Newberg has a champion.
Kearsten Friedrich, 25, a Newberg High School graduate who has lived most of her life in town, was crowned 2023 Miss Rodeo Oregon last month in Canby.
"When I got in the arena, I honestly did not think I was going to be crowned but was shocked and thrilled when I heard my name announced," Friedrich said in an email. She added that she believes she was selected because of her passion for the sport and drive to constantly learn and improve.
Founded in 1957, the pageant "has taken great strides in becoming a strong and successful youth-orientated organization that is able to provide a program for Oregon horsewomen and that encourages positive growth in strength of character and personality, healthy attitudes, self-fulfillment and self-respect," according to its website.
Every year, contestants are judged in multiple categories, including personality, appearance, knowledge/presentation and horsemanship, and must take a written test as well. The competitor with the greatest number of points overall wins Oregon's First Lady of Professional Rodeo.
"Honestly, to have won the competition gave me excitement to have the opportunity and platform to represent (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) rodeos and be able to encourage people to get involved in their local rodeo or the next closest town's rodeo," Friedrich said.
Currently Miss Rodeo-in-waiting, she will take the reins from the previous titleholder, Bend's Avalon Irwin, next year. Unlike most of her predecessors, Friedrich will not compete in the 2023 Miss Rodeo America competition against contestants from other states, as she will be too old. However, she will still fulfill her yearlong duties as a state Miss Rodeo, traveling over 20,000 miles and making over 60 appearances at community events and parades in Oregon.
Friedrich previously served as St. Paul Rodeo queen in 2020 and again in 2021, due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing the organization from choosing her successor.
"As I handed over the St. Paul Rodeo queen title, I set my sight on the Miss Rodeo Oregon title because I wanted the chance to represent this great state and all the rodeos held here," Friedrich said. "Oregon has a rich history in rodeo and I wanted … to have an opportunity to show the roots of rodeo that run deep in the Beaver State."
Friedrich became acquainted with horses when she was in grade school, after her uncle and cousin gifted her a horseback riding lesson as a birthday present.
"Ever since then, I have been hooked on horses," she said. "It never was a phase for me."
In middle school, she began competing in barrel racing and roping events. Come high school, Friedrich spent all four years on the NHS equestrian team, competing in the Northwest Youth Rodeo Association during the summers.
"What I enjoy most about working with horses is that I can learn something new every time I step into the arena," Friedrich said, adding that the animals have taught her perseverance, hard work and humility.
Studying mostly surpassed competition in priority while Friedrich was in college, except for her senior year, when she tried for St. Paul Rodeo queen and won.
"In rodeo, we like to say we are all one big family," Friedrich said. "I experienced that when I was the 2020-21 St. Paul Rodeo queen and I look forward to reconnecting with the rodeo family on the road and meeting new people."
Outside the arena, Friedrich works as an engineering technician at Intel. She graduated from Montana State University with a bachelor's degree in animal science and a minor in small business and entrepreneurship.
While she is not currently pursuing a career in the animal science field, Friedrich said the critical thinking and problem-solving skills she acquired while in school have proved invaluable at her present job.
Once her responsibilities as Miss Rodeo Oregon wane, Friedrich intends to continue helping the "phenomenal" St. Paul Rodeo Association and competing in breakaway roping.
"I plan to continue promoting rodeo and the western lifestyle, even after I hand over the title of Miss Rodeo Oregon," Friedrich said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.