National Finals Rodeo Rookie Kassidy Dennison Making Run at Championship

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Cowgirl indeed. Kassidy Dennison, Navajo, had a remarkable third round for a first-time qualifier at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) on Saturday night. She was the first participant to break the 14-second mark with 13.94 seconds, and after three rounds was the NFR aggregate standings leader with a time of 42.84.

"I am so excited I can hardly speak. I can't hardly believe it. It is so exciting having so many of my family here with me to share this victory,” Dennison told WPRA.com. “As I was making my victory lap, you could see the Navajo nation flag up there flying. It's something I've dreamed of and it's awesome to represent my people."?

Dennison did not place in the first round of competition which began on December 4, but she came in second in round two, with a time of 14.31, winning $15,018.03. "The ground was a bit shifty those first runs, but that's our job as riders to make those adjustments with the conditions we have," she said. "I could tell [the horse] was feeling very confident during the warm-up. I knew I just needed to ride him confidently and push him a bit through those turns where he might think of safety-ing up some." ?Her third round win brought in $19,002.40.

These wins move Dennison’s 2014 earnings from $92,051 to $126,071. Dennison moved up in world standings (she was ranked 10th). After four rounds at the WNFR, she now trails just three other riders, Lisa Lockhart, Fallon Taylor and Kaley Bass, and is projected to be ranked fourth in the world.

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With just six rounds to go, the competition is heating up. On Saturday, Dennison said she was taking her first WNFR appearance in stride. "It has been outstanding. My horse has been working great so far, and I'm looking forward to the next seven rounds. I feel very confident in [my horse]. I feel like I better be on my game because he is going to be."

Round five in the competition starts today.