WHEATLAND – It’s rare to have a bonafide queen seated next to you in history class or running alongside of you in gym class, but at Wheatland High School it’s a very distinct possibility.
In fact, the chances are pretty good since there are actually two current reigning queens at WHS. One is sophomore Rory Winter who is currently Teen Miss Wyoming and the second is senior, Roberta “Bobijo” Cordingly who is serving her final year as Miss Wyoming High School Rodeo.
Both girls are creating a great legacy for those who will one day follow them.
A skilled horsewoman who has won countless awards for her equestrian endeavors, Cordingly has grown strong though personal adversity.
If you have been to any rodeo events in or around Platte County, you may have seen her as she rides the American Flag around the arena on horseback before the events and brings that flag front and center during the national anthem and opening ceremonies.
“I first started out as Platte County Horseman Association Queen,” she said. “My mom and my sister forced me to try out for it about three years ago. Of course, I love horse showing, but I used to be more of a quiet and shy kid and never liked talking to people. They thought this was a really good opportunity for me to get out and be open and talk to people. Since nobody else was running since PCHA was such a small organization, they said it was a perfect time for me to just go and try it.”
They promised her that if she made a one-year commitment and didn’t like it, they would never try to talk her into anything like it ever again. So, she started out not really liking it, but a trip to Laramie in the spring of that first year’s reign that she went to Morgan Wallace’s queen clinic and she fell in love with it.
She actually won that position for two straight years before running and being selected as Miss Wyoming High School Rodeo.
Cordingly has humble beginnings, living on an 80-acre farm west of Wheatland where the family raises Tibetan yaks and Boer goats. She was born to Robert and Teri Cordingly and born to the breed of caring for animals. She still lives in the same place where she was born.
He father passed away in 2016 leaving her, her mother and her sister to work the farm. Going through the adversity has given her a strength and maturity that has propelled her to be not only a good queen, but a great leader for those kids who are following in her boot prints.
“When my dad was alive, we did raise angus cattle,” she said. “He did sell them right before I was born so it was really easy to keep the farm going because all we had was Boer goats. I have showed goats at the fair since I was 8 years old.”
This year was not a good year for Cordingly as far as showing at the Platte County Fair.
“I had a really tough year with my goats,” she said. “Because I was at nationals competing for the National High School Rodeo Queen and so I didn’t get time to prepare my goats. Every state, if you try out for the queen and win, you have to go to nationals. We went to Lancaster Events Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, this year.”
The nationals competition started July 15 and the competition lasted four days before the competition for the finals began. The contestants had to take a written test, being quizzed on the rule books and about conditions of rodeo, they also competed in the areas of western or rodeo themes speech and modeling. Cordingly’s speech was an informational speech on three different pioneer cowgirls who shaped today’s Wyoming cowgirls.
“We also did horsemanship,” she said. “You have to do a reigning pattern and then you have to prove you can carry the flag. In addition, we had to do four lope changes, sliding stops which my horse, ‘Kazoo’ doesn’t do so it was interesting. Usually I ride ‘Bo’ which is my paint and is my gypsy banner sport horse.”
Bo, which is Cordingly’s paint was purchased at 6 years of age and was primarily a cow horse, but she did many hours of training with him to turn him into an arena horse.
At nationals Cordingly recorded 99 points and the highest score was 132.
“I was definitely late on my lead changes,” Cordingly said. “Which really docked me, but other than that we did really good. I took my sister’s horse and we taught him to carry the flag. I didn’t use my horse because as an old ranch horse with big old hooves, he couldn’t do some of the maneuvers that I needed to have done.”
After high school Cordingly is planning on going to EWC to earn an animal science associates and a vet tech degree before going on to the University of Wyoming.
“I’m planning to go into veterinary science, preferably with large animals, specializing in equine,” she said. “Before UW I will probably take a break and try out for Miss Rodeo Wyoming and continue the queening career. That would be a lot like the competition I did here, and I will probably try out for Miss Jubilee Days since you have to have a title while trying out for MRW.”
Cordingly’s reign will come to an end in early June 2022 when the new queen will be crowned in Douglas.
“As queen some of the things I am responsible for is gaining sponsors, and am also known as an event director,” she said. “So when we get closer to state, I have to find all the judges, I have to help make tests, figure out patterns for the next group of competing queens. There will probably be two or three girls competing. It’s difficult to find girls who want to do it, especially here in Wyoming because the queen’s so much more than just glitter and glam.”
Cordingly says that it will be difficult leaving the only home she’s ever known to go to college.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult,” she said. “So far, it’s been me and my mom for the past five years completely alone. My sister got married and moved into town and had been in college for five years. So, I started helping with my sister’s Tibetan yak business and bought our first couple in 2019 and I’ve been growing our herd.”
She currently has a herd of 10 Tibetan yaks. They have shown the goats and use them to educate people on the breed.
“They have so many uses,” she said. “They shed like dogs in the spring and the fiber is waterproof and super warm, so we can make things like gloves, scarves and stuffed animals. We haven’t done anything yet, but we have been harvesting their fiber. Goats are also edible and they are lean meat like buffalo. You can also milk them, but I’ve never done that so I can’t tell you how THAT tastes.”
She is now interning with Laramie Peak Veterinary Associates and after college she is planning on coming back home to open her own veterinary clinic on the same farm that she was raised on.
She performs in the high school band, she is a veteran thespian with the drama club, she is a veteran dancer since the age of three, she is a cross country and track athlete and now, for the second time in four years, she is a queen.
She has the current title of Teen Miss Wyoming and there is not much that this overachieving 15-year-old sophomore can’t or hasn’t done.
According her dad, Lincoln Winter who is a local Lutheran minister, he said he is “happy, proud and thrilled.” He went on to say that when she was 12, she wanted to join the civil air patrol and she joined and is now a first lieutenant.
“My mom was in pageants when she was three” Winter said. “And she did pretty well, I’d say, and she started getting me an Amelia into pageants because it does have a lot of good values. It teaches you a lot of confidence and it teaches you how to interview well and speak in front of people.”
She says that because of the pageants she has learned many things.
“I’ve learned proper etiquette,” she said. “I’ve learned how to interview for jobs, handle fancy occasions, how to properly speak and how to carry myself.”
According to her mom, Ton Winter, former editor of the Platte County Record-Times, now a high school drama coach and ballet teacher, the experience has made Rory know how to think fast on her feet.
“You get asked a question on stage and you have to be able to answer it immediately,” Winter said. “It’s the Little Miss Wyoming and it’s been around for 15 years. They usually have prelims throughout the state throughout the year and the state pageant is held in the summertime.”
The divisions go from baby level all the way up to the teen division which is the one she has won. It is also the last year for her to compete in this pageant as 15 is the top level you can compete at. Winter also won in this pageant when she was a pre-teen at age 12. To win it once is spectacular, but to win it twice is just part of her extraordinary and charmed life.
“That was my third year competing,” she said. “I had lost twice before then so honestly I think that losing twice really humbled me. So, when I did become the pre-teen queen, I was able to stay humble and know how far I’ve come and how I can continue to grow. It was a surreal experience.”
She also says that pageants are where she developed her competitive nature.
“Once I have a goal, I reach that goal,” she said. “No matter how long it takes.”
Winter has the biological age, but speaking with her you would see the wit and candor of an old soul. She is the youngest of four children and she makes no bones about her position she’s been dealt.
“I’ve taken on that younger sibling job of annoying the older ones,” she said with tongue in cheek and without cracking a smile. “Being there to remind them of who they are and who I am. And I am Miss Teen Wyoming.”
According to her mom, one of the foundational building blocks of her character is that she had to learn how to win gratefully and lose gratefully.
“You can’t throw temper tantrums,” the elder Winter said. “You can’t get upset. You may be sad for yourself but you have to be happy for the friends that you’ve made.”
In winning the pageant again this past summer, Winter has also gained some incredible memories.
“When I volunteered for helping at dance camp, at Dance Wyoming Dance Studio, all of these little girls would see me and their eyes would just light up,” she said. “Or when I’m in a parade and the little girls see me and want to run and meet me. This last year in the parade, I had some dad yelling my name trying to get me to wave at his little girl. It just made her day, and knowing I can make someone’s day better just by waving at them… it was truly amazing.”
Students who go to school with Winter know her as the civil air patrol lieutenant who grew up liking transformers and being the underdog superhero. She said that when she was crowned, many of her peers remarked and said that it was the last thing they would have expected from Rory Winter.
“I ride my skateboard to school,” she said. “I got a Batman action figure for Christmas. I wear camo and combat boots. I’m in an Air Force auxiliary. It’s different. It’s great to be able to play the tomboy and also the princess.”
Her aspirations are to go into the military one day because as she puts it, “I really want to be the one help someone and to get someone out of harm’s way. I want to see someone and be able to console them when they are inconsolable.”
“I’m hoping to join the Air Force Academy,” she said. “I want to join the Air Force as an officer and fly C-130s because they are like flying busses.”
Winter is a bright 4.0 student who has already drawn out an architectural drawing in her head of how things will be and how things will turn out. She’s focused and she’s quirky and she’s no nonsense and best of all, she is an incredible role model for young girls who learn from her that they can be tough and they can be strong and they can be soft and princess-like all at the same time.
As far as the actual job as queen goes, she says that it takes up a lot of her weekends and it’s a change from what she’s used to.
“When I’m not doing something in Wheatland, I am doing something out of town and making appearances,” she said. “Now that school has started, I will probably be down to just one or two appearances a month.”
When it was pointed out that she was now the center of attention, she remarked with a quick, wry answer.
“Always have been,” she said quickly and with a delightful abruptness. “It’s the youngest thing, but always maintaining that level of maturity.”
With a dad in the clergy, she also doesn’t hide her faith.
“It’s gotten me through a lot of tough times,” she said. “It’s always something you can fall back on. No matter where you are. As a pastor’s kid it’s something you just grow up with. It’s so a part of my life that it doesn’t even seem like a question anymore. It’s there and it will always be there.”
Long live the queens.