Montana teen rides bulls to honor friend's memory; battles gende - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Montana teen rides bulls to honor friend's memory; battles gender restrictions

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16-old-year bull rider Kenna Hazen 16-old-year bull rider Kenna Hazen
While riding bulls, Kenna Hazen wears "Riding For Chance" attire to honor of the memory of her friend Chance Campbell While riding bulls, Kenna Hazen wears "Riding For Chance" attire to honor of the memory of her friend Chance Campbell
Kenna Hazen uses a homemade "bull" to practice bull riding Kenna Hazen uses a homemade "bull" to practice bull riding
Kenna Hazen Kenna Hazen
BILLINGS, Mont. -

Kenna Hazen dreams of riding in rodeos, but it's not the horses or barrels that appeal to this Montana teen, it's the bulls! The 16-year-old hopes to someday ride with the PBR, or professional bull riders.

"Ever since I was little and I watched the Chase Hawks rodeo, I got a taste of bull riding and it went from there," Hazen said.

Hazen said she was 14 years old when she found her first opportunity to ride rough stock.

"I got a chance to do it and I took it without telling my parents" Hazen said. "Then I told my dad and I was like 'don't tell mom, because mom will get mad!'" My friend let me use his gear, and my dad said it wouldn't be anything serious...but here I am."

After her first time riding a bull, Kenna was hooked, but for this 5-foot-2, 120 pound girl, riding on the backs of these beasts might be even harder than staying on.

"I had more than a few rodeos tell me i'm not allowed to ride (rough stock), just because i'm a girl," Hazen said. "What's the difference between me riding and one the guys riding? Me getting hurt and one of the guys getting hurt?"

High school organizers are using a federal law, put in place to protect women's opportunities, to limit Kenna's. The president of the Montana High School Rodeo Association, or MHSRA, Lane Yeager, said Title IX is the reason females are not able to ride bulls through MHSRA.

"Title nine says you have to have the equal number of sports for boys and girls," Yeager said. "Right now, there are the same number of events for boys and for girls (through MHSRA), so if we open up to where girls are allowed to ride bulls, then boys would need to start barrel racing or goat tying. We're not sure they're ready to open that door yet."

"High schools want kids to follow their dreams," Hazen said, "but how come when I want to follow my dream I can't because they're the people keeping me from it."

So Kenna travels hundreds to thousands of miles just for a chance to get on a bull.
"You'd think that Montana being a well-known rodeo state...you'd think they would allow more people to ride, more girls to rid," Hazen said.

World Champion Bull Rider Jonnie Jonckowski knows the struggle.

"There was no place to practice in Billings, zero," Jonckowski said. "I went to every small town fair I could go to. It would cost me 400, 500 dollars to get somewhere to win 150, and that's if you win. I didn't want money, I just wanted to get on some stock."

Now, Jonckowski is working with Kenna Hazen and the upcoming generation of cowgirls trying to ride rough stock.

"I get emails from so many women around the country wanting to ride bulls, they don't even know what to do. When you choose this sport to be in, especially as a woman, you better be darn prepared to get into it mentally and physically because you're gonna be judged from the second you walk into that rodeo."

Joncowski said it takes talent as well as countless hours of study, training, and dedication to ride bulls, all for a chance to hang on for eight seconds.

"I held onto a bad one," Joncowski said of earning her world champion bull rider title. "You hotta have attitude to ride that bull."

In a sport that isn't for the faint of heart, Kenna wears her heart on her sleeve. On her riding attire, the words "riding for chance" are in memory of Chance Campbell, her friend who died in a car accident in 2016.

"Chance was a person that was always there for me," Hazen said, "he was always the one that would be right there. He had the biggest heart that I knew, and he was the most caring person in the whole world. My best friend."

Hazen said she also chooses to wear pink riding attire to show support for Chance Campbell's other and her battle against breast cancer. After 'riding for Chance," Kenna's dad said the teen always picks herself up off the ground with a smile, no matter how hard she's bucked off or how many bone breaks she's suffered during her ride.

Regardless of obstacles, Kenna Hazen continues to seek opportunities to ride bulls and push one step closer to her dream. The teen said her next ride will likely be in the Cody rodeo this June 1st.

"It' feels great because I know there's lots of people that look up to me, and that support me," Hazen said.

Hazen can be contacted by email at makennahazen@aol.com

Join us as we share Kenna Hazen's bull riding journey on our 10 p.m. newscast Tuesday night.

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