By Allie Bohus
Going into the WPRA World Finals, Junior Division member London Gorham didn’t even know she was leading the standings. In fact, she didn’t even run at the World Finals (she was competing at a Texas Junior High School Rodeo). To her astonishment, she ended the season winning the WPRA Junior World Championship title.
She won a total of $31,365 during the 2020 rodeo season - a pretty incredible feat for only being 12-years-old. Especially since if she was six years older and a WPRA cardholder, her 2020 season earnings would have placed her in the Top 20 of the WPRA World Standings, not bad for a 7th grader!
Winning the Junior world title was a goal Gorham had from the beginning of the season, but with all the challenges COVID-19 presented, Gorham was not sure how the year would pan out.
“I haven’t been able to go very many places [due to the pandemic],” said Gorham. “My horses need to go a lot to be consistent… [The win] was surprising, but it was really great.”\
She was disappointed to have not been able to compete at the World Finals.
“We LOVE that race. The facility and the ground crew are the best!” she said fondly.
Gorham looks forward to competing in the American semifinals in 2021 and to rodeo as much as she can until she turns 18 and can purchase her WPRA permit. After that, the sky is the limit! She hopes to buy her WPRA card, qualify for the Wrangler NFR and win a World Title.
Another aspiring young lady is WPRA Junior Reserve World Champion Casey Mathis. Casey is the 17-year-old daughter of Todd and Jene Mathis from Washoe Valley, Nevada. She comes from a cattle ranching family, and horses and rodeo are her entire life. She won the Reserve Junior World Champion title at the WPRA World Finals with two solid runs, and left the finals as the top money winner in the junior division.
The horse she ran at the finals, SH Stylish and Sly (by a son of High Brow Cat), is a 9-year-old bay gelding she calls “Sly.” Her mom bought him in 2015 and futuritied on him in 2016. Then he went to her dad as a head horse, and he has been roping on him until she (Casey) started running barrels on him in January of this year.
“He’s a funny little horse. He tries hard. He doesn’t look like it, but he’s actually really smooth. He’s kind of a push style horse. He takes really wide turns, but he still clocks when he makes a pretty ugly run. He makes it work,” Mathis said fondly.
Mathis had never competed at the WPRA World Finals before, and her goals were to just stay clean and make two solid, consistent runs. She won the first go-round of the Junior Race with a time of 15.981 seconds, and pocked a check worth $719. Then she came back in the second round and ran a 16.064, and won second place worth $432.
“It was a really fun experience for my first WPRA Junior Finals. I couldn’t be more thankful for how my horse worked, and for everybody that helped me get there. It was huge accomplishment. I was thrilled and really happy with my horse,” she said.
Hot off the heels of a successful WPRA World Finals, Mathis looks forward to purchasing her WPRA permit as soon as she turns 18 (March 2021). She plans on getting horses rodeo seasoned and filling her permit in the next year and she hopes to rodeo as much as she can.
She would like to thank her parents, “they are a huge help in this. I really could not have done anything without them,” she said. She would also like to thank her sponsors for their support: CSI Saddle Pads, 4 Flat Tack, CoolAid® Recovery, Western Dove (horse tack), and Draw It Out Liniment.
The Junior Race was held over the course of two days during the WPRA World Finals. There was $5k added, and it was open for any WPRA Junior Members to enter. The junior barrel program is open to young ladies under age 18, and many former junior members go on to have successful professional careers. Former Junior Barrel World Champions include WPRA World Champion Callie duPerier and two-time Wrangler NFR Qualifier Jackie Ganter.