By Gretchen Kirchmann / Kirchmann Media Group
Jane Melby fans, friends and family are extremely proud she’s qualified for her second National Finals Rodeo through Dec. 14. She is currently ranked number 11 in the world standings and wearing back number 63. Melby is the most decorated Minnesota Barrel Racer of all times, holding numerous titles in high school, 1993 IPRA World Title, 1999 NBHA 1D World Championship and three go-rounds at the 2011 Nationals Finals Rodeo.
Her mother, Suzie Krull of Park Rapids, will be one of 40 Minnesotans in attendance to watch her daughter compete in the City of Lights. Suzie spent several months on the road helping Jane during the winter rodeo series. She was in Denver when Jane captured the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo title this past January. Suzie enjoys talking about her daughter and admits the family is very humble, so she gets to boast.
“She will never brag about her accomplishments, but I can brag all I want,” explained Suzie with motherly affection. “The best thing about Jane she has never changed a single bit. She is a tremendous winner and a good loser. “
Years ago Suzie had a sign erected at her farm entrance acknowledging the numerous state championships Jane won in the Minnesota High School Rodeo Association from 1983-86. Suzie plans on having another large archway sign made when Jane wins the world.
If it hadn’t been for Jane’s classmate, Mike Sams who encouraged her to rodeo, the Minnesotans heading to Vegas this week might be ice fishing or tending their ranches. Sams was competing in the high school rodeos riding bulls and approached Jane at school one day about rodeoing.
“She was always into horse shows, gaming stuff and 4-H. I talked her into going to the high school rodeos,” he said.
He took a minute to jog his memory; it’s been a long time now.
Melby is known for her ability to instruct and connect with different horses. She won money on five horses this season which is very impressive considering most contestants have one go-to horse and a seasoned backup.
The trio of animal athletes Melby is hauling to Las Vegas include her gelding, First Down Perk (aka Perkulees or called Blackie); the young mare, Flit Flyin ta Fame and she is leasing a third horse, JM Alive N Perquix (Perk).
Beauty was fast, Jane recalled, referencing her mare that helped her win three go-rounds at the 2011 NFR. She collected a NFR paycheck of nearly $60,000 to finish the year with $122,994.
“I’m looking forward to repeating the same thing I did before, hoping for a better 2013 finals than I had in 2011. I’m not an average kind of girl, but I’m mounted on average horses. I need to look at the average in 2013, in 2011 I just looked at the go-rounds,” explained Melby.
The televised production of the NFR radiates energy to the viewers at home. In 2011, Jane’s sister-in-law Renee Melby Stranne made a vinyl banner that read “Go Jane Go.” The crowd at the Thomas & Mach applauded loudly and cheered shouting Go Jane Go as the week progressed. Her father Robert Meech of Nimrod along with brothers Todd and Troy are all packing bags and heading to Vegas too.
The Meech family is very humble. When Troy was asked about his older sister’s success, he said, “I’m not very good at bragging and this is a point when you are supposed to brag.”
Troy is a former PRCA bullrider and Great Lakes Circuit Finalist. He acknowledged how difficult it is making the finals. There’s the travel, the mental game and living on the road and physical toll of traveling for months to make it into the top 15.
“It’s a big accomplishment to make it the first time and a bigger accomplishment to make it another time,” said Robert Meech. “I’ve seen her go from little horse shows to high school and professional (rodeos). She can ride anything and make it look good.”
Being a National Finals Rodeo contestant is exciting and exhausting. Jane will have a tight schedule with mandatory appearances for sponsors, autograph signings, meetings and tending her horses. She feels blessed to have her wonderful husband Ryan, and children Colton and Cayla by her side.