story by Mackie Ford I caught up with Haze Kuykendall, an Oklahoma Junior High School Rodeo Association member and son of Justin and Mandie Kuykendall, […]
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Meet the Member Keaton Kellum
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Keaton Kellum is attacking his final OKJHSRA season with a fiery passion. This Antlers, Oklahoma, cowboy wasn’t named rookie of the year in 2020 for nothing. Keaton has the work ethic and mindset for success. “I’ve had to learn how to overcome my bad runs and my bad days and to just go on to the next one while keeping my head up,” said the 14-year-old. “My biggest competition out there is myself. I’ve had to learn how to work hard and put in 110% every time I make a run.” In one weekend Keaton makes a lot of runs as he competes in chute dogging, goat tying, as well as tie-down, ribbon and team roping.
Of all these events, heeling is easily Keaton’s favorite. “It’s just more fun for me than the rest of them. There are two people involved and if he does his part then I can do mine. When I make the corner and grab two feet, that’s the most satisfying thing in the world for me.” Keaton’s dad, Jeff, taught him how to rope and there’s been a loop in this eighth graders hand for as long as he can remember. “My dad team ropes and so I just eventually followed in his footsteps. I started out in breakaway roping, but I fell love with team roping pretty quick.” Keaton started the team event when he was just 9 years old, but the first event he really gave a shot was sheep riding three years before that.
Both of Keaton’s older siblings-Jena, 27, and Conner, 21-treaded the rodeo trail first. “My siblings both support me from long distance now that they’ve graduated high school and moved. When they were home, my brother roped with me and helped work the chutes when my dad wasn’t here. And my sister was always out there being supportive, and she comes to some of my rodeos now. She was always a lot of fun.” Keaton’s mom, Rebecca, is the official videographer for this crew. “My dad is always in the arena helping me and making sure that I have my mindset where it needs to be so I’m ready to compete.” Although Keaton’s family is very closely involved with his rodeo career, it’s his grandpa, Ben Bob Mills, who’s been the most influential.
“My grandpa is always there for me and has told me a lot about rodeo and how it works. He’s the one who told me that my biggest competition is myself. And that I can beat whoever I want to if I don’t beat myself first.” When Keaton practices at home, both Ben Bob and Jeff are almost always there with him. Keaton has learned lots of life lessons from his family simply by being around them so frequently. “My family has taught me a lot about why being too hard on myself isn’t helpful. When I get a no time and get down on myself, it’s too easy to let that impact the next event. It still happens to me quite a bit, but I just have to remember to clear my mind and go into the next event knowing that everything will turn out the way they are supposed to.” To keep his focus, Keaton concentrates on one event at a time. This strategy has helped him reach some of his larger goals.
Although Keaton has won an estimated 23 trophy saddles in his rodeo career so far, he has his sights set on one in particular. “I would like to win the all-around cowboy saddle in the OKJHSRA this year and one or two event saddles. Right now, I’m in the top four in all my events and I’m leading the all-around race by 60 points. I’ve reached these goals in other associations, but to do it in junior high would be a big accomplishment and a way to show that I’m stepping up my game.”