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Helena middle school rider represents Montana on national stage in rodeo

Parker Lenhardt makes it on the Montana National Junior High Rodeo Finals Team
Posted at 11:04 AM, Jul 04, 2024

HELENA — Parker Lenhardt, a Helena middle school rodeo competitor, achieved a goal she’s been dreaming of for years: earning a spot on the Montana National Junior High Rodeo Finals Team, competing against riders from around the world.

Rodeo has a special spot in the heart of many Montana communities, and one CR Anderson Middle School student from Helena had the opportunity that many competitors dream of by competing on the national stage, and she did so with rodeo.

Parker has been riding horses ever since she was four years old, ever since she saw someone riding a horse on her drive home from school, but before she started anything, she had to run it by Mom first.

“You know, at first you're like, I'm putting my tiny child on this 1200-pound animal, is that really a smart thing to do? And then it was just to watch them grow and kind of become one with the horse… She is an amazing rider, it's pretty fun to watch her,” said Kendra Lenhardt.

Parker Lenhardt riding horseback

But with more and more experience in riding, she had the desire to try out rodeo.

“Just riding horses, and then we started barrel racing, and then we realized rodeo is just a whole nother level and started that, and I never looked back,” said Parker.

But in order to make it here, she had to prove herself on the state level first, and her family always knew she had it in her to compete on the national level.

“They take the top four in each event to go to nationals. So, I mean, she's competing against everybody in the state of Montana. And to be in the top four, to go… I mean, we're so proud of her and her accomplishments,” said Kendra.

Fast forward ten years later, she qualified for the National Junior High Rodeo Finals in Des Moines, Iowa, a weeklong tournament, where she competed against riders from all over the United States, as well as countries from around the world, from as far as New Zealand.

Parker Lenhardt competing in the National Junior High Rodeo Finals

On her first day, Parker was off to a great start, one her family was hoping for, when she placed 5th overall in Girls Breakaway Roping, slating in a time of 2.21 seconds, which moved her to the finals.

Overall, she placed 24th out of 200 riders for Girls Breakaway Roping, and 70th out of 180 for Pole Benders.

Just to compete in rodeo at the national level for Parker was a dream.

“It means a lot. I mean, we've been trying every year and this year was finally our lucky year. And it's just been amazing. I'm super excited,” said Parker.

For Parker, this is just the beginning of her rodeo season. She will also be competing in NRA Rodeos over the summer, as well as the Gold Buckle Dreamin' Rodeo over Stampede weekend on Sunday July 28th.