MaKayla Hamilton will compete in barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping at OJC

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AZTEC – Aztec High School senior MaKayla Hamilton has signed a national letter of intent to compete in rodeo at Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colo.

Hamilton, who does barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping, will receive a scholarship at Otero after signing with the school on Thursday afternoon at Aztec High School. She said there has been mutual interest between OJC and herself since December 2015.

"In December, I emailed their coach a couple of videos, and she messaged me back and told me she'd really like to have me on her team," Hamilton said. "I really like their coach, and I think she's going to be good for me."

Linsay Sumpter, the rodeo coach at OJC, was the only college coach Hamilton had any communication with, and OJC was the only school Hamilton really pursued.

A rodeo participant since the age of 3, Hamilton recently competed in the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo in Pueblo, Colo. As an eighth-grader, she qualified for the National Junior High Rodeo in ribbon roping.

Hamilton said she didn't fare very well in Pueblo, and a recurring knee issue was part of the reason. While practicing for the National Junior High Rodeo in eighth grade, she banged her knee on a barrel so badly that she required stitches. She was originally diagnosed with a bruised knee, but after sixth months of lingering discomfort, doctors determined she had to have her posterior cruciate ligament replaced.

"I tried to play basketball my sophomore year, and I had a lot of pain and had to get a cortisone shot," Hamilton said. "Right now, I'm just working through it and making sure I stay in shape."

Hamilton said she has the most fun barrel racing, mostly due to the solid chemistry she's developed with her horse, Bucky. She's looking forward to improving in all three rodeo events she's going to OJC for, and she believes Sumpter will help bring out the best in her.

"She's told me when I get up there she's going to help me," Hamilton said of Sumpter. "She said she's going to help me get strength back in my knee and help get me to the top."

Hamilton will study agricultural business and said she eventually plans to transfer to a four-year school in Texas for an animal chiropractic degree.

OJC competes in the Central Rocky Mountain Region. The women’s team is ranked sixth nationally, while the men's program also is in the top 10. The spring season got underway on March 4 with a competition at Eastern Wyoming College.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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