She watches and waits.
One by one the cowgirls race to end of the arena, dismount, flank and tie a goat tethered to a pole. All the while, Jessie Kirkes is thinking about her run and her goal — a faster time.
Aboard her horse Twister, she breaks into the arena at full speed and closes in on the goat in Saturday’s slack at Eastern New Mexico University’s College Daze Rodeo.
In one quick motion, she jumps from the horse and ties the goat. Her time is 8.7 seconds, good for sixth place in the long-go of the three-day rodeo.
Other ENMU rodeoers who qualified for Saturday’s short-go include freshmen Jesse Clark (calf roping), Gina Flewelling (goat-tying), Megan Saavedra (breakaway roper) and TiAda Gray (team roping).
A sophomore from Carlsbad in her second season with the ENMU rodeo team, Kirkes said she has been competing in rodeos since she was 4 or 5 years old. She competes in goat-tying, breakaway roping and barrels.
“There are so many different aspects of rodeo that I love,” Kirkes said. “First, it is unlike any other sport where success depends on you. I played volleyball in high school. Here you don’t have to wait on the team if something goes wrong. If you mess up, only you can take the blame.”
Kirkes said she loves the people, traveling and the atmosphere of rodeo.
“You have to have a strong mind and be able to overcome things when you’re in a slump,” Kirkes said about competing in rodeos. “The mental game is probably the hardest.
“Goat-tying is my favorite event and I love goats. I don’t know why, but I get to do a lot of work with my hands.”
Sophomore teammate Trent Bilberry has known Kirkes since they were 8-year-olds and competed in goat-tying. Bilberry said Kirkes smoked him back then when it came to goat-tying.
“She is very determined person,” Bilberry said. “She practices a lot and thinks things through.”
Kirkes was a New Mexico and national all-around champion in high school.
“She has gotten a lot better,” Bilberry said. “When she messed up, she would always whoop herself with her goat-tying rope and she would do that out of frustration.”
Shelby Kirkes, a senior at Carlsbad High, said she looks up to her big sister.
“She’s kind of my hero,” Shelby said with a laugh. “She coaches me just like my dad does so whenever I do something wrong she will tell me and encourage me.”
ENMU rodeo coach Albert Flinn said Jessie Kirkes brings a lot to the team.
“She is very competitive and has a great attitude,” Flinn said.