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2001/04/12

Lauren Middleton Claims 2000 Junior Cutting Reserve World Champion By all accounts, 14-year-old Lauren Middleton, of Summit, Mississippi, may have had her best year yet in youth cutting competition. She finished the 2000 point year as the Junior Youth Reserve World Champion. A remarkable accomplishment she achieved riding her own horse, RUSTY O DOC. For Middleton, there were several other accomplishments that came with hauling to 64 shows for the World Championship. "This was a wonderful experience for me," she explained. "This year I improved my showmanship, I grew as a person, and I made new friends in the process. A lot of positive things can come out of a year on the road." The first show was on the New Year's weekend and Middleton came away strong with 15 points. She followed that with seven more shows in the month of January and rarely ever slowed her pace throughout the year. "All the going was hard," remembered Middleton, "but it was fun because a lot of people my age were hauling also. They encouraged me and I helped and encouraged them." In her corner the most was Middleton's friend, Courtney Sokol. The two went to show after show together. "Courtney was there to cheer for me when things did not go so well. We supported each other through cutting bad cows in all types of pens and in all types of situations." Middleton experienced her fair share of highs and lows on the road. During July her horse became ill and her confidence began to slip. With the help of family and close friends she was able to relieve some of the pressure she had put on herself to win and instead focus on developing her showmanship. She also recalls that period during the summer being her favorite time of the year. "It was kind of a whole string of trips in July. I was on the road almost the whole month." RUSTY O DOC came through, too. The pair picked up ten points in Batesville, Mississippi that month and 19 more during August. Shortly after the 2000 John Roberts and Cole McGee Scholarship Cutting during the NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular, however, Middleton lost her lead and never regained it. With true sportsmanlike conduct, she remains a cheerful ambassador for youth cutting. "Everyone should haul at least once," offered Middleton. "Some might think it is hard. For me, it was really, really hard. Things don't come as easily as you hope. but, it helps you get experience, and you learn to show better. "I don"t know what other people think of to do on the weekends!"

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