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Avari Dorrance honored with rodeo queen crown

South Dakota High School Rodeo Association

Avari Dorrance of Custer is the new high school rodeo queen in South Dakota. She officially received the crown on Friday in Ft. Pierre to kick off the grand entry ceremony.

For Dorrance, she’s honored to be the queen for 2023.

“I’m just grateful to have the opportunity,” Dorrance said. “I rode in on my big thoroughbred Bruno and I waved to the crowd as I got crowned Miss High School Rodeo Queen.”

Most rodeo queens will tell you, it’s a privilege to represent the sport in that role. Dorrance’s stance is similar.

“Being a rodeo queen, and just being the ambassador of the sport of rodeo, because being a rodeo athlete, it is a hard job, and we as rodeo queens just want to support the sport of rodeo as best we can, and just support the athletes, because they truly are amazing with their performance,” she exclaimed.

Toni Hintz, the 2022 rodeo queen, was present, per tradition, for Friday’s ceremony as well.

Avari Dorrence (left) and Toni Hintz (right)
South Dakota High School Rodeo Association
Avari Dorrance (left) and Toni Hintz (right)

This year’s queen competition was a little different than previous years. Initially there were three competitors, but two of them dropped out. Despite being the lone competitor, it’s still crucial that she went through the same process to ensure she was ready to take over the title.

“I still had to go through all of the competition to being rodeo queen, but I was the only competitor,” Dorrance explained. “Being the ambassador for the high school rodeo queen is a great honor. I do love to do it, I just love the sport of rodeo. So, just to be able to wear the crown, and wear these amazing chaps that were donated by the previous queen [Toni Hintz], it is a great honor for me.”

Dorrance just completed her sophomore year at Custer high school this spring where she’s a member of the honor roll and FFA.

“I wasn’t born into the sport of rodeo, as many other athletes are. I grew up in Custer, South Dakota and I lived in town, and all I wanted to do since I was little was compete in this amazing sport,” Dorrance told. “When I moved out of town, I bought my first pony, and I just went to all the play days, and I finally got into high school rodeo when I was a freshman.”

Nate Wek
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

She credits her family for assisting her with getting into rodeo.

“My parents weren’t rodeo competitors themselves – they did more of the ranch work – but my grandma, and her sisters were all rodeo competitors, and they all loved the sport,” she explained. “Being able to be in a family where rodeo is the main aspect, it is just a great feeling.”

As far as the competition goes, Dorrance competes in Breakaway Roping, Goat Tying, and Barrel Racing. She qualified for the state finals last year and this year in Goat Tying.

“My favorite sport is the goat tying. I say it’s a very daredevil sport, because you have to get on a horse, at full speed, get off, and then you have to tie a goat,” she explained.

Dorrance admits, high school rodeo in South Dakota isn’t about the championships – it’s about people coming together to support each other with love for each other and the sport.

“Getting to go into the arena and do the best you can, it’s a great feeling and whether or not you do well, people still clap because they know you made it to the state finals and it is a big deal,” she said. “Rodeo to me just means I get to compete on my favorite horse. You need to have a trust in your horse, to just go at the high speeds that we are, and the relationship between a competitor and their horse is just unmatched. We just have to put full trust in God and the horse and just try to do the best we can to make a good run.”

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.