Rodeo competitor, pageant queen: Kaitlin McWhorter has won it all

By Ashlyn Ege, Sports Reporter

Kaitlin McWhorter, a senior studying agriculture systems and education, is the 2020 Lady in Waiting.

This title allows McWhorter to represent the Ozark Rodeo Association in the Miss Rodeo USA pageant in 2020.

Shannon Norris, the ORA pageant director, said the title means Kaitlin is the face of the association.

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“She will travel with us the entire year, and she will be involved in our grand entry, help with our calf scrambles and then help raise money for the ORA and the miss ORA pageant,” Norris said.

The ORA hosts their pageant every October, and they typically have 10–15 contestants every year, Norris said. 

“In October, we crown our girls,” Norris said. “So, they are the Lady in Waiting for a few months until they officially take over in February.” 

McWhorter said her current responsibilities include wearing her Lady in Waiting sash, going to other rodeos and meeting people.

“It’s so [the current queen] gets to finish her year since last year she had her Lady in Waiting time, too,” McWhorter said.

The ORA Finals were hosted on Nov. 9 in Humansville, Missouri, where McWhorter competed and got to show off her title of 2020 Lady in Waiting for the first time. 

In addition to showing off her new title, McWhorter competed and placed first in the pole bending average, first in the goat tying average, second in the team roping average and third in the barrel racing.

She also finished Champion All Around Cowgirl for the open age division, a year-end title she has been working on since spring 2019.

McWhorter stood out to the judges right away, one reason being that she has a “very stand out personality,” Norris said. 

Another reason she stood out to the judges was because they already knew her name since she competes in the rodeos. McWhorter said competing in rodeos as well as the pageant is rare.

“The state queens who go and run for Miss Rodeo America, might not have ever competed in a rodeo before, they just ride horses,” McWhorter said. “For me, that’s like what? You’re going to a rodeo to just queen? No way, I want to run.”

Within a rodeo pageant, the events include “horsemanship, interview, written tests, speech, appearance, personality and photogenic,” Norris said.

In the horsemanship category, a contestant rides someone else’s horse and has to get on a certain way and dismount a certain way. 

“[They] then go up and answer a question, and ride a reining pattern,” Kim McWhorter, Kaitlin’s mother, said. “[They] do a slow lap, a fast lap, carry the flag one lap [and] do a queen wave.”

Kim said she thinks horsemanship is a strength of Kaitlin’s because she has had the opportunity to ride different horses.

The ORA is very excited to have McWhorter represent them, Norris said. 

“I think she is going to do a great job,” Norris said. “She loves the ORA, loves the people involved in it. I think she’s really excited to represent us, and I know I am excited to have her represent us.”

David Stayton, the announcer for the ORA, said he thinks McWhorter will do a great job being the face of the ORA.

“She’s very energetic, so I think she will be a master at it in my mind,” Stayton said. “There’s no goal that I’ve seen that girl set that she hasn’t taken and made it happen. So, I can see good things coming from Kaitlin in our association.”

McWhorter said when she officially can start her reign as queen, her requirements include going to 75% of the rodeos and doing a lap with her queen wave.

Along with that, she said she also helps the other girls who hold titles with the ORA. 

“There is a junior miss, a little miss and a sweetheart,” McWhorter said. “So, there are a lot of little girls, and they’ll help me carry flags and spread the word of rodeo.”

With all required from pageants such as wardrobe and traveling, it can get expensive; therefore, the McWhorter family plans on fundraising for the long journey ahead with the Miss ORA title. 

Kim said she is going to auction off a quilt she made, host a dinner and use 50-50 tickets to help contribute to their funds.

McWhorter is also starting to go to businesses and asking if they can donate a basket or a gift card to go towards the raffles, she said.

McWhorter’s main goal is to bring awareness towards the rodeo realm. She hopes to incorporate school visits — this is something a queen has not done yet for the ORA — in hopes to let younger children know what agriculture is all about, she said.

“The ORA has 15 or more rodeos, so that’s potentially 12 plus different towns that I can go to school maybe the Monday before, give a free ticket to get more people to come to the rodeo and then show how fun it is,” McWhorter said. “I would just like to get the word out more.” 

Norris said rodeo pageants are kind of a dying breed, but they have a positive impact on the girls who come in, so she is determined to keep them alive.

“For the pageant next year, I really want to get more girls running because it’s so cool,” McWhorter said.

Unlike the stereotypical pageants, rodeo pageants are a friendly and positive atmosphere, Kim said.

“This is one of the most fun pageants I’ve done because everyone is included. Everyone got some type of award, everyone leaves happy,” McWhorter said. “It [isn’t] girls up on the stage crying.”

Being friendly and competitive is one of McWhorter’s qualities in rodeos and pageants.

“It’s a competition, but you have to be friendly,” McWhorter said. “Outside the arena, everyone is your friend.”

Stayton said McWhorter raises the competition level.

“She’ll inspire you to do better, but she won’t be mean about it,” Stayton said. “It’s not like ‘haha, I beat you.’ She’s not afraid to help out. She’ll get in there and help out to give them a pointer or two, especially when they’re struggling.”

This is a very important quality for a pageant queen to have, especially since the girls running or wanting to run are looking up to McWhorter, Kim said.

“I think it’s really good that those little kids are looking up to her,” Kim said. “No matter where you’re at, there’s someone watching you.”

Staff reporter Ashlyn Ege can be reached at [email protected].

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