A local 14-year-old is riding to stardom in rodeos across the country.
Morissa Hall, a Prince George’s County native, is looking to add more trophies to her already-large collection; she is the 2021 Maryland High School Rodeo All Around Champion, Pole Bending Champion, Rookie of the Year and Reserve Barrel Racing Champion. She also won the impromptu portion of the National High School Queen Contest.
“It's the adrenaline rush and adrenaline push that you just have to go as fast as you can. And that feeling is great,” Morissa said.
Morissa, who competes in barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying, started her rodeo journey when she asked her father for a horse at 4 years old.
Her family moved from D.C. to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, where Morissa could ride free and learn about her sport at events like the Bill Picket Rodeo.
“The Bill Picket Rodeo is a rodeo for African Americans who, in older times, didn't have the chance to compete in rodeos themselves so they made their own organization,” Hall said.
She and her father also had to make their own way; he's her coach.
“I’m a physical therapist by trade, so I’m learning this as I teach her,” he said.
Sometimes he has to take his coach hat off and just be a dad for Morissa, who is often the only person of color at her competitions around the country.
“She says, ‘Daddy, I like rodeo, but I don't like the way people stare at us. I don't like the way people look at us.’ I said, ‘Well sweetie, it's going to be that way everywhere you go,’” he said.
But Morissa says that every time she competes, she’s encouraging another little girl like her.
“Everything doesn't have to be perfect for you to compete in this sport,” Hall said. “I really want to convey that to people — that if you want to do it, you can do it.”