Good lineage is a plus in the world of rodeo and 17-year-old NaLynn Cline of Bernalillo has that. Her family tree for instance includes cousin Taos Muncy, world saddle bronc riding champ from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 2011.
A set of skills also comes in handy. Cline herself proved she has that by finishing second in barrel racing (called the "Reserve National Champion") at the National High School Rodeo Finals in 2010 and winning All-Around Rookie Cowgirl honors that same year.
Leia Pluemer of Bosque Farms makes a tight turn around a barrel Saturday night during the New Mexico High School Finals Rodeo.
But there's a third critical component and Cline didn't have it a year ago: Her horse of choice.
During the New Mexico state rodeo finals in 2011, held in Clovis, Cline finished a run with her primary horse only to leave the arena noticing that her ride was visibly shaking.
"She fell at a rodeo in Apache Junction (in Feb. '11). She slipped, but we actually didn't know she hurt herself because she has such a big heart and kept running for me," Cline recalled. "Last year, after state finals, I had won state but she came out shaking. I knew something was wrong. We finished state and took her to the vet."
Justin Hamilton of Flora Vista rides during the saddle bronc competition Saturday night during the New Mexico High School Finals Rodeo Saturday evening at the Curry County Events Center.
On a backup horse at nationals, Cline's performance in the barrel racing slipped. She did qualify for the short-go, the culminating event, but finished 14th overall.
On Saturday night in Clovis, at the 2012 New Mexico High School Rodeo Association Finals short-go, Cline and her main horse did just fine. The first contestant to go at the Curry County Special Events Center, Cline turned in a time of 17.446 to win the short go.
"Well, it was the fastest time of the week, so I was confident but I was still unsure because there were a lot of great horses in it tonight," Cline said. "She's back and healthy, so we're ready to go to Rock Springs (Wyo.) and hopefully do well."
As for the state finals itself, the short-go results didn't have a major effect on the overall standings of the barrel racing. Entering the Saturday night finale, Leia Pluemer of Bosque Farms had a healthy lead in that event – a margin that was basically insurmountable.
The scores heading into the final go-around of the season were accumulated from performances in prior rodeos heading into the state finals. That and the results from runs earlier this weekend in Clovis led to a big advantage for Pluemer.
"I would have had to hit a barrel all three gos," estimated Pluemer, 17, on what it would have taken for her to relinquish her lead.
Now Pluemer and her fellow qualifiers – the top four in each event – turn their attention to Rock Springs and the National High School Finals Rodeo July 15-21.
"It's a lot of fun. I know my team, but not many of the others," Pluemer said. "When we get to nationals, at that level, we compete as a team."