It was Charlize Stair's first time in a national rodeo competition, and the 12-year-old from Catonsville was covered in mud.
The site of the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Lebanon, Tenn., was hit by Tropical Storm Cindy this week, meaning it poured during the competition and Charlize's horse, Reggie, toppled onto his side during her second barrel racing event. Mud covered Charlize's face, helmet, hair and clothes.
Charlize and Reggie walked away from the fall unharmed, but did not receive a time from that portion of the competition. Despite the setback, Charlize managed to snag her fastest personal time in the pole bending event, finishing at 22.331 seconds.
Charlize finished 51st out of 151 overall in her first pole bending go-round, or performance, 113th out of 137 in her second, and 88th overall. Pole bending involves performers guiding their horses between six poles spread 21 feet apart, while horses loop around three barrels in barrel racing.
"We're super proud and super happy," said Jennifer Sulin-Stair, Charlize's mother. "She was amazing."
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo gathered about 1,000 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade aspiring rodeo stars from the U.S., Canada and Australia to compete in the finals from June 18 to 24.
Charlize did two rounds of barrel racing, one on her first day and one on her last, with two rounds of pole bending in between and one round of ribbon roping. The aggregate of both go-rounds for each event is taken, and the performers with the top 20 aggregate times compete in a third go-round, Sulin-Stair said.
The three times are then aggregated, and the performer with the lowest score becomes the world champion.
"My next big goal is to make it again and be consistent," Charlize said. "Maybe make it in the top 20 and go on the short go," or the third go-round that becomes part of the aggregate used to select a world champion.
Because Charlize fell on her second barrel run and got no time from it, she was essentially disqualified, her mom said. But Charlize isn't dwelling on the fall.
"No matter what Mother Nature or anything gives you, there will always be ups and downs," she said. "It was all muddy and it was really bad ground but I'm happy I got a time."
Sulin-Stair said she didn't think the ground was slippery because of the rain, but that Reggie, whose competition name is Watch Little Rock, lost his footing in the adverse conditions.
But the nerves Sulin-Stair felt thanks to the rain weren't unfamiliar.
"I always get nervous because of course I want her to be successful," she said. "I want her to do well and have fun, and she did."