Entering the week as a headliner of the leaderboard, the 17-year-old Mississippi native stuck to her guns and laid it all on the line to secure the title by more than 1,200 points.
It wasn’t until Shumpert stepped out onto the Lazy E Arena’s iconic red dirt and heard her name across the arena that the priceless moment began to sink in for the Barrel Racer.
“I didn’t know I had it secured, when I won it was like a breath of fresh air. It finally hit me when I walked out on the arena floor to accept my check” explained Shumpert.
Winning this title will go down on Shumpert’s resume as one of her most significant and special wins to date. Shumpert affectionately accredited her mare “Slick French Mimosa” (better known as “Minnie”) for the duo’s continued success. The duo first crossed paths three years ago at the Ruby Buckle Futurity Barrel Race, when the young jockey was asked to ride the young “Slick By Design” mare. Albeit it is not without adversities of bone chips and challenges over the years, the duo has been inseparable and victorious since.
Shumpert was seeded in the Semi-Finals through her successful nominations at events like National Little Britches Rodeos and explained she had had her eyes set on the coveted title all season.
“I had worked hard to nominate all year and I am really excited and grateful to God for this opportunity”, explained the incoming high school senior, who also has her sights set on becoming a Math Educator one day.
Looking towards the Youth Division, the week belonged to Mesa, Ariz. native Kialyn Armstrong. With a background in competitive cheer and a true passion for barrel racing, the 15-year-old champion rode her way to the top of a competitive pack, atop her 8-year-old mare “Sis”.
The youth athlete entered the competition at the top of the leaderboard and knew she had to stay true and consistent with her game plan to wrap up the coveted title. While the young cowgirl came out on top, it was not without adversity. Armstrong explained her mare had suffered a broken splint bone last Fall and had a week full of highs and lows- even losing her boot and spur during her final run.
This adversity and determination kept the duo at the top of a competitive leaderboard. For Armstrong, this is her second WCJR, and expressed her gratitude for the opportunities presented at The Fabulous Lazy E Arena.
“I’m so thankful for the WCRA and for this opportunity. I’ve worked hard all year for this win, it is my biggest accomplishment yet” said Armstrong.