Starting at age three, Petaluma’s Madison Camozzi’s passion has always been rodeo. With numerous accounts of her dedication and hard work, it’s no surprise that Madison, now 15 years old, has qualified to compete in the 69th annual National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) July 16 through July 22 in Gillette, Wyoming.
During her time there, she will participate in both the Pole Bending State Championship and Rookie All Around State Champion competitions.
NHSFR qualification is one of numerous accomplishments pointing to Camozzi’s record of hard work and dedication. Last year she was ranked third in the state for the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) junior standings, and this year she placed fifth in California for barrel racing during the California High School Rodeo Association State Finals. Starting in 7th grade in the junior high division of high school rodeo, Madison has qualified for the junior high state finals every year since.
Camozzi’s start in rodeo was a product of family tradition. She was riding a horse not long after she was born.
“She started (rodeo) as soon as she could walk,” her mother, Norene, said. “She’s been around barrel racing ever since she was born. I barrel raced, her older sister barrel races, her younger sister barrel races… It’s kind of a family thing.”
Despite the fact that Camozzi will be competing in NHSFR’s pole bending competition, her longest-running and favorite rodeo sport is barrel racing. Along with her early start in barrel racing, Camozzi has been pole bending since 6th grade, goat tying since 7th grade, and breakaway roping since 8th grade.
Camozzi is excited for the upcoming competition and expressed how grateful she is to everyone who has helped her, most notably her horse.
“I never thought I would get this far with him,” she said. “I’m really fortunate that my trainer lets me use his horse. I love this horse, he’s like one of my best friends. We both know everything about each other. I’m also fortunate … that my parents have bought me such nice horses. They teach me how to ride better.”
Camozzi doesn’t only shine at the rodeos. With straight-A grades at Petaluma High School, she also conquers the classroom. Her emphasis on commitment and effort puts into perspective just how successful she is, inside and outside of the arena.
“It takes a lot to get there,” she said, regarding her invitation to NHSFR. “I have lots of dedication to this sport. I’ve pretty much just made it my life … It’s not just a hobby that I do on weekends. You have to put your time in.”
Camozzi isn’t the only one that credits her hard work with getting her to where she is now. Her mother also emphasized her daughter’s perseverance, as well as her own pride for all of her children.
“Every time one of my kids goes into the arena, it’s a blessing for me,” she said. “But (the NHSFR competition) is definitely a highlight … I’m very excited for her. Both her father and I are very proud … She practices hard. She works for it.”
Camozzi’s work-hard philosophy has clearly paid off. Not only is NHSFR the largest high school rodeo in the world, but it includes more than 1,750 contestants from 43 states, Canada and Australia. Participants have the chance to win $200,000 in prizes, as well as $350,000 in scholarships. The finals will be televised nationally on RFD-TV. Live performances will be available to watch online at NHSRATV.com at 7 p.m. on July 16, and 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day following.