HEBER CITY — In 2015, a newcomer arrived on the Utah high school rodeo scene. Her name was Kaytlyn Miller, she was a freshman from Dammeron Valley, Utah, and she competed as part of the Enterprise Rodeo Club.
Barrel racing, breakaway roping, goat tying and pole bending were her competitions of choice, and she was a newcomer in name only.
Miller was fantastic in junior high, winning the girls all-around title in 2013 and 2014 (she didn’t claim the all-around in 2012, but finished in the top-10 in every event she competed in).
Coming into high school, she was set to excel, and did just that. As a freshman in 2015, Miller won the girls all-around title, not only at the Utah High School Rodeo State Finals, but at the National High School Rodeo Finals.
She followed up her freshman year with another Utah girls all-around state title in 2016, and yet another in 2017.
Saturday night at the Wasatch County Event Complex, Miller competed one last time at the Utah High School State Rodeo Finals.
To say the occasion was bittersweet is an understatement.
“You know, I am very sad,” said Miller. “It is a really bittersweet moment. I am sad, this is my last one, my last time competing with all of the friends that I have grown up with, but I am very happy to move on to the next chapter in my life.
“This is a great rodeo, and everyone does an amazing job here. It is just a super bittersweet moment.”
For all the sadness, Miller had plenty of reason to celebrate.
She took first place in the breakaway roping competition with a time of 2.020 seconds, an event in which she finished second this year on average, behind Spikers’ Emma Hodson and fifth over the entirety of the state finals this past weekend.
She also finished fourth in goat tying Saturday and took first place overall on the event.
Goat tying is Miller’s favorite event, with breakaway roping coming in a close second.
“I do love tying the goat, I will say that,” she said. “And breakaway, but that’s only because my little horse takes me all the way.”
Part of the fun of goat tying is the name of Miller’s goat, or rather the goat assigned to her.
In each of the last three years, she has tackled a goat by the name of I Hate Cake.
“That is just how it goes,” Miller said, chuckling. “I’ve had that goat, they’ve given me the I Hate Cake goat the last three years. I Hate Cake, I Hate Cake II and I Hate Cake III.”
While Miller didn’t compete at her peak in either barrel racing or pole racing — she was a top competitor on pole racing Saturday night, but her horse Jimmy slipped toward the end of her final run, costing her a much needed second or two — she did enough over the course of the season and in Heber City to win her fourth girls all-around state title.
That result wasn’t surprising for the superstar cowgirl. Despite being an all-state basketball player for Enterprise High School, rodeo has always been her true passion.
“I do rodeo every single day,” said Miller. “I rope, I tie goat, I ride horses. The hard work that goes into this, whether it is jumping out of the box or running a pole or a barrel in a high pressure situation like this, there is nothing like it.”
Miller’s passion for rodeo will take her to South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, a neighboring city to Lubbock, Texas, next year, but before that will come the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Joining Miller, in both Rock Springs and at South Plains College, will be Spikers’ Cooper Bennett.
The boys all-around champion, Bennett took first place in bareback, both on average and in the Short Go Saturday night.
The senior, who told the Deseret News that he’d “really like to make it to nationals in team roping and bareback,” did just that, thanks to a fourth-place finish in team roping.
Other cowboys and cowgirls who advanced to the national finals include Amanda Butler (barrel racing), Briggs Madsen (bull riding), Stetson Wright (saddle bronc), McKenna Coronado (girls cutting), Tyra Wittwer (pole bending) and Cash Robb (steer wrestling).