Road Warriors

After taking such a long time to get to the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Madison Murphy sure didn’t spend much time in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena on Wednesday.

The 11-year-old from North Fort Myers, Florida, finished second in the first section of junior barrel racing with a 14.277-second run. Aspen Autry from Kim, Colorado, set the pace with a 14.062.

Those 14.277 seconds pale in comparison to the time it took for Murphy to get to Las Vegas. Madison and her mom, Teresa, drove to the Junior NFR, hauling Madison’s barrel racing horse Pepto across the country.

“It took us 40 hours to get here,” Teresa Murphy said. “Madison and I drove out and her dad and everybody else flew out.

“I loved it. It’s a life experience that we can never take away.”

The Murphys went through 10 states – Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada – on their journey, meaning Teresa and Madison, and Pepto, crossed through one-fifth of the United States in two days. And that was just fine with Madison.

“I enjoyed the ride just because I just enjoy doing stuff,” said Madison, who is in sixth grade. “I got to see everything. I got to see mountains, and in New Mexico it snowed.”

In other words, at 11 years old, Madison has already seen things that some people go their whole lives without catching sight of in person.

Teresa said there was no doubt they were making the trip to Las Vegas.

“When she qualified I knew we were coming out here,” she said. “After all, we’ve got to support our kids. This is a fun opportunity for her and we’re really excited for her.

“And we got to spend some quality time together. We played games all the way out here and we got to see so much scenery. It was really neat.”

Madison made sure the trip was worth it with her blazing run around the cloverleaf. Her time was even more impressive considering she’s only been riding Pepto for a few months.

“We got him about three months ago,” Madison said of Pepto. “We were using another horse, but I didn’t qualify on him. We figured we could get enough points on him, but we never could. And then after we got Pepto we won the qualifier.”

Madison said there was just something about the chestnut horse that made it seem like they would be a good fit.

“When I tried him out we just clicked,” she said. “I don’t really like all the crazy barrel horses and we just clicked the first time I rode him.”

They clicked again Wednesday. Madison is hoping that’s the case again Friday, when she makes her second run. After all, this is what the young cowgirl wants to do with her future, a fact which has only been solidified at the Junior NFR.

“This is so fun,” said Madison, who lists Sherry Cervi and Hailey Kinsel as her barrel racing idols. “I just love learning about all this stuff and seeing everything.”

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