By Maggie Cassidy
The Molokai Dispatch
Noel Tancayo may be only 9 years old, but she’s no stranger to rodeos. The youngster won her ninth buckle at the 56th annual Makawao Rodeo during the July 4th weekend, placing first in the junior keiki barrel event and fourth in open wahine division.
“It’s actually pretty fun ‘cause you just experience riding a horse, and you feel like you’re falling off but you’re not,” she said.
Tancayo was one of four Molokai youth who participated in the rodeo, hosted by the Maui Roping Club at Oskie Rice Arena on Maui. The Friendly Isle was represented by Meleana Pa-Kala, 10; Jayden Tabilangan, 12; and Kapua Lee, 12. About 10 Molokai adults also competed, according to Molokai participant Sale Sproat.One of only six wahine who finished in the 19-second range in the open division, the 61-pound Tancayo made her mark among nearly 40 participants – and onlookers noticed.
“She’s this little tiny girl out there flying around the barrels,” said her mother, Sherry Tancayo. “She gets a lot of crowd reception.”
Tabilangan also excelled in the junior barrels, placing second. He won his third decorative belt buckle, which are given to each division’s top three performers.
“It’s very exciting – I’m proud of him,” said his grandmother Betty Tabilangan. “He did real well.”
Lee and Pa-Kala also made their marks on Maui. After about two years of riding, Lee advanced to the top 10 round in mixed roping to make mother Maka Lee “very proud.” This was Kapua’s first trip to Makawao, but she said she already wants to go back next year.
Pa-Kala, who got involved in horsemanship through the 4-H program, advanced to the top 20 round in the junior barrels, also making a proud parent of Dwayne Pa-Kala. Since keiki do not participate in the rodeo through organizations, parents have to raise funds for the trip independently – an investment he and others said was well worthwhile.
“For mom and dad, it was a pretty good experience taking our daughter there because she’s gonna be a competitor in that sport as long as she wants to be there,” Dwayne Pa-Kala said.
While it’s important for keiki to experience that level of competition, it’s even more important “[Meleana] had fun,” he said. “That’s all that counts.”
Noel Tancayo, who has been riding since she was 2 years old, agreed that the sport is all about fun, even though she thrives on competition.
“When it’s more challenging, it’s more fun,” she said, adding that one of her favorite parts is her relationship with her horse Sugar, an orphaned horse given to her by her uncle when she was a baby and who she rode during Makawao.
“I like Sugar the way she is,” she said, “and she likes me.”