Trio of Aynorites ready to compete in rodeo finals

Mackenzie Johnson will compete in cutting at national high school rodeo.

Three Aynorites will participate in the national high school rodeo competition in Wyoming in July.

Aynor High School students Maggie Nobles, Mackenzie Johnson and Ethan Johnson earned the right to compete in the nationals with an excellent showing in S.C. High School Rodeo Association competition.

Nobles will take part in the reined cow horse competition, Mackenzie Johnson, 14, will compete in cutting and her brother Ethan, 17, will participate in the trap and light rifle events in shooting competitions that are held in conjunction with the rodeo.

Maggie Nobles

Nobles won the state championship in the reined cow horse division in her first year with the SCHSRA. The 15-year-old daughter of Sandy and Doyle Nobles was introduced to the SCHSRA in eighth grade, and competed in reined cow horse and breakaway roping just a few months later as a high school freshman. She has also competed in Stock Horse Association competition the past four years.

“My favorite part of competing with the South Carolina High School Rodeo Association is most definitely the atmosphere,” Nobles said. “Everyone is one big family and we're always supporting and spending time with each other in and out of the rodeo season.

“My family has been roping for as long as I can remember so roping and riding have always been something I was interested in. As a child, I always went to rodeos and ropings to watch my dad, uncle and cousins compete, so rodeos and roping was something I was always attracted to.”

Nobles competes aboard a 5 year-old Grey Quarterhorse named Marty.

“He is such an amazing horse, but I haven't always been very fond of him,” she said. “My daddy bought him as a rope horse prospect, and we noticed his cutting horse bloodline instantly. So daddy and I decided that we should try him out and see how he does working a cow.

“He tried a few times and we instantly knew he was going to be my cutting horse. So, like my daddy has always done, he made me work on him. I spent most of my summer working on my horse with my awesome trainer, Anne Edwards. That summer was when I fell in love with him. We have a special bond like no other. Most teenage girls are boy crazy; I am horse crazy.

“It took some convincing and training, but now we share a bond and trust each other better than most people. He's my big baby, and he knows it.”

Winning a state championship in her first year was a dream come true for Nobles.

“The feeling of being a state champion is indescribable,” she said. “It's a feeling like no other. I went into this past rodeo season as a nervous freshman with big dreams and I came out as state champion. The best part is knowing that all of my hard work, countless hours of practice, and dedication has finally paid off by winning state and making Nationals.”

Nobles’ number one goal for the nationals is to give every run everything she has. She will be competing with competitors from 43 states, five Canadian Provinces and Australia.

“I know the competition will be tight,” she said. “However, I know that if I go out in the arena and give those performances everything I have, I can do anything I set my mind to. Another goal of mine for Nationals is to give the glory to God. Win, lose or draw, He brought me here and without his grace I would not have this amazing opportunity.”

According to Nobles, the reined cow horse competition is a fairly new event for high school rodeo that has brought a new meaning to rodeo. The event consists of two parts, reining and cattle work. In the reining section, the contestant completes a reining pattern on his or her horse consisting of circles, lead changes, sliding stops, back-ups and spins.

In the cattle work section, the rider uses the horse to make the cow also complete a "pattern" consisting of running down the fence and changing directions, cutting on the fence and making circles. The judge looks for horses that are responsive, respectful of the livestock, athletic and willing to work the cow. The judge also looks at the difficulty of the cow and arena conditions that can allow the judge to score differently. As a rider, the judge looks for someone who asks for commands correctly and has excellent technique. Safety can also play a role, positively and negatively, in the overall score of a run. There is a six-minute time limit on the run, but how fast or slow someone completes the run plays no part in how he or she is scored. Reined cow horse showcases the agility, technique and stamina of the horse and rider.

Nobles describes herself as determined.

“I am so determined to make my mark on the SCHSRA and my little town of Aynor,” she said. “I am determined to get our rodeo association known and get more members ready to compete. I am determined to make the most of my now three years left with the SCHSRA. I am determined to do my best and strive for greatness. I am simply determined.”

Nobles hopes to make it to the nationals the remainder of her high school years, and become a repeat state champion.

“I also hope to continue rodeoing throughout college and maybe one day, join the SCHSRA with my future kids,” she said.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson has competed on the state high school rodeo circuit for a couple of years. She was in the middle school division this past year, and this is her first season of high school competition.

“I am very excited about having the opportunity to represent South Carolina on the national stage in Wyoming,” she said. “My goal is to enjoy the experience while being competitive with some of the best horses and riders in the nation.”

Johnson grew up riding horses, and competes in five events including cutting, reined cow horse, barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway roping. She will compete in cutting, which is her favorite event in the nationals.

“In the cutting event, my horse and I must work as a team to separate a single cow from the herd and keep that cow from returning back to the herd,” she said. “We have two minutes and 30 seconds to ‘cut’ three cows. This is often difficult to accomplish because the cows do not want to be separated from the others.”

A daughter of Craig and Jennifer Johnson, Mackenzie competes atop a pair of horses named Shorty and Little Man. She said hard work and dedication are necessary ingredients for success.

“You have to practice every day,” she said. “I spend as much time at it as I can. I love horses. It’s kinda like being in a different world. It’s amazing.”

The rising AHS sophomore describes herself as a people person, who loves to be around people and hang out with people from the rodeo.”

“I would describe myself just like the song ‘Humble and Kind.’ I really hope that others can see Jesus in me. I am driven by competition and success but never at the expense of others,” she said.

Johnson is unsure about career goals, but hopes to continue competing.

“My future goal is to get better at the sport of rodeo daily and strive to be my very best,” she said. “It is a very difficult sport, but the rewards are worth the sweat and tears.”

Johnson said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of others.

“I would like to thank everyone that has had a hand in helping me along the way,” she said. “It has been a hard, tiresome year, but I have enjoyed every minute of it. A special thank you to Keith and Mallory Carter for everything they do for me. I would not be here if it wasn’t for them. I would also like to take this time to thank my family for all their sacrifices for me to have this opportunity.”

Ethan Johnson

A rising senior at Aynor High School, Johnson is excited about competing at the nationals.

“I am thrilled to represent South Carolina in both the trap and light rifle events in Wyoming,” he said. “I have worked all year for this opportunity, but it has been worth it. My goal is to be very competitive and hopefully place near the top.”

In the light rifle event, Johnson will have to shoot from three positions and will be judged on all three.

“The positions are prone, standing and kneeling,” he said. “Your scores are added together at the end of the shoot to determine your overall score.”

In the trap event, Johnson will shoot trap from five locations and will have five shots at each location.

Johnson hopes to build on his success this year, and have an even better senior season.

“I hope to continue the high school rodeo events my senior year and become even better next year than I was this year,” he said.

The teen is undecided about career plans, but wants to further his education after graduating from AHS.

Johnson describes himself as a hardworking person and an avid outdoorsman.

“I am very appreciative for this opportunity,” he said. “I would like to thank everyone that has helped me along the way. My family continues to sacrifice a lot for me to have such a wonderful opportunity and for that I am most grateful.”

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