In the genes: Jordan Tierney follows mom Robin (Bail) Tierney in running for Miss Rodeo America
for Tri-State Livestock News
Ranch and rodeo cowgirls are raised on long, strenuous horseback days. The hottest, windiest or wettest days of the year aren’t enough to stop them. Jordan Tierney, Miss Rodeo South Dakota (MRSD) 2019 grew up that way, developing horseback staying power alongside her parents and three siblings. They finished what they started each day, on the South Dakota prairie, no matter the time of day or the weather.
Such “training” ought to pay off when the cowgirl arrives in Las Vegas this week, to take her run at the Miss Rodeo America (MRA) crown.
Jordan’s trail to Vegas was broken by her mom, Robin Bail Tierney, who represented South Dakota to multiple MRA category wins plus 2nd Runner-Up in 1985, the first year the NFR was held in Vegas. Jordan is also preceded into MRA competition by several South Dakota cowgirls who’ve claimed MRA crowns – Pat Koren in 1965; Donna Keffeler in 1982; Leslie Patten in 1985 and Mackenzie Haley in 2011. She’d like to uphold their tradition!
Only a few mothers and daughters have shared the experience of MRA competition. “I never pushed my girls to do queen pageants, knowing the work and the inner passion it would require,” Robin says. “I knew it had to be their idea, and they would have to own it.”
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The MRA pageant lives and changes year to year – with a lot of changes since ’85! Robin commented, “One of the most positive changes I’ve seen as Jordan has made appearances this past year, and even preparing for the Miss Rodeo America pageant, is the wearing of ‘off the rack’ Wrangler shirts and Jeans. I’ve always thought we rodeo queens should be a walking billboard of what’s available in Western fashion, and supplied by our sponsors.”
Robin vividly recalls the moment the rodeo queen bug bit her. “I watched through the arena fence at the Buffalo Labor Day Rodeo as Janice Hett Clarkson was crowned queen on her dad’s great horse Senator. And then she talked to me later. I believe I was about 6, and the dream was born!”
Jordan is 25 and loves being part of the family ranch where she grew up. Her home state, and riding, roping and ranching have been an important part of her life; coupled with her love for the sport of rodeo and the people who follow that lifestyle. A 2017 graduate of Chadron State College, Jordan has a Business Administration degree with a Minor in Marketing. She competed in barrels, breakaway and goat tying on the Lady Eagles college rodeo team. Thankful for her rodeo opportunities and experiences, Jordan cherishes the many friendships she’s developed through the sport. Her MRA competition will widen those friendships and bring abundant new challenges and opportunities.
Asked what she is looking forward to most at Vegas, Jordan says, “Number 1 is just getting out there and competing! It has been a year of preparing, so I am ready to put what I have refined to the test. I am extremely excited for the fashion show, where I love the loud music, lights and energy! The interview portions of the competition excite me too, because there they really get to know me.”
The only thing Jordan dreads about the pageant is “it being over! We’ve been preparing hard for a year now, so in comparison it seems so short. I know the ten days will be over in a flash,” she laments.
The rodeo queen influence has always been in Jordan’s life because of Robin’s history, yet she says, “I didn’t get into it growing up. I first decided to run for MRSD in the winter of 2018.”
That was shortly after she’d graduated from college and taken an office manager’s job at the Physical Therapy Clinic in Hot Springs. “I enjoyed my job, but knew this would be an amazing opportunity that could open incredible doors. So, I made the leap of faith and started preparing for the contest, although I’d never even seen any of it until last year when I was there to watch as MRSD Lady-in-waiting,” Jordan explains.
Preparation is all-important for such grueling competition and Jordan admits, “it can get overwhelming, but I have learned to take it in stride while preparing. The study required is constant. MRA horsemanship is judged off American Quarter Horse Association requirements and I’ve never shown there, so it’s a whole new world to me. I’ve worked to maintain better body position when riding,” she smiles. “Mainly, though, I haven’t done anything too crazy, because in competition I want to be my true self, a South Dakota cowgirl who genuinely loves rodeo and the Western lifestyle I grew up in.”
Jordan is excited about “getting to know the judges!” She explains that a change in policy this year has reserved the identity of the judges, so while “in past years you were able to do a little investigative work beforehand”, that is not the case this year. It’s no problem for her though, as she comments, “I love meeting new people and having conversations, so that is what I think I will enjoy most while competing.”
It’s also one of Robin’s fondest memories of her year as MRSD. She says, “I still remember all my judges, and had opportunity over the years to see them again. And the other state queens, who we had not met prior to the pageant, were a great bunch of talented ladies – all winners, just to be there.”
Every successful cowgirl leans on her strong points. Jordan says hers are “my positive attitude and short memory. Competing in rodeo I’ve learned you can’t let whatever goes wrong in one event affect your next one – just give yourself a few minutes to think about it, then move on.” She says, “I think that will serve me well in Vegas because I know I won’t have a perfect Pageant, but how I chose to move on will set me apart. Having a positive attitude is what I learned from my parents – we have two choices in life, either be a glass half full or a glass half empty. I’m always a glass half full kind of girl!
Jordan’s all-around rodeo cowboy champion dad has a strong voice in his family, and offers his daughter a great vote of confidence saying, “Ever since Jordan was a little girl I’ve thought that the Miss Rodeo America pageant would fit her. She has always been very congenial and pleasant as a girl growing up on the ranch. She knows rodeo culture ‘cause she has been raised in it all her life; and has had success in what she has done in every part of her career. Now she’s competed in every phase of rodeo that is available to a girl to compete in!
This is the 65th year of MRA competition, an exacting, exhausting pageant – think military training in full beauty queen dress.
This year, contestants muster out for their initial roll call at 8 am December 1 and receive their official state banners. From that moment, their schedule is mind boggling. Most days they must appear in full show dress by 7 or 7:30 am. Nearly every meal is public. There are nine grueling rehearsals for the Fashion Show.
Loaded and locked for horsemanship competition they board a bus at 7:30 am December 2. Mounted Horsemanship competition goes on for 5 hours at the Casino Priefert Arena at South Point, and then at 3:30 pm the cowgirls start taking 45-minute written tests back at the Tropicana Conference Center. That’s immediately followed by contestant personality interviews before they rush to fashion show rehearsal #2.
Robin Tierney, “queen mother” of the 2019 MRSD encapsulates what is really important by saying, “Being a rodeo queen from the great state of South Dakota is our strongest point, in itself. We are rodeo and western lifestyle!”
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