Claye Ann Sullivan was named the Region IX Whatakid of the Month. The Anderson-Shiro High School senior and has been a Texas High School Rodeo Association member for four years. She competes in breakaway roping and pole bending.
Throughout her involvement in THSRA, Claye said she “has learned how to be responsible, become a better leader, overcome struggles and to accept defeat when you don’t always win.” She has carried the leadership skills she has learned into office, as she served as the Region IX student president her junior year and is currently serving as the student president this year. Some of her favorite takeaways from the organization include the competition, the relationships and memories she has made, and the rodeo family she has gained.
“Rodeo family are there for you in or outside of the arena,” Claye said. “If it’s a pep talk to encourage you before your event and give you pointers, or to be there afterwards with a congrats or a kind word if it didn’t go as planned. I’ve learned that there are ups and downs, not only in the arena, but in life as well.”
She explained how rodeo is more than just a sport. “It is also about the commitment you make, the responsibilities you have to take care of your horses, and the practice hours you put in.”
She spends quite a bit of time with her horses Dolly, Gus, and Peewee. Dolly, although not quite living up to her name as a “Doll” according to Claye, is a pole horse, while Gus and Peewee are both breakaway horses. Gus is 24 years old this year, and though he has had many highs in his career, including eight THSRA state competitions and two National High School Finals competitions, Claye said Gus will officially be retiring this year. “My favorite memory with Gus is when I caught my first calf on him. It was a great feeling knowing we were finally clicking,” she said.
Outside of rodeo, Claye is a varsity volleyball player, student council member, and 4-H member. She is also a National Honor Society member, in the top 10% of her class and has been awarded Academic All State, TGCA Academic All-State List for volleyball.
Throughout all of her endeavors, in and out of the arena, Claye said she likes to stick to two key mottos. ‘Always be humble and kind’ and ‘A life spent helping others is a life filled with purpose’ because “when you follow this, you will always be a winner in everything you do,” Claye said.
With young wisdom often comes a wise source of inspiration. Claye said she has a few people she looks up to, one of which is Terry Winfrey who helped Claye start roping. “All of the hours and the days spent in the roping arena with him have really helped me get to where I am today,” Claye said. “He always taught me that if I fail, keeping trying and pick my head up because there’s always next time.”
Additionally, Claye said she looks up to her parents, and is forever appreciative of the support they have shown her and their continuous belief in her and her capabilities. “I know that I can always rely on them to take me to any rodeo and be there,” Claye said. “Even when I didn’t have the best day.”
In the future, Claye said she plans to attend Sam Houston State University and major in Ag business, so she can become an agricultural sales representative. In the meantime, Claye said she is honored to be selected as the Whatakid of the Month for Region IX.