EAGLE COUNTY — A 17-year-old from Burns is from good stock when it comes to riding horses and roping cattle.
Jacey Schlegel continued her family legacy of rodeo champions when she won the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association title in breakaway roping in June.
Her three belt buckles and custom saddle prove that she didn’t just win it, she stomped it in the final rounds of the event.
“I had a lot of things go wrong during the season and then it all came together at the state finals,” she said.
In breakaway roping, a horseback rider lassos a running calf but the calf is not thrown and tied. Jacey’s personal record is 2.18 seconds.
The Soroco High School student was in Eagle last weekend for the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo. She had two goats and a steer in the 4-H Junior Livestock Auction, and her two older brothers were scheduled to compete in the professional rodeo. Her oldest brother, Jerad, 27, was not able to compete because he separated his shoulder at a rodeo in Cheyenne before coming to Eagle.
“The competition at the state high school rodeo was really tough,” Jacey said. “We accumulate points through the season and the top eight girls were all within one or two points going into state.”
Jacey had a half-point lead going in, with 84.5 points. She took sixth place in the first round, putting her at 89.5 points, then she won the second round, taking her to 99.5 points. She took fourth in a round called the “short go,” which involved only the top 15 competitors. The points from the short go and her combined average time placed her firmly on top with 108 points.
“I think the win has opened a lot of doors for me,” she said. “College coaches started coming up to me after that.”
Her state win took her to the national high school rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo., two weeks ago.
“I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped,” she said.
Jacey still has her senior year of high school ahead of her, though, so she could get another shot at nationals. She also plans to start competing in the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association.
She has plenty of other opportunities, too. She plays volleyball and basketball at Soroco High School in Oak Creek, which is an hour away from her home in Burns.
“We stay busy,” said Jacey’s mom, Sherri Schlegel. “Volleyball is in the fall, then basketball — and those have early morning practices — then it’s rodeo season and then the fair.”
Jacey is a middle hitter on her volleyball team and she is versatile on the basketball court.
“I basically play all positions,” she said. “My dad thinks I could play basketball for a junior college if I want.”
Between school, team sports and raising animals for her 4-H projects, Jacey doesn’t have much time to practice roping.
“I probably rope for about two hours a week,” she said. “I get home from school around 7 p.m. and I’ll go ride if it’s still light out. Otherwise, I rope the hay bale in the barn.”
The Schlegel family lives on property with a horse arena and a lot of space to ride around, which gave the three kids ample opportunity to foster their rodeo talents as they grew up.
“They’ve been riding since they were little-bitty,” Sherri said. “Joel was riding when he was 2 years old.”
Now Jacey’s brothers, Jerad and Joel, who is 24, are both on the pro circuit for bareback riding after successful college rodeo careers.
“My brothers are good ropers, too, and they help me,” Jacey said. “Jerad is my biggest coach. He’s always helping me.”
Sherri said Jerad and Jacey are most alike.
“He tries to build up her confidence and work with her when he’s home,” she said.
Jacey said her parents were involved with Little Britches rodeos as kids and young adults, but it was Jerad who really kicked the family into high gear.
“Jerad saw what other kids were doing and sort of taught himself,” she said.
Jerad graduated from Eagle Valley High School before his younger siblings decided Soroco High would be a better fit for their interests.
“Soroco has more of an agriculture community and Joel decided he wanted to go there when Jerad was a senior at Eagle Valley,” Sherri said.
Jacey said she definitely wants to pursue rodeo or basketball in college but she hasn’t made up her mind.
“Jacey is back and forth,” Sherri said. “Whatever she’s doing in the moment is what she’ll say she wants to pursue.”
In the meantime, Jacey has a couple other career interests she’s considering.
“I can see myself doing graphic design or something with hair and fashion,” she said.
Sherri’s position as Colorado State High School Rodeo Association secretary has given Jacey the chance to make publications for the events.
“She’s good with computers and fashion,” Sherri said. “I’m not sure where it will all lead.”
Whatever Jacey pursues, it all appears to lead straight ahead, like a calf out of the gate.
“I like that roping is fast — one swing and a throw — and not a lot of people can do it,” she said. “It’s a rush.”