Sonoita teen Lily Waite a high school rodeo star on the rise

Lily Waite is working toward competing in the National High School Rodeo Championships (Arizona High School Rodeo Association photo)

Lily Waite of Sonoita has established herself as one of the top rising talents in rodeo, especially at the high school level.

The 17-year-old earned the Arizona High School Rodeo Association (AHSRA) state finals championship in the breakaway roping competition on June 1 at Prescott.

“Thinking that I closed out my junior year with reaching goals I’ve been working at for five years is incredible,” mentioned Waite, who rebounded strongly this year after having knee surgery. “So excited to see what my senior year has to hold next season.”

Lily Waite with one of her horses named Yazzie (Arizona High School Rodeo Association photo)

Waite’s cumulative average time of 11.92 seconds was the fastest out of 68 competitors in the state finals. She roped the calves in times of 3.57, 3.73 and 4.62.

The next-fasted time was 12.05 seconds, achieved by Maryn Buchanan of Marana. Buchanan finished second in the season point standings with 48 points and Waite was 10th at 19.

By finishing in the top 4, Buchanan, who recently graduated from high school, qualified for the National High School Rodeo Championships (NHSRC) in Gillette, Wyo., from July 16-22.

Waite, entering her senior year taking classes online with Primavera High School, is making it a mission to achieve a spot in the NHSRC next year.

After starting her career in the junior competition in barrel racing, Waite wanted to expand her repertoire in rodeo.

“The only place I could barrel race, pole bend, goat tie, breakaway rope and team rope was at AHSRA,” Waite said. “I also like the challenge of competing against the best junior athletes in Arizona with a chance to go to the National High School Rodeo Championships.”

Waite and her horse Cinch finished 15th in the season standings in barrel racing.

One of many firm believers in Waite’s ability is Levi Koenen, a longtime local football coach at various high schools.

Koenen has known the Waite family since Lily was born. He is one of her sponsors as owner of the Lost Highway Sign Company, a well-known local craft establishment that makes sayings from letters and numbers cut from different license plates.

“Lily has the spirit and drive of a champion,” Koenen said. “She proves this over and over again in the arena and outside of it as well. She is a special young lady. I’ve seen her dedication and work ethic lead to amazing accomplishments.”

Waite holds a 3.9 GPA while working three to five days a week and attending physical therapy twice a week. She missed five rodeos after undergoing knee surgery last fall.

After winning the state finals in breakaway roping earlier this month, Waite was named the AHSRA’s 2023-24 student secretary.

“I am looking forward to representing this wonderful state and the rodeo athletes,” she stated. “I would like to thank the association for such an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait to spend this year supporting our student athletes and helping our sport grow.”

Waite is undecided concerning her choice for college. She mentioned New Mexico State is a possibility because it has an “excellent rodeo team and offers a lot of degree programs in agriculture and marketing, which interests me right now.”

Her long list of achievements in junior and now high school competition has created a desire to have a significant impact on rodeo.

“My goals in the sport are to promote a positive image for the Western industry, good sportsmanship and lifelong friendships,” Waite stated.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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