When Pershing County’s Leeann McNeff looked at the day sheet for barrel racing during a recent rodeo, “her nerves jumped up a notch,” said her mother, Elizabeth Williams McNeff-Uhart.
Leeann’s name topped the list of 11 riders in her section.
She and her horse, Whiskey, would set the pace.
They’d maneuver around three barrels arranged in a cloverleaf pattern as fast as they could.
An electric eye clocked the riders from start to finish. A laser beamed a red light onto each upright barrel.
If they knocked over a barrel, they’d get a 5-second time penalty.
But it wasn’t Leeann or Whiskey’s first rodeo. Leeann competes as often as she can.
“She has competed in a few rodeos during the fall season and picked up points for placing in the top 10 in both barrel racing and pole bending,” said McNeff-Uhart.
The Winnemucca Events Center recently hosted the Ninth Annual New Years Eve Bronc Bash. Bull riders and others competed “until 2018,” according to Outlaw Bronc’s promotional poster.
Nearly 100 cowboys and cowgirls participated. Events included saddle bronc, mini bulls, stock saddle and more.
Leeann and Whiskey rode into the arena at top speed. Leeann sat deeply in the saddle and guided the horse through each turn. They completed the pattern in 16.59 seconds.
Then the waiting began. None of the 10 riders who followed Leeann topped her speed, although a few came close. However, the second section still had to race. Altogether, 22 barrel racers vied for the win.
Leeann and Whiskey outraced every competitor.
McNeff won her biggest barrel racing payout to date — $350. She also collected a championship jacket.
Outlaw Bronc dedicated the rodeo to Cole Hatcher, a former CSI rider and bronco rider. He lost his life in a car crash on Nov. 11, 2017.
“We were happy to celebrate the new year with you all,” said Jesse Jones, the Bronc Bash producer. “Thank you to Cole Hatcher’s family and friends for letting us honor his life.”
When not barrel racing, Leeann pursues other passions. She plays JV basketball, and Lovelock 4-H named her fall ewe lamb a champion.
The Big Meadows Conservation District sponsored Leeann at the Nevada Range Camp this past June. She spent a week at the Smith Creek Ranch in Central Nevada’s Desatoya Mountains. The teenaged campers learned about their surroundings from range management professionals.