Five months. That is all it took Oak Harbor’s Katie Houck to become one of the Pacific Northwest’s top high school ropers.
Houck, who competes for the Sedro-Woolley High School equestrian team, is the 2019 Washington state high school champion in breakaway roping.
She now heads to Redmond, Ore., Friday through Sunday, June 14-16, for the regional Pacific Northwest Invitational Championships.
Houck, 19 and a senior, took up riding 15 years ago and has competed for Sedro-Woolley the past three. When she first joined the Sedro-Woolley team, Houck participated in performance riding, continuing the discipline she competed in since her youth. She switched to western game and cow events last year.
Houck and the Sedro-Woolley team begin training each year in September in Stanwood and then compete in three district events, one each in January, February and March in Lynden.
Sedro-Woolley is a member of District 7, which also includes teams based out of Cedarcrest, Ferndale, Snohomish and Stanwood.
Houck is joined on the Sedro-Woolley team by Oak Harbor’s Camden Miller and Hannah Eckles and Coupeville’s Madison Krieg, Megan Thorn, Annika Heller and Lola Jimenez.
Miller is the team captain, Krieg the gaming captain and Houck the cow captain.
Heller (Germany) and Jimenez (Spain) are exchange students hosted by Thorn’s family.
Houck is the only local athlete to qualify for the regional competition.
The top performers from Washington’s seven districts meet in May in Moses Lake for the state championships.
Houck, only five months after picking up a rope, finished fourth in breakaway roping in the 2018 state finals and went on to capture second in the regional.
Last month she snared the state title and is looking to claim the regional crown this weekend.
In breakaway roping, a rider lassos a calf around the horns as quickly as possible. The rider with the lowest average time after two rounds wins.
Houck said it is unusual for competitors to change disciplines and even rarer for those who do to find success quickly.
“Most compete in the events they grew up doing,” she said. “It is uncommon to see someone switch.”
She attributes her success to her “amazing” horse Easy, Sedro-Woolley coach Brandon Garrison and “everyday” coaches Kelli Short and Ray Sullivan.
Houck parlayed her roping success into an invitation to compete for the University of Wyoming next year.