Australian spirit burning brightly
GUNALDA brother and sister Jayden and Tamika Anderson are back home from a whirlwind adventure in America, where they were part of a five-member Australian team competing in the NBHA World Youth Championships.
The National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) event was held in Jackson, Mississippi, and the pair touched back down in Australia on August 6.
Joining Tamika and Jayden on the Australian youth team were Chelsea Bartlett, Montana Harth and Jordan Moore.
Tamika competed in America for the second time, but the trip was her first in the youth division. The year before, she competed in the adult category.
Jayden, meanwhile, made his debut in the event and couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to test his skills on the world stage.
Tamika surpassed even her own expectations at the competition, finishing fourth in the Fourth Division to qualify for the final.
But the St Patrick’s College student wasn’t content to just make the final. Instead, Tamika conjured up some magic to claim seventh place.
“I’m so happy with how I went,” she said.
“Just making the final was huge and I didn’t expect to go as well as I did.”
Tamika had a simple goal heading into competition – to achieve a clean run. It’s the holy grail of barrel racing.
“I really wanted a clean run and was just so relieved I was able to do that,” she said.
In fact, the Gunalda talent was able to pull off three clean runs, drawing waves of support from the Australian team and supporters in the stadium.
“The Australian team was full of spirit and we were probably the loudest,” Tamika said.
“It was a great feeling to be competing and seeing the Australian flag waving.”
While Tamika was riding up a storm for the green and gold, brother Jayden enjoyed his first outing against the world’s best barrel racing talent.
“It was a good experience and I’m glad I got the opportunity,” he said.
“It was my first time and I was really nervous for my first run but once that was out of the way I was able to settle down.”
Jayden is now brimming with excitement at the possibility of a return trip next year.
“I really hope I get the chance to go again because I will know what to expect and hopefully do better,” he said.
Tamika and Jayden flew out to America on July 12 with their parents and en route to Jackson, stopped in Darlington, South Carolina, to visit Mitch and Carolyn Shoemake.
Mitch and Carolyn hosted the Anderson family during their first trip to America to compete in 2009.
A great bond was forged between both families and the Andersons hosted Mitch and Carolyn in return earlier this year, during which time a special barrel racing school was conducted in Gunalda.
“It was great to see Mitch and Carolyn again,” Tamika said. “They are like extended family now.”
The Anderson family stayed in South Carolina for two weeks, during which time Tamika and Jayden had the opportunity to select a horse to compete on in Jackson.
From Darlington, the Gunalda family drove 18 hours to reach Jackson for the NBHA event – a trip that normally takes 12 hours.
“We had two flat tyres and it was a bit of an effort to get there,” proud mum Kerri said.
“But it was all part of the adventure and we have so many great memories of our time over there.”
TAMIKA said her father had a novel way to stay cool during the scorching heat, sometimes peaking in the low 40s.
“He would stick his hand into a bucket of ice and rub it all over his face,” she said. “It was just so hot.”
In Jackson, the entire Australian team stayed in a motel across the road from the venue where the competition was held.
Kerri said the standard of the facilities was just incredible.
“It is such a big sport over in America and the venues were amazing,” she said. “Even the warm-up arena would rival the best stadiums in Australia.”
With the dust settled on yet another big trip to America, Tamika and Jayden have both set about continuing their quest to constantly improve with the hope of doing it all again next year.
The Anderson family thanked the Gympie public and businesses for the support of their fundraising efforts.
In particular, Bullseye clothing, Four Mile Sandstone and Wiva Farms were thanked for realising the dreams of two young and talented barrel riders.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without the support we received, so we’re very appreciative,” Kerri said.
Tamika and Jayden, now hitting the books back at school, are a reminder hard work breeds success.