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story.lead_photo.caption Submitted photoBella Fulks competes in a pole bending event. Fulks, 12, qualified for the National Junior High School Rodeo Association Finals.

A Moniteau County youth is set for a trip to a national rodeo competition next month, after taking home top honors among Missouri junior high-schoolers earlier this month.

Bella Fulks, daughter of Lance and Morgan Fulks, qualified for the National Junior High School Rodeo Association Finals in pole bending. On her path to the national finals, Fulks finished in first place in her first round of pole bending, and second in round two, at the Missouri Junior High School State Finals May 14-16 in Ashland. Fulks also won the average, and ended up winning the year end race in pole bending.

Fulks will take on her next challenge at nationals, set to be held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa starting June 20.

Fulks, age 12, will be a seventh-grader at Latham Elementary School next fall. Fulks said she has been competing in rodeos for about six years now, which she decided to take up because of her father, Lance, a former rodeo participant himself. Now, Fulks said, it is like a family tradition.

When it comes to competing, Fulks said she enjoys the friendships she has made and the places she has gotten to travel to.

“Winning is pretty great, also,” Fulks said.

Fulks also competes in barrel racing and goat tying events, but she said her favorite one is pole bending.

Fulks said competing at the Missouri State Finals was exciting. She entered the competition with a high ranking, and had to battle her nerves en route to her nationals-qualifying finish.

“I was in second place in the standings before finals started,” Fulks said. “I knew I would have to have really good runs in order to make it to Nationals. On the first night, I was a little bit nervous but just tried to stay calm and make a clean run.”

Fulks said she was surprised to find out that she had qualified for Nationals in pole bending. Making it to Nationals was a goal, she said, and she did it in just her first year competing in Junior High Rodeo.

“I was very excited and surprised,” Fulks said. “I didn’t really realize I had won the year end and made it to Nationals until my mom told me after my run. Making it to Nationals has been a goal of mine, and to do so in my first year competing in Junior High Rodeo is really cool.”

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