By TODD VON KAMPEN
It’s because she knew her two fellow contestants so well that Brylee Thompson looked shocked at being named Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska 2019.
The Hershey High School sophomore-to-be won five of the four-day pageant’s eight individual awards on the way to her coronation Wednesday afternoon at the North Platte Community Playhouse.
But winning wasn’t real until she heard her name, she said, even after Sierra Cain of North Platte was named runner-up and McCook’s Amber Gonzales won the Rising Star Award in the all-rookie field. Both are 14 years old.
“I had competed with both girls several times (in local pageants), but I definitely didn’t expect to win it the first time,” Thompson, 15, said after signing her one-year appearance contract at La Quinta Inn & Suites.
Thompson, the daughter of Lucas Anderson and Hanna McConnell, received her Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska tiara and buckle from outgoing 2018 teen queen Rebel Sjeklocha of Hayes Center.
A busy schedule of rodeos and parades across Nebraska awaits Thompson, who has competed in local rodeo pageants since age 10 and won the Sutherland Rodeo Junior Queen title in 2017.
But first, “I have a district 4-H horse show on top of everything else,” she said. She’ll compete today in Ogallala for a berth in the State 4-H Horse Exposition July 14-18 at Grand Island’s Fonner Park.
Thompson credits Anderson, her stepfather, for sparking her love for horses when he gave her one as a kindergartner.
“He was always roping when my mom and he got married,” she said.
The family keeps several quarter horses on a 50-acre spread north of the North Platte River between Sutherland and Hershey.
“I competed in horse 4-H when I was 8 years old,” Thompson said. ‘That’s when I really found the love for riding and showing horses.”
Later, Thompson was enthralled by watching rodeo queen contestants showing off their riding skills in Sutherland’s annual rodeo. That’s what got her started in pageants, she said.
Winning Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska adds another layer to Thompson’s already bustling life. She plays volleyball and basketball for Hershey High and competes in one-act plays and Quiz Bowl on top of 4-H and church activities.
She hopes to become an emergency room nurse in a large hospital — though Thompson, who has been eyeing Colby Community College in Kansas, gained another option after winning a two-year, full-tuition Mid-Plains Community College scholarship with her pageant crown.
Besides her mother and stepfather, Thompson cited Suzanne Klaasmeyer of Hershey for helping her along the way. “She’s always helped me with horse riding, clothing, public speaking, anything,” she said.
Wednesday afternoon’s coronation was emceed by Robin Ferguson, Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska 2013, and Craig Haythorn, fourth-generation owner of Haythorn Land & Cattle Co. of Arthur.
Individual awards were as follows:
» Speech: Sierra Cain.
» Written test: Cain.
» Photogenic: Brylee Thompson.
» Appearance: Thompson.
» Personality: Thompson.
» Miss Congeniality: Thompson.
» Horsemanship: Thompson.
» Rising Star Award: Amber Gonzales.