Sisters compete in Oklahoma rodeo

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
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Walk through the campgrounds and parking lots at the International Finals Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla. and you’ll see license plates from around the nation: Georgia, Texas, Wyoming, North Carolina, even as far away as Washington. The 925 contestants at this year’s IFYR travel a long ways to compete in Shawnee.

But Grace and Lily Bertelsen win the award for traveling the farthest to compete for their second year at the IFYR.

The sisters live in Waimea — half a planet away, but the girls love rodeo and love the IFYR, so they’re back.

This isn’t the first time the girls have traveled to the mainland to compete in rodeo. Both competed at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in New Mexico, and both have competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo last year and will this year.

But horses are required for their events, barrel racing and breakaway roping, and getting horses to the mainland from Hawaii is a problem.

In Gallup, the Bertelsens became friends with the Tim and Vickie Segelke family of Snyder, Colo., who also have four daughters and a son who rodeo. So when the girls looked to borrow horses for their rodeo events, the Segelkes graciously let Grace and Lily use theirs.

Just this year, the Bertelsens loaded three of their mounts on an airplane and had them flown to California, where they were picked up by the girls’ father, Jeff. Jeff lives in Mt. Vernon, Wash., so they hauled the horses to his place for three weeks to acclimate. Then, the girls and their dad took off for the 39 hour trip from Washington to the IFYR.

Grace and Lily love the IFYR.

“I like this rodeo because it’s big,” Grace said. “I like all the noise when you compete. I like the atmosphere, and I like meeting new people. There are a lot of people whose arms are open and they’re welcoming. Everybody’s really nice here.”

But the heat and humidity have not been so easy to get used to.

“It’s cool where we live,” Grace said, of their higher elevation on the Big Island. “We don’t have humidity.” Lily doesn’t like the Oklahoma summer weather, either. “I take three showers a day. We don’t like it.”

People are sometimes surprised when they hear that the cowgirls are from Hawaii. Last year, Grade said, “sometimes we’d be embarrassed because we were from Hawaii, and we’d say we were from Colorado.”

Their good friend, Hayden Segelke, would say, “No, you have to tell them where you’re from because we get so much attention.” “We have fun with it. We’ve learned to enjoy it a little bit more.”

Grace and Lily have become such good friends of the Segelke family, whose two older daughters, Hayden and Paxton, are also competing at the IFYR, that they spend a month each summer with the family. “It’s so much fun because of the girls,” Lily said, referring to the three Segelke daughters: Hayden, 18; Paxton, 17; and Quincy, 14. “We love the Segelkes,” Lily said.

On the final day of the IFYR, the girls and their dad will pack up and head to Gillette for the National High School Finals Rodeo. Their trip to Shawnee took 39 hours, so “seventeen hours (of travel) to Gillette is no big deal,” Grace said.

Both girls will compete at the National High School Finlals in the barrels; Lily will also breakaway rope.

Their mother, Amy, with whom the girls live in Waimea, usually comes with them to the mainland, but she stayed home for this trip. This trip, “she said she’d stay home and work so she could pay for everything,” Grace said.

For more information on the IFYR, visit

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