Fredonia High School rodeo athletes Sadee Mackelprang and Kelli Johnson practice hard and study harder. Like other high school athletes, they strive to find the perfect balance between school and sports.

“If it’s light outside, I’m with my horse, Pepper, and if it’s dark I’m inside doing homework,” said Johnson.

“I try to get all my school work done in school, so I have time to ride my horses Snip, Roscoe and The Mare, after,” Mackelprang said.

While all high school rodeo athletes are required by the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) to keep their grades up to compete, the Fredonia rodeo athletes don’t receive school support or recognition the way students who play other sports for Fredonia do. Each rodeo contestant is responsible for their own entry fees and traveling expenses.

With little to no support from the local school, and other Arizona high school rodeo teams hours away, Mackelprand and Johnson joined the Dixie Rodeo Team. Through fundraisers the Dixie team can help their rodeo team members with some entry fees, as well as put on their own rodeo.

Family is the center of these rodeo athletes’ lives. In addition to being Sadee and Kelli’s biggest fans, their families also fill the roles of coaches, athletic trainers, vet techs, and road crew. Most rodeos are out of town, and are usually a Friday and Saturday event.

“My Dad hauls our camp trailer, and if we have more horses, then he’ll haul a horse trailer too,” Said Mackelprang. “And Kelli’s family will haul the horses. Then we all just stay together.”

“It’s a huge family thing,” said Johnson. “The rodeo grounds are usually full of families and you meet a lot of people, and they end up having dinner with you some nights.”

Both girls compete in barrels, pole bending, and their favorite event, breakaway roping. They have had their ups and downs, but they say the ups outnumber the downs.

One of Mackelprang’s highlights from this fall season was getting her first 21 second pole bending run at this year’s Dixie Six Rodeo.

Johnson qualified for Utah State Finals in Breakaway with one of her best runs yet. However, during one of the Dixie Six rodeos, her horse, Pepper, pulled a tendon and is still healing.

Both girls are excited to keep improving, and even though Kelli will be on a colt, both are looking forward to a great spring rodeo season-with the help of their families!