DARBY – She conveys confidence by leading a wandering calf out of the arena.
The way she sits in the saddle, the words she uses to coax the critters, it’s all pretty impressive for the laid-back city dweller.
On this sunny Saturday morning in Darby, Ryanne Tracy is more than just a decorated cowgirl taking part in the annual Wild West rodeo. The 24-year-old Victor native leads the show in a women’s rope breakaway event that drew 25 competitors.
“It’s great to see her do this,” said Brooke Hirschy of Jackson, Montana, who took top honors at the one-day event and raised more than $2,000. “My sisters and I have done a few before and it takes a lot of work to put one on and keep everyone happy with what you’re doing. She’s done a great job.”
Tracy has an impressive rodeo resume. In high school, she won state championships in breakaway roping and goat tether. At Montana State, she won the Big Sky Region titles in breakaway roping, goat tying and all-around.
As an organizer, she has excellent timing and business acumen. His drive to hold three jackpot events amid the coronavirus pandemic, with his own calves, paid off.
“I’m not really a 9 to 5 person,” said Tracy, who majored in marketing at Montana State and then studied agricultural education at Cal Poly, where she competed for the rodeo team. “I love being at the ranch.
“I’m just going to try to see if I can make a living in rodeo (competition and organizing) before I go and find a legitimate job. I’ve traveled all my life, so traveling to rodeos comes naturally to me.”
Rodeo and ranching are a family affair for Tracy. Her grandfather and uncle are career breeders and Ryanne is grateful for their guidance. His mother, Shelli, competed for MSU and was the Big Sky Region cowgirl for several years. His sister, Raegan, won a Big Sky title in 2015.
“My mother helps me as a secretary for my roping escapes now, and my brother has been a secretary in the past,” she noted. “My Uncle Lloyd (Rennaker) is the announcer and my boyfriend, Chase Onaka, is our flagman.
“That’s one thing I learned quickly while hosting my first stringing event – I didn’t have enough help and I need to be more organized. Finding help can sometimes be difficult and I’m grateful to help from my family.”
Tracy showed flashes of her championship form by posting a time of 3.52 seconds on Saturday morning. She trains almost every night and is encouraged by the progress of her young horses.
No one was more grateful for Tracy’s organizational efforts on Saturday than Hirschy, who went on to compete again Saturday night in a second rope breakaway at the Darby Wild West Rodeo.
“Finally being able to go somewhere and compete is quite exciting,” said the 28-year-old Twin Bridges graduate. “My horse worked very well in this configuration.
“I usually race every weekend in the summer, but this is my first rodeo this summer. Finding a rodeo this year, especially close like this… Just a well organized event and being able to compete again ( Saturday) night is a bonus for me.”
Saturday morning’s competition included a large number of escaped stringers from Montana. Annie Alexander of Florence clocked an impressive 2.31 seconds and Whitney Levine of Wolf Creek clocked 2.87 seconds.
Bill Speltz is Missoulian’s sports editor and has been a Sunday columnist for the past 14 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at [email protected]