RODEO: Keeley Sibson claimed her maiden barrel racing buckle in front of a capacity crowd at the Great Western Hotel on Saturday night.
The 14-year-old was among 100 competitors who took part in the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School P&F's Bulls 'n' Barrels, which this year was run in conjunction with Round 9 of the Top Guns series.
Spectators turned out in force for the annual breast cancer fundraiser, with organisers having to close the doors about 7pm when a 1200-plus crowd packed into the indoor arena.
Event co-ordinator Noeleen Yates said it was a fantastic night, with some classy competition on show from the pint-sized peewee barrel racers through to the talented open bull riders.
"We're just overwhelmed,” she said.
"I think even if we had 500 people I would say it was a success because it's for such a good cause, but having that sort of support behind us is excellent.
"The atmosphere was great, the competition was really good and it all added up to a wonderful night.”
RGGS Year 8 student Keeley was in red-hot form on her trusty mount Storm.
She finished second overall in the junior barrel race behind Emi Carlson, and was a creditable fifth in the rookie barrel race.
But her special moment came when she clocked a 14.1-second run to win the Jenny Leyden Buckle for the fastest time in the junior barrel race. (Jenny was a stalwart of the RGGS P&F who lost her brave battle with cancer earlier this year.)
"It was really exciting to win because that's my first buckle in barrel racing,” Keeley said.
"I was a bit nervous going into the event but I was feeling pretty confident.
"My horse ran really well. He's a good horse to run, a nice horse to ride and I just love him.
"It was a good night and it was great that there were so many people there.”
Keeley hails from Dysart and rodeo runs in her family's veins.
She has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks since starting in barrel racing just 12 months ago.
She finished second in the average in the CRCA grand finals and has been selected in the Australian high school rodeo team to compete in New Zealand next year.
Mum Ingrid said Keeley was thriving in the sport.
"It's tough. There's so many good competitors and so many good horses but Keeley has done really well.
"She was really trying to win that buckle, not because it was something to win, but because of what it is and what is represents.
"She is a twin and she and sister Payten enjoy that sibling rivalry.
"Payten finished third in the juniors last night and was fourth in the rookies.
"They love going head-to-head and it helps to drive both of them.”