Miss Rodeo USA

SDSU’s Smeenk reigns as Miss Rodeo USA

Trisha Smeenk was 10 years old the first time she competed in a rodeo. “I competed in a game day rodeo with my horse Cash, and we won the Aladdin, Wyo., boot race,” says Smeenk. “That is one of my first memories from riding and rodeo.”

Rodeo has played a significant role in Smeenk’s life, even though she cried the first time she sat on a horse.

“I don’t remember it, but my dad said he put me on our Shetland pony “Smokey,” and I just wanted off,” Smeenk says. “We were going to check cattle and he made me ride Smokey the whole way. Now, I can’t imagine not wanting to ride a horse.”

Since that tearful beginning, Smeenk, a 25-year-old College of Education and Human Sciences graduate student, has become an accomplished horsewoman. Last January, she won the title of 2012 Miss Rodeo USA in the International Professional Rodeo Association.

According to Smeenk, representing the IPRA has been an honor and an experience she will never forget.

“Since January, I have traveled throughout the United States and Canada nonstop,” says Smeenk. “One of my favorite memories was a trip to St. Tite, Quebec, for Festival de Western. I had never been to Canada, and the rodeo was announced in French, so I didn’t understand anything but my name.”

Sis follows Trisha’s tracks

Smeenk grew up in Newell, and rodeo has been a part of her life since she was a young girl. “Rodeo is the best sport in the world,” says Smeenk.

Having a supportive family helped Smeenk, and her younger sister Jenna, pursue their rodeo dreams. Jenna, 24, a political science major, was crowned Miss Rodeo Florida for 2013. Jenna currently lives in Destin, Fla., where she is serving in the United States Air Force as an intelligence analyst. She will continue her college education following her reign in Florida.

“I am so lucky to have Jenna as a sister and best friend,” says Smeenk. “It’s fun to share the same passion for rodeo.”

Through rodeo, both sisters have had the opportunity to travel around the country, doing what they love and gaining valuable experience along the way.

Trisha Smeenk graduated from Newell High School in 2005, and after graduation, she joined the South Dakota Air National Guard to learn about weather forecasting. Following that, Smeenk started her college career at SDSU.

During her time at State, she served as a Young Hall resident assistant for one year, competed on the SDSU equestrian team and received an equestrian team scholarship.

Back to school in 2013

Smeenk double majored in journalism with a broadcast specialization, and science sociology with a human relations specialization, graduating in May 2011.

Smeenk began her master’s degree in counseling and human relations development at SDSU, and after a semester, she put her studies on hold to complete her Miss Rodeo USA duties. She plans to finish her master’s degree in 2013, and is looking forward to the next chapter in her life.

Smeenk is currently employed as a weather apprentice for the S.D. Air National Guard at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls.

“The entire Miss Rodeo USA experience has been life-changing and so rewarding,” Smeenk says. “My advice for my peers is to make every day count, and with enough focus, dedication and determination, anyone can do anything they set their mind to.”

Karissa Kuhle

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