ARLEE — It was quite the celebration Monday, October 30, 2023, in Arlee as eighth grade student Graysen O'Connor returned from making history.
O'Connor, along with her horse Fancy, became the first to win both the Junior and Ladies barrel racing championships in the 47-year history of the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“It was really cool… getting to go down and run there and getting to be a part of it," O’Connor said when reflecting on her time in Las Vegas.
The town welcomed O'Connor back with a parade to celebrate an accomplishment she's been working her whole life to achieve.
“She started riding at one,” said Graysen’s mother Ruby O’Connor. “When I was riding down at her Aunt Judy’s place, riding colts — and I was barrel racing as well — and she just kind of got hooked from there.”
At the age of three, O'Connor started barrel racing and just a decade later, she's a champion.
But it was a journey to get there as she won many Junior NRA Championships to qualify for Las Vegas.
O’Connor’s mother — who has been there since the beginning of Graysen’s rodeo journey and enjoyed watching her daughter win two championships.
“Oh my gosh, emotional, overwhelming just so proud that she’s worked so hard every day at this and I’m just… we’re all just very proud of her.”
O’Connor will continue to compete in barrel racing and plans to attend the Indian National Finals Rodeo again next year.