There may be no better example of a versatile athlete than recent Nooksack Valley High graduate Shay Jones.
During the spring, Jones would leave school for golf practice, outfitted in a collared polo-style shirt, Nike hat, black pants and proper shoes - customary attire matching golf's classy traditional norms.
After Jones finished perfecting her swing for the day, she'd head back home, swap out her clubs for reins, golf shoes for cowgirl boots, golf pants for blue jeans and polo shirt for a top prepared to attract mud stains.
Golf and rodeo are quite the combination.
"Our family has always golfed and stuff," Jones said in a phone interview. "(Transitioning from golf to rodeo) is kind of easy. They're both kind of laid back. Golf is more patience, and that helps you bring more patience to rodeo. I'll have to make myself focus sometimes, because I'll get too focused on golf or rodeo. It was a pretty stressful year because of all the college stuff going on."
Jones didn't spend her busy spring days going to school, golf practice and rodeo training for nothing, either.
She reached the pinnacle of both sports.
Jones was one of two local Class 1A girls' golfers to qualify for the state tournament, which was May 22-23, at The Home Course in DuPont. Jones failed to make the cut after shooting a first-day 111.
For the third straight year, Jones earned a spot in the National High School Rodeo Finals. Competition runs from Sunday to Saturday, July 15-21, at Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs, Wyo. It's the first year, though, Jones will be competing in both pole bending and breakaway roping.
"I probably have to say the last three years that pole bending has been me and my horse's specialty," Jones said. "This is the first year I qualified for breakaway roping. I won at the Washington State High School Rodeo."
In order to make the National finals, 20 rodeos are held throughout the year via the Washington State High School Rodeo Association. Two rodeos are conducted on various weekends, and participants are awarded points for how well they do in their respective events. The best 15 rodeos are scored, and the top four athletes in each event qualify for a chance to win a national title.
So how does a girl raised in a golfing family discover a passion for rodeo?
"I kind of started around 2003," Jones said. "I was the Junior Princess at the Sumas Rodeo. That brought me into the rodeo world. Since then, we've been consistently rodeoing every year. (My brother and I) were local riders since when we were little."
Soon after Jones became Junior Princess, she got her horse, Goody, who has been with her for the past eight years.
"He's pretty much my right-hand man," Jones said of Goody. "I couldn't do anything without him. He's been an amazing horse and will take on anything. He has an awesome mindset. I've had offers on him, but I can't sell him because I love him too much. He's too much a part of my family."
Golf and rodeo may reside on opposite ends of the sports spectrum but, in order to perfect one's skills in the two contrasting sports, repetition and hours upon hours of practice is required.
"I'll either ride in my field, or we have a family friend in Lynden that has an indoor arena and an outdoor (arena)," Jones said. "They'll let me practice there. Pole bending is more based on the horse you have. You have to have a well-trained horse, and it's a lot of work training a horse. Just a lot of practice (goes into breakaway roping). There's a lot of timing that goes into it."
The first two years, Jones competed in the National finals, she didn't get the results she was looking for. With one last chance to place well, Jones is hoping she and Goody will leave Wyoming with an impressive finish.
"The first year I ended up having a decent run, but the second day my horse got hurt, and that kind of threw him off," Jones said. "We placed 36th, but only the top 20 make the cut for the short go. There were probably 180 pole benders. The second year, we ended up knocking over a pole. I'm hoping (Goody) will be OK this year."
Even if Jones and Goody post slower times than she's hoping for in her two events, competition is just one-half of Jones' national finals rodeo experience
"It's not just competing," Jones said. "It's about the whole family experience you get through rodeo. A few weekends into the spring season, my horse bruised himself at a big rodeo. He's my only horse. I was thinking, 'this sucks for me. I don't have any other horse.' Other people offered me their horses. It's crazy that they'd allow you to ride a $10,000 horse and trust you with them."
In the fall, Jones will attend Walla Walla Community College, where she plans to join the WWCC rodeo team with a number of her rodeo friends. She hasn't yet confirmed her spot on the team with the Walla Walla coach, though.
A National High School Rodeo Finals top finish, coupled with three national appearances, would surely make a strong first impression.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.