Kids of different ages participate in a sport where a horse has to avoid knocking down barrels.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: STACY BLACKBURN - Columbia County barrel racers are, from left to right, Katie Holm, Madison Blackburn, Kendall Smith, Taylor Blackburn and Charlee Hoge. The Spotlight's sports pages are generally devoted to activities we are all familiar with: football, baseball, basketball, golf, to name a few.

But there's an activity that can be just as fun for young or older participants: barrel racing.

Barrel racing is a rodeo event where a horse and rider try to run a cloverleaf pattern around pre-set barrels in the fastest time.

At the amateur and youth level, both sexes can compete in barrel racing, but in the collegiate and professional ranks, it's usually a woman's rodeo event.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, six Columbia County youth barrel racers, and their families, traveled to Ceres, California, for the Sherry Cervi Youth Championships, representing Oregon.

Cervi is an American professional cowgirl who won four women's Professional Rodeo Association titles in barrel racing. In 1995, 1999, 2010 and 2013, she won the barrel racing title at the National Finals Rodeo.

Cervi was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum in 2018.

Charlee Hoge, of St. Helens, won fourth place in the 5D Junior Average, taking home a Classic Equine Messenger Bag and a leather and rope halter.

Taylor Blackburn of St. Helens captured first place in the 5D Senior Average, taking home a brand new Martin Saddlery Stingray Saddle and several other prizes.

St. Helens resident Katie Holm was just one placing out of the 5D Senior Average.

Molly Gray of Warren and Madison Blackburn of St. Helens also attended, but each had one run with knocked barrels that took them out of the average. Madison did win a check in the open warmup race on Friday, May 28.

Kendall Smith of St. Helens attended the California event as well.

The girls at the California competition ranged in age from 10 to 18.

You don't have to compete in a rodeo to participate in barrel racing.

"This is a sporting event that a lot of kids here take place in," said Stacy Blackburn, Taylor and Madison's mother and outspoken booster of barrel racing. "These are 4-H kids. A lot of these kids have been doing it for quite a few years now."

Blackburn added, "It's a timed event where you want to make sure to keep all of the barrels up, because if you knock one down, you're disqualified."

Youngsters in St. Helens, Scappoose and surrounding areas can practice barrel racing at Strobel's Arena in Scappoose. The arena is owned by Rosanne Strobel.

"A lot of the girls have been racing there for many years," Stacy Blackburn remarked. "The kids just haul in there when Rosanne doesn't have an event going on. You just pay to ride, per horse, per hour."

Another area where kids can experience horses is Brumbaugh's Arena on Dowd Road in St. Helens.

In addition to the Ceres Memorial Day event, youngsters in Columbia County have traveled throughout the state for competitions, with the BRN4D Finals scheduled for the end of July in Rochester, Washington.

"We haven't been to that arena yet for the finals, but that's where all these kids will be going in another few weeks," Blackburn said.

Blackburn is bullish on barrel racing.

"We really enjoy it," she said. "We feel like it's very family-friendly. It is a lot of hard work, especially when you're going to someplace like California. There are a lot of logistics to think of.

"The kids have a great time, and we really enjoy seeing the kids achieving their goals and their dreams."

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