Even though she aspires to compete at the professional level, and wants to become an equine veterinarian, Lauren Underwood is enjoying her time as a youth director for the International Finals Youth Rodeo and her participation in FFA and 4-H activities.


Even though she aspires to compete at the professional level, and wants to become an equine veterinarian, Lauren Underwood is enjoying her time as a youth director for the International Finals Youth Rodeo and her participation in FFA and 4-H activities.
Underwood is a 17-year-old junior at Bethel High School. She’s looking forward to the IFYR in July, and recently she joined the five other youth directors who gathered in Oklahoma City in January to attend the IFR. “We got to tour the Express Ranches, and also the Western Heritage Museum.
“We also got to work one of the performances at the IFR near the arena floor,” she said with excitement.
She and the other youth directors met several times to work out details for this year’s IFYR, which begins  July 10 and runs through July 15.

For the first time in the history of the IFYR, performances will begin on Sunday night and the action will conclude on Friday evening. In the past, the first performance always was Monday morning and the rodeo’s final round was Saturday, normally either in the afternoon or evening, though last year’s short started Saturday morning.
In the first few years of the IFYR, when there were 13 performances the rodeo began on Monday and didn’t finish until Sunday afternoon.
Underwood, on the new format, said, “Starting on Sunday night and ending on Friday night will be easier for those headed on to the Nationals in Gillette, Wyo.”
She and the other five youth directors won’t be back together until a couple of days before the IFYR. However, they will stay in touch frequently, she said, and two days or so before the IFYR starts in July they will gather to begin helping in the stalling area. Underwood’s mother, Rene, is the adult director over the youth directors and had been for several years prior to Lauren being selected last summer as a director.
During the IFYR, in addition to helping in stalling and working the arenas, the youth directors will have a couple of lunches and dinners and a couple of them will also talk to the Shawnee Rotary Club that week.
“We’ll also go to the Shawnee Public Library and visit with the kids, signing autographs,” she explained.
During last year’s IFYR, which was her second, she recorded a run of 16.514 seconds on her initial barrel ride to place second in the round.
Since the IFYR last summer, young Underwood has won a $1,000 4-H scholarship for her veterinary science record book and she has competed in several barrel racings.
At the Youth National Barrel Horse Association World Finals in Jackson, Miss., she rode her 12-year-old mare “Charisma” to win the second round, and recorded the fastest qualifying time of more than 3,800 runs with more than 1,000 contestants competing in the 13-19 age group, the oldest of the two groups.
She had placed seventh in the initial round at Jackson, and finished 11th overall, she said.
In the Barrel Futurity of America, in Oklahoma City, she placed 10th in the second division on her six-year-old mare “Special.”
Underwood said she’d like to begin pro rodeoing in October ahead of her graduation from high school in 2012. She is hoping to attend Oklahoma State University and become an equine veterinarian. She and several others, she said, are in the running for class valedictorian, though graduation is more than a year off.
She serves as a secretary of her Bethel FFA chapter and is the president of the County 4-H. Her parents are Rene and Kurt Underwood and she has a younger brother, Wyatt, 15, and a sophomore at Bethel.