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Steeley Franklin to compete in Las Vegas invitational

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

Four foot tall fourth grader Steeley Franklin of Orange is one of only twenty-four boys and girls nationwide, ages 10 and younger invited to this year’s prestigious Roy Cooper Invitational calf roping competition in Las Vegas, Nevada where she will ride her quarter horse, “Snack Pack” in Breakaway Roping, a variation of calf roping where a calf is roped, but not thrown and tied. Only the best are invited and Steeley is a proven winner.

Although riding since she was two and competing at age four, self-assured ten-year old, 55-pound Steeley has her work cut out for her. Using all her focus, skill, and talent she will ride her 1,100 pound horse in hot pursuit of the calf racing out ahead, while at the same time controlling and precisely delivering her lasso to the calf’s neck, then bring her horse to an abrupt stop which then allows the lariat to break free.   It’s a lightning fast competition. “A good time is 2.5 seconds start to finish” said Steeley. “Less is best” – starting from the moment the calf breaks free from the chute, followed closely by “Snack” at full gallop. Time is called once the lariat breaks away from the saddle horn, or the attempt is otherwise disqualified.

Steeley and her other twenty-three competitors will make three runs on the first day to determine their individual average run time. Only ten competitors with the fastest runs on Thursday, December 14 will advance to one final run on Saturday, December 16: no do-over, no second chances. “I’m always looking to win,” Steeley said, “and even when I don’t I use it as an opportunity to learn something to do better next time.” She said competition builds confidence and helps her to do better in other areas of her young life – including participation in softball and basketball that also vie for attention.

She is but the youngest of a legacy of competitive riders starting with Grandfather Franklin, a three time world champion calf roper, and Steeley’s father Shawn, five time National Finals Rodeo calf roping professional, and her mother Shae, who began competing at age ten and achieved 1992 State Barrel Racing Champion and 1994 Collegiate Barrel Racing Champion. Steeley has also amassed an impressive collection of top prizes including 25 belt buckles and 7 saddles for calf roping, barrel racing, goat tying and others – a record of winning that will surely catch the eye of more sponsors, possibly an agent, perhaps a college scholarship down the road – perhaps more.

All her wins and accolades will be behind her as she steels her singular focus to ride “Snack”. “I block out all distractions before I enter the box,” Steeley said, explaining how she prepares herself and her horse for the coming ride. “Just before I compete I make sure no-one talks to me so that I can concentrate on what I have to do. I know how to do it and I focus on the moves I need to make.” She gives “Snack” a pep talk as she settles herself before giving the nod to the chute man to release the calf; and when she does the arena will again erupt in a chorus of cheers not the least of which from Steeley’s mother, father and extended family – such as Steeley’s biggest fan, Shae’s sister Dee Dee, as well as a multitude of fans near and far.

All who know Steeley take great pride in the accomplishment and skill embodied in the result of her competition, but more so in the polite, unassuming, and confident character of the young person she is.