What’s better than earning a World title before graduating high school?

How about earning a second title? Or a third?

That’s the task ahead for a handful of the country’s best youth competitors when the fourth annual Cinch World Championship Junior Rodeo (WCJR) kicks off inside the famed Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma on July 22, 2024.

The WCJR is the season culminating event for the Division Youth series and is a joint venture of the Lazy E and the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA). In 2023, the WCJR hosted more than 1,000 competitors and paid out over $400,000, making it the most lucrative junior rodeo event on the planet.

Cash is always cool but what’s even better is the opportunity to earn DY World Championships, complete with cash bonuses and all the swag at rodeo’s end, an opportunity absolutely unique to the WCJR.

With two age groups and eleven individual event disciplines, plus All Around champs for both boys and girls, there were plenty of World Champions crowned in the inaugural year of the program last summer. And while some have ridden on to fame and riches in the adult realm—think PRCA leading All Around Rookie Wacey Schalla and 2024 PBR Reserve World Champion John Crimber—most of the 2023 champs are saddling up for the chance to repeat.

Two competitors hungry for the repeat are Junior World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Jasper Frost and Youth World Champion Pole Bender Drew Ellen Stewart.

Frost captured the World title in 2023 after finishing second in the WCJR.

“I’d never competed there before,” Frost, 17, said of the Lazy E Arena, though he accompanied older brother Jacek when the latter competed at the National High School Rodeo Finals there in 2020. Frost came into the competition second for the World title with a bye into the Semi-Finals but took the opportunity to compete in the Qualifying Rounds, a move that ultimately led to his championship.

Jasper Frost during the WCJR Saturday performance. Photo By: Bull Stock Media

“I did the Qualifying Rounds and that helped a lot,” Frost admitted. “I had just gotten a new saddle right before we went there and I was able to get a feel of it before the short go.”

The Browns Valley, California cowboy grew up immersed in cowboy culture thanks to his father, Jason, who steer wrestled for many years. The youngest Frost competes in the steer wrestling himself in high school rodeos and the California Cowboys Pro Rodeo Association where he is leading both the saddle broncs and the All Around races.

“I followed in Dad’s footsteps in that I steer wrestle too. Jacek is built for bareback riding, he’s 5’4” and I’m 6’1’,” he noted of his brother, a California Circuit champ. “I tried bareback riding but it was not my deal. And ever since I saw saddle broncs, I wanted to do that, it just clicked for me.”

Frost got instruction in his specialty from Northern Cal neighbor and former Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowboy Jeff Shearer. Having just graduated from “Frost Academy,” the homeschooled cowboy is turning eighteen just prior to the WCJR and planning a summer of ProRodeo with his brother.

But first things first . . . a chance to repeat in Guthrie.

Frost is sitting number one thanks to efforts by mom Judy to nominate his high school and regional rodeo efforts but will take the same approach that bagged the title a year ago.

“We’ll go in the Qualifying Rounds again,” both Mom and Jasper noted, with a two-fold purpose behind the move.

“It gives the judges a chance to see what he can do,” Judy said and Jasper added, “plus, they let us pick our short go horses so I’ll be able to keep an eye on them and see what I like.”

Horsepower was one of the highlights for Frost a year ago.

“They had really good horses,” Frost said. “Plus, I got to ride with my buddies, Cooper Lane (2023 WCFR Event Champ), Jase Stout, Heston Harrison. It was fun to rodeo with them.”

“It was a good deal.”

With the same game plan, Frost is physically and mentally ready for the task ahead.

“I’ve been really messing with my saddle,” he said. “Besides that, I’m just going to do what I can on the horses I draw and see what happens when the last one bucks. It’s in the judges’ discretion then.”

Jasper Frost during the WCJR Awards Ceremony. Photo By: Bull Stock Media

For Stewart, the 2023 World title was not on the radar as the 2023 WCJR kicked off.

“I was only seeded in the goat tying so I had to go through the Qualifying Rounds in everything else,” Stewart, 15, explained. “Especially in the pole bending, I had zero points.”

Stewart and her powerhouse horse, LuLu, captured a round win and the average before running out to two straight second place finishes in the Semi-Finals and Finals to vault to the top of the standings.

“To come from zero points and end up winning it, that was cool,” Stewart said. In fact, Stewart was the high money winner across the Youth Division in 2023, racking up $7,735 for the event.

Stewart was riding before she’d crossed a year on this Earth, thanks to lead line and her mother Dena. She quickly moved into speed events and added goat tying at age seven.

“I just kept picking up events and rodeo was the place I could do them all,” she said.

She’ll be a major threat for multiple World titles this time around — she’s leading the Youth All Around with nearly 18,000 points and is first in the pole bending, second in the goat tying and ninth in the barrels.

Drew Ellen Stewart during the WCJR Saturday performance. Photo By: Bull Stock Media

The number one seed in poles is crucial, giving her a bye into the Semi-Finals which she’ll gladly take to save runs on the 21 year-old LuLu.

“She’ll be making a bunch of runs before then,” Stewart noted as she’ll compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Wyoming the week prior to WCJR. Stewart claimed goat tying, pole bending and All Around titles during the Texas High School Finals Rodeo last month.

“[Having the bye into the Semi-Finals] gives me the chance to save her for when it really matters,” Stewart said.

LuLu is special, a borrowed mount from Carly and Miranda Staggs. She took Carly to the National High School Finals as well and ran one of the fastest times at the 2023 WCJR for Stewart.

“She’s crazy,” Stewart laughed. “I’m very blessed to get to run her.”

For goat tying, Stewart has fifteen year old Jack.

“He’s actually a pony,” Stewart admitted. She spotted him under the saddle of fellow youth competitor about to age out and tracked him until the family was ready to sell. “He’s great. I won my first state title on him.”

With multiple events and horses to ride, time can run short for Stewart but she has one stipulation, no matter how her day stacks up.

“I definitely tie every day,” she said, “whether I get a goat out or just tie the dummy. I make sure to get my hands on a string every single day.”

Still just an incoming junior at Normangee (Texas) High School, Stewart doesn’t have big future plans except one . . . keep goat tying as long as possible.

“I’m keeping my options open,” she said. “But I have to goat tie in college but that’s where that ends. It’ll be my last four years to do it, unless something new comes along.”

Goat tying is definitely at the top of her long list of events, which also includes breakaway roping and cutting, at least at the high school rodeos.

Drew Ellen Stewart during the WCJR Saturday performance. Photo By: Bull Stock Media

“I like the adrenaline of it, going full speed and getting off, making quick decisions,” she said. “Plus, I like the community of goat tyers. They are some of the most humble in the sport and really support each other.”

It’s clear that Stewart likes a challenge. In addition to goat tying, she’s a top hurdler too, another event that requires tenacity and athleticism.

“Yea, I picked a lot of everyone’s worst events,” she laughed. Named to the Texas High School Coaches Association’s Girls Track and Field Super Elite Team last year, Stewart trains year round for track, specializing in both 100 meter and 300 meter hurdles.

Last season, she ran cross country and played basketball too.

“It was a handful,” she said. “I get a lot of help from my mother and my family.”

Stewart enjoyed her first trip to the WCJR a year ago and is ready to return as a defending champ.

“The facility is so nice and it’s definitely more organized than some events,” she said. “They have a really good production.”

“I loved it—that’s why I nominated all year long and I love that they have options of the point system or the open entries where you can just show up and compete. It’s very cool.”

With four events and a solid lead for the All Around World title, Stewart is ready to go.

“I’ll approach it the same way as last year,” she said. “Take it one run at a time and try to come home with the same wins or more.”

Other defending champions in the mix to repeat when WCJR 2024 begins on July 22 include:

Junior Division

Kreece Dearing — All Around

Amy Ohrt — All Around

Rhett Robbins — Bareback Riding

Wacey Schalla —Bull Riding

Savannah Shumpert — Barrel Racing

Sam Shofner — Steer Wrestling

Kyan Wilhite — Tie Down

Conley Kleinhans — Team Roping — Heading

Denton Dunning — Team Roping — Heeling

Kerstin Freeman — Breakaway Roping

Merrick Moyer — Pole Bending

Mylee Modlin — Goat Tying

Youth Division

Briar White — All Around & Tie Down

Alli Autrey — All Around & Goat Tying

Kialyn Armstrong — Barrel Racing

Josey James — Breakaway Roping

Connor Haygood — Team Roping — Heading

Cannin Carson — Team Roping — Heeling

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