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Piper Cordes claims national title in barrel racing


Piper Cordes of Wall, South Dakota is the high school world champion in barrel racing for 2023. She claimed the title this past week at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Gillette, Wyoming.

Cordes is the first South Dakotan to win a national championship at the high school level since Cash Wilson, also of Wall, won it in 2018.

“It means everything. I mean, this has been a dream of mine since I was in sixth grade, and I was at the junior high finals and just seeing all those pictures of those [kids] on the Cinch trailer, and I just wanted that to be me one day, said Piper Cordes. “So, this is just, it's a really big accomplishment for me, and I'm just super blessed that the opportunity to be able to do it.”

Last year, Cordes finished 13th at nationals. After winning another state championship in mid-June at the Stanley County Fairgrounds in Ft. Pierre, she had her sights set on doing something special.

“After my second run, when I ran that 16.725, that was probably the highlight of my whole trip down. That run in that time meant so much to me, and I didn’t really think about how I was winning the average by a second,” Cordes explained. “I don’t really want to think about that. I didn’t want that to really get in my head and mess me up, but definitely after winning the first two rounds, I was like, I just have to go into the short go, thinking positive and just make another run – like I usually do.”

Going into the Short Go round, Cordes drew 20th meaning she would be the last to go. Right before it was her time to go, the public address announcer made mention that if she ran an 18:02 or quicker, she would win.

“When I was coming home from the Short Go run, I looked up at the screen and I saw that 17 and I could just hear the crowd and my heart kind of did a little jump, I guess,” Cordes explained. “I didn’t really think about winning until after I actually won, and it was just a great moment. I walked out of the arena and everyone was clapping and giving me high-fives, and I just was really happy in the moment. And it was just something that I’m never going to forget.

Cordes also mentioned getting to spend the moment with her horse Fiestas, who also dealt with his own adversity early on in the event.

“I went to exercise on him Thursday morning and he was cough, and he usually does not do that. And so, we were kind of freaking out after that and we were trying to nebulize him and get him on antibiotics,” Cordes told. “But then we rode him that night and then the next morning, and he didn’t cough once, and he was feeling good. I’ve been getting a lot of attention and congratulations and stuff, but it’s not just me who won the world title. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him, and I think he really deserves it.”

Along with being the first South Dakotan to win a national title since 2018, Piper Cordes is the first South Dakotan to win at world’s in barrel racing since 1968 – Maxine McCullough. She credits how Wall has had a lot of recent success in multiple sports, not just rodeo.

“We had a football state championship, our girls got second at state in basketball. I think it comes to show that no matter what the size is, anything can happen,” said Cordes. “It means a lot to me to be from [Wall] and to do so well, and so, I hope that people can see that and realize that just because you’re from a small town, doesn’t mean that you can’t make things happen.”


South Dakota as a whole finished 3rd as a team at the national finals rodeo event, only behind Texas and Utah. Kashton Ford (|Bareback Riding) of Sturgis and Eastan West (Saddle Bronc) of New Underwood both finished 2nd in their events, meaning they took home the title of reserve national champions.

“With the rodeo state that we are, I’m just so proud of how everyone else performed,” Cordes stated. “Going into Short Go, we had three people leading the average, and so, I just thought that was awesome. I just thought everyone from South Dakota was there to do their best to just strive. I think that’s what rodeo is all about, and I was really happy with how everything worked out and I thought we did so good.”

Piper Cordes will begin her senior year of high school in Wall in just a few weeks. As a multi-sport athlete, she begins volleyball practice on August 10th. When it comes next year being her senior season of high school rodeo as well, when the time comes, she plans to take it one ride at a time and enjoy every moment.

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.