OGDEN -- A local cowgirl is helping to put Ogden on the map as a place where top barrel racers live.
Jody Stark Sheffield, 28, of Ogden, won the barrel racing all-around title at the Pendleton Roundup, recognized as one of the oldest and most-prestigious rodeos in the world.
She won the title on the 100th anniversary of the Pendleton, Ore., event and now is the subject of a host of national newspaper and magazine articles as well as radio talk shows.
"I seem to be pretty popular," Sheffield said of all the publicity she's getting these days.
She's featured in a soon-to-be released issue of the international Rodeo News. This publication is a who's who of rodeo, as it covers various cowboy and cowgirl associations.
She's also in a story in the publication for the Women's Professional Rodeo Association.
"I knew because it was Pendleton, there would be some stories," Sheffield said. "It's a big rodeo to win."
She believes she is the first cowgirl from Utah to win the all-around average for the rodeo there.
And it was the first time that was the charm for this top money winner who brought home just more than $11,000 for her and her horse's 57.42 seconds' worth of work Sept. 17-18.
It was the first time either Sheffield or her registered quarter horse, 6-year-old Skip the Finances, had competed at the event. Their first go-round took 29.10 seconds; the championship round took 28.32 seconds.
"A friend said, 'Do you want to enter? It's the 100-year anniversary. We have to go,' " Sheffield remembers.
She said she'd had a good feeling about her chances from the beginning, even though there were 120 other contestants.
Her horse, known casually as Zoey, prefers long barrel-racing patterns. In Pendleton, the pattern is traditionally set up as one of the largest.
"It's a 28-second pattern," Sheffield said. "It's across the infield of the track."
Sheffield said she also believed her horse would perform well because Zoey tends to remember barrel-racing patterns once she has run them.
"The first time, she struggled just a little bit going such a long ways," the rider said. "The next time, she was fully prepared for it."
The quick improvement was similar to the horse's overall performance this year.
"She's just gotten better and better and has really excelled," Sheffield said of her horse. "She loves to run. She loves her job."
Now, with the win, the pair will be arriving in style at all rodeos in the future.
Sheffield used her winnings for a down payment on a 2007 Dodge 1-ton diesel truck.
The win also gives the pair a berth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Houston next March.
"Houston only takes the Top 50 in the world from the previous year," Sheffield said, noting that the rodeo pays its winners significant prize money. "Ultimately, I would like to go to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo), and this could set me up well for next year."
Sheffield began to barrel race in the Women's Professional Rodeo Association in 2004. Among her accomplishments are winning the top $4,000 prize at the professional rodeo in Salina in August.
Sheffield also is known in Top of Utah circles as a former top rodeo queen. She was crowned Miss Rodeo Ogden in 2006 and Miss Wilderness Circuit in 2004.
But she said there is a big difference between the financial draw to barrel racing as opposed to being a queen.
"I used to have to pay to be a queen," she said. "Now, I get paid well to barrel race."