Face of Defense: Airman Earns ‘Miss Rodeo USA’ Title
By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Nancy Ausland
South Dakota National Guard
OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 16, 2012 Air Force Staff Sgt. Trisha Smeenk of the South Dakota Air National Guard was selected as Miss Rodeo USA for 2012 here Jan. 15.
She received the crown in conjunction with the International Finals Rodeo.
Smeenk is the first South Dakotan and first National Guard airman to receive the honor as the 49th official ambassador for the International Professional Rodeo Association. She will travel throughout the United States and Canada during her reign, representing the Miss Rodeo USA organization and the International Professional Rodeo Association.
"It has been my dream since I was a little girl growing up on a ranch in western South Dakota. I have been fascinated with rodeo since I was born," Smeenk said. "Continuing a family legacy, I competed in my first rodeo at age 5, and the rest is history. I find myself now 24 years old and still as much in love with the sport of rodeo as I have ever been."
Smeenk has served in the South Dakota Air National Guard for seven years and is a journalist in the 114th Fighter Wing public affairs office. She will take time off from her studies at South Dakota State University, where she is pursuing her master's degree in counseling and human resource Development.
"It is a goal of mine to accomplish a master's degree, but I can't imagine a better reason to put that dream on hold,” she said. “I will be living out another dream of mine in the meantime."
Smeenk practically grew up on horseback, competing in 4-H, Little Britches and high school rodeos. She spent four years as a Western rider for South Dakota State University's equestrian team.
The eldest of three children, Smeenk credits her family for her recent success.
"I am lucky to have such an amazing family who always supports and encourages me,” she said. “I am excited for this opportunity to meet and educate people [and] experience the industry I love while traveling to as many places as possible, and I couldn't do it without my family."
Smeenk will travel for a year as the reigning Miss Rodeo USA. In addition to rodeos, she will visit schools and events along the way while promoting the International Professional Rodeo Association.