Delta freshman Menz rides high in rodeo competitions

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Kaci Menz, a 15-year-old freshman at Delta High School, already has made a name for herself in the area in high school sports. Her accomplishments in rodeos, on the other hand, have made Menz's name known throughout the state.

Menz, an important player on Delta's varsity basketball and softball teams, said it's not easy to balance books, sports and rodeos.

"It's really hard," she said. "I'll go straight from softball practice to ride the horse, then come home and wash up and go to open gym for basketball. You're always doing something, but it's better than sitting at home."

The cowgirl began competing in horse shows at the age of 3, following in the footsteps of her father, Marty, and her older brother, Brent. Now she competes in three rodeo series, and the overlapping seasons do not allow much of a break from the horses.

"It's a never-ending thing," she said. "But I never really get too tired of it."

Menz is involved with Flickerwood Youth Rodeo, 4H and the Missouri High School Rodeo Association. The Flickerwood series extends from October to March, while the 4H series lasts from May to August. Nine different counties are represented in 4H, and each hosts its own rodeo.

The MHSRA series is made up of fall and spring seasons, each consisting of about 10 consecutive weekend competitions across the state. Participants earn points in the two seasons and the four-day state finals, which concludes the spring segment. The top four in each event move on to the national competition.

Menz hopes her first run at qualifying for nationals will bring her as much success as it has Brent, 17, who has qualified twice.

Kaci occasionally enters open rodeos, which don't require membership in any club. The events involve same-day registration and are open to anyone interested in trying to make some quick money. The winnings can offset the expenes of being a rodeo competitor, which include animal care, equipment and entry fees that range from $8 to $40 per event.

"It's not cheap," she said. "But we usually end up making a profit off of it, so it works out."

Besides money, Menz also has been awarded a number of saddles and buckles for winning various events. Saddles are earned by finishing atop three different events, and buckles are given to the top five in each event.

Last August, Menz was also named Junior Miss at the Sikeston Bootheel Rodeo. She competed in the 14-17 age division in that event, which included modeling, horsemanship and a written exam.

"That was definitely unexpected," Menz said of her win. "But it was awesome to beat people who were a couple years older than me. It was a good experience."

Menz admits she wouldn't be so successful without the help of her family. Kaci, Brent and their 13-year-old sister, Jodi, practice together nearly two hours a day at their home.

"Having the two of them there is nice," she said, "and my grandpa helps a lot, riding with us to rodeos and taking us to practice sometimes. It's great having family there because it's harder trying to do everything by yourself."

With her family's support, Menz hopes to ride her success into college. As for the rest of her high school career, she plans to stay focused on rodeo in hopes of someday bringing home a national title.

Mark Unterreiner is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian and a student at Notre Dame Regional High School. His Spotlight article appears every Thursday.

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