SDSU graduate named Miss Rodeo USA

Holly Leske

Standing in the arena of the 42nd International Rodeo Association finals in Oklahoma City along

with the seven other contestants, Trisha Smeenk, a 24-year-old recent SDSU graduate, was just grateful for the experience she had gained from competing in the Miss Rodeo USA 2012 pageant.

Imagine her surprise when she was called forth and crowned the winner of the 2012 pageant on Jan. 15, also taking home the Horsemanship and Speech Awards.

Smeenk knew she loved pageants and horse riding from an early age, and was quick to find a way to mix the two. A self-proclaimed rodeo girl who “grew up on the back of a horse,” Trisha competed in her first rodeo-themed pageant at the age of 10 where she took home the winning title in Aladdin Wyo., a town just a few miles west of the South Dakota-Wyoming border.

“It’s fun to meet other people that share the same kind of passion for rodeo like I do,” Smeenk said.

Smeenk’s passion for the sport only took off from there. From competing in 4-H, to Little Britches Rodeo Association, to High School Rodeo, Smeenk found her way to SDSU and joined the SDSU Equestrian Team as a western rider.

Various successes in the sport included taking second in novice western horsemanship during an IHSA competition, adding another section title in novice horsemanship at Minnesota Crookston, as well as placing third in intermediate horsemanship at the IHSA Nationals in Burbank, Calif., among others.

Smeenk’s accomplishments have also inspired others around her, especially her sister, sophomore SDSU student and member of the equestrian team, Jenna Smeenk. Growing up, Jenna Smeenk recalls her older sister as one of her biggest role models, which is part of the reason she enrolled at SDSU and joined the equestrian team.

“She’s been a great big sister and it’s been great following in her footsteps,” said Jenna Smeenk.

Trisha Smeenk’s success in rodeo translated to pageantry as well, and after Smeenk won Miss Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo she decided to try for the next step, Miss Rodeo USA.

“It’s definitely been a lifelong dream for me,” said Smeenk. “I couldn’t imagine a better job.”

Smeenk took off to Oklahoma City to compete in the week-long pageant which featured interviews each day by a panel of three judges and two performed speeches – one on her hometown state and one on her chosen topic – Smeenk took on the topic of life-long learning. The seven contestants also competed in a series of modeling categories and four performances in international rodeo events.

Although Smeenk has found success in pageantry, rodeo is a still a core part of her life.

“Rodeo has always been my number-one sport,” said Smeenk. “My real passion lies with rodeo, this is just a way to stay involved with the sport I love.”

While Smeenk enjoyed bonding with the other contestants over a shared love of rodeo, she finds her new duties as Miss Rodeo the most exciting thing to come.

“I am most excited about getting to travel, and getting to meet people,” said Smeenk. “It’s my dream job.”

Smeenk, who recently graduated with a broadcast journalism degree, is planning on pursuing her second semester of her master’s degree in counseling and human resource development at SDSU once her duties as Miss Rodeo are complete. Smeenk is currently booked under her new title in Oklahoma, and will soon tour Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and the Texas IGRA. Until she begins her tours, Smeenk serves as a staff sergeant for the South Dakota Air National Guard in the Public Affairs office.