(SHAWNEE, Okla.) To say rodeo is in Jenna Lee Hays’ blood is an understatement. The 2004 International Finals Youth Rodeo All Around Cowgirl has lived and breathed this lifestyle since she was 5 years old. This year, Hays joined other IFYR greats as she was inducted into the IFYR Hall of Fame Wednesday, July 12.
Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley presented a citation from the City of Shawnee and Oklahoma State Representative Dell Kerbs presented a citation honoring Hays. Oklahoma State Senator Ron Sharp presented a proclamation from Governor Mary Fallin declaring July 9-14, 2017 IFYR Week.
Growing up in Weatherford, Oklahoma, Hays worked at her family’s ranch, Hays Cattle Company. Hays is a proud member of a second-generation rodeo family.
“My grandpa, Claud Hays, had a rodeo company in the 1940s and 50s, he rode saddle broncs,” said Hays. “My dad, Drew, rode bareback horses and bulldogged, and my brother, Ty, is a calf roper.”
During her junior and high school days, Hays worked four to five events: barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying and cutting. While in high school, she was the Champion Oklahoma High School breakaway roper in 2004.
“My folks always kept good horses under me so I did well in all events, but I excelled at roping and goat tying,” said Hays. “Those two events seemed more natural to me.”
Hays credits her mentors for finding success at such a young age. Her brother Ty, Shannon Vitt Pool, a former member of the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team, and Rick McLemore all helped Hays sharpen her roping and tying skills in her early days.
Hays competed in the IFYR all four years of her high school career. Her senior year of high school, she competed in all four events, receiving a nod to compete in the final go round in breakaway roping and goat tying. Earning her 2004 All Around Cowgirl title, Hays posted the best times or scores for those two events.
Hays built on her success, attending SWOSU as a member of the rodeo team while pursuing her degree in business administration/marketing. In 2008, she won the SWOSU Most Valuable Player award. Hays eventually became an assistant rodeo coach when her collegiate years ended.
“One thing I believe is that we are to be helpers in this world,” said Hays. “Paying it forward was something I was able to do as an assistant coach.”
Hays continued her rodeo career competing professionally in the International Professional Rodeo Association, the American Cowboys Rodeo Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. In the IPRA, she finished second in the world on the breakaway horse of the year, Cricket, in 2013 and 2016. Hays also found success as the 2013 Breakaway Champion in the ACRA. In the WPRA, Hays was the 2008 Prairie Circuit Reserve Champion in Breakaway Roping and the 2009 Prairie Circuit Champion Breakaway Roper.
“I have enjoyed my success in my rodeo career,” said Hays. “Some of my most memorable moments were winning the 2004 IFYR All Around Cowgirl title, winning the 2004 Champion Oklahoma High School breakaway roper title, the 2014 IFR #44 Finals Breakaway Championship and my horse, Cricket, winning Breakaway Horse of the Year twice.”
Currently, Hays is attending SWOSU and pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing degree. She also runs cattle with her father and has a small herd of miniature ponies. Hays has three roping horses, including her beloved Cricket. She still competes in breakaway roping in the IPRA.
IFYR Hall of Fame Members
Jenna Lee Hays: 2017
Justin McDaniel: 2014
Ken Etchieson & Suzanne Gilbert: 2012
Jackie (Dube) Jatzlau: 2011
Jet & Cord McCoy and Mark McGee: 2009
Mike Outhier: 2007
For more information on the IFYR, please call (405) 275-7020 or visit IFYR.com.