ND high school rodeo athletes selected for Inaugural Priefert Junior Elite Team
Preserving the future of rodeo, helping young athletes become efficient leaders, and giving back to the rodeo community are the main goals for the inaugural 2019 Priefert Junior Elite Team.
North Dakota girls Cashae McGee of Bowman and Austyn Schafer of Wilton have managed to balance school, rodeo, extra-curricular activities, and now, a position on the team. They attended the first-ever Jr. Elite Roundup in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, April 4-6, which included seminars, clinics, a tour of the Priefert manufacturing facility, a professional photo shoot and video interview, and discussions with professional rodeo competitors.
Of the 250 that applied, 87 students from ages 6 to 17 were selected to take part in the team. In addition to the Roundup, they participate in monthly conference calls and represent Priefert throughout their time as a team member.
Cashae McGee is a senior in high school, and competes in barrel racing, goat tying, and breakaway. She lives south of Rhame on her family’s ranch where they raise Red Angus cattle. She has a string of achievements, both in and out of the arena, under her belt. In her North Dakota Junior High Rodeo Division career she earned the 2014 All-Around Cowgirl Champion title and 2015 NDJHRD State Champion Barrel Racing and Goat Tying titles. She also qualified to compete at the National Junior High Finals for Team North Dakota. She qualified for the North Dakota state high school finals from 2016 – 2018 in all three of her events, earning State Champion Goat Tier in 2017 and Reserve State Champion Barrel Racer in 2018. Those wins earned her two more trips to the National High School Rodeo Finals. One extra special achievement she’s had is overcoming a torn ACL her junior year, only a few months before the beginning of the spring rodeo season. She was able to commit herself to physical therapy and mental progress, and still managed to be ready for the first spring rodeo in Fargo.
These are just a few of the reasons that McGee was selected as a team member on the Priefert team. She explained that she learned different ways to improve her mental and physical game by attending the Roundup.
“They taught us about social media and how we should be presenting ourselves, and how we shouldn’t comment any negative things. Some of the life lessons we heard from the competitors was really good to take in because we learned different ways to approach different experiences, and different ways to practice,” she said. “It’ll definitely help me out because being in contact with different people, and learning how to speak to people is really great for leadership roles.”
Austyn Schafer is a high school freshman, and has only been competing in rodeo since her 6th grade year. Even in that short time, she’s found an abundance of success since then, including an all-around pole bending champion title at the National Little Britches Rodeo in 2018. She competes as a barrel racer, pole bender, and goat tier, and has recently started roping. She said her experience at the Roundup was educational and helpful.
“I was so happy to be around such great people, and I really enjoyed meeting all the team members and learning about what to do and not to do on social media, and as an endorsee. They talked about building your own personal brand, and being on this team will help me build mine. It’s great exposure and it will help me open up to everybody.” In addition to what she learned, Schafer was given an award for her friendly, helpful, and outgoing nature, based on nominations from her peers.
Although she still has the majority of her high school career ahead of her, this athlete already has plans to continue rodeo in college while studying to be an equine veterinarian. She knows her experiences now are helping her reach her goals in the future.
The team members were able to listen to guest speakers like Speed Williams, Alissa Kelly, and Bobby Mote, and attend clinics specialized to their events. They were able to speak with some of Priefert’s professional rodeo endorsees and ask them questions on a panel. They went through leadership skills and character building training.
Courtney Dyer is a program director for the Jr. Elite Team, and the Director of Marketing for Priefert. She explained more about why the team was created and why McGee and Schafer were chosen.
“Our company president, Eddie Priefert, has four boys that are involved in junior rodeo. That’s a passion for him, and last year in a meeting he said we needed to do something to give back to the junior rodeo students. They’re the ones that are going to be our customers, employees, and they’re definitely going to be working with us on endorsements and sponsorships. Our goal with the program is to help develop future leaders for the world of rodeo. Applications went out in December and were due back in January. We had a five-person committee review the applications, and both Austyn and Cashae were standouts.”
Dyer said the North Dakota athletes had outstanding essays as part of their application, as well as great well-rounded resumes and extracurricular activities. McGee is the North Dakota High School Rodeo Secretary, Bowman Rodeo Club President, and is involved in the National Honor Society, FFA, choir, and basketball. Schafer is on her school’s student council, basketball program, FFA, and the youth group at her church.
“Time management was probably a skill they already had. If we were going to add additional responsibilities for the team, we wanted to make sure the applicants we selected were able to do that. Both of them talked about what they hoped to get out of the program, and what they were looking for very much aligned with our goals of leadership training and character building,” Dyer said.
The alignment is clear when McGee talks about giving back to the rodeo community in her own way. She’ll be continuing her rodeo career at Black Hills State University in the fall, where she’ll compete in barrel racing, goat tying, and breakaway for the rodeo team. She’s planning on majoring in communications with a minor in marketing, and then going into sports psychology.
“Since tearing my ACL, I learned that your mental game is so important. I talked to a sports psychologist when it happened, and now I just want a way to give back to the rodeo world and other kids that are struggling.”
Both young ladies have worked hard in school and rodeo, and have exhibited well-rounded experiences in their journey to being on the Priefert team, and Priefert is giving back to students by helping them “understand that it’s not just about what the clock says in the arena.” Dyer mentioned that Priefert wants to promote building confidence and their skills to be successful adults both in and out of the arena. “I’m very passionate, and our company is passionate about this industry, so we want to make sure we preserve and protect it for the future generations and I feel like students that are in this program now are going to be the ones at the forefront of that in the future,” Dyer said.
Both young ladies have worked hard to be where they are today, and continue to fulfill their goals. Participating on the team will give them leadership and team building skills, and a foot in the door for future opportunities.
McGee stated that she enjoys working with Priefert because they’re working just as hard as the student athletes are. “It’s pretty awesome to be a part of the team because they’ve put so much work into it. It just makes me happy that they’re supporting us, and the least we can do is support them, too. Just being a part of Priefert is a great experience.”