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Beltrami County 4-H Horse Drill Team takes home state competition win

The Beltrami County 4-H’s horse drill team saddled up for a competition of a lifetime on Sept. 16, but in the words of head coach Derek Wickum — the results were a bit interesting.

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Beltrami 4-H youth attended the state horse show on Sept. 16 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Pictured from left in, in back: Isabella Weeks, Alexa Eklund and Madison Fisher. Middle row: Emma Mutnansky, Kallen Littler, Della Branham, Wendy Mellema, Taylor Hanevold and Bella Drevlow. Front row: Emily Christensen, Kenna Cook, Chloe Cook and Meleah Grundmeier.
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ST. PAUL — The Beltrami County 4-H’s horse drill team saddled up for a competition of a lifetime on Sept. 16, but in the words of head coach Derek Wickum — the results were a bit interesting.

“It was a great run, but we actually had a weird thing happen,” said Wickum. “We tied for first place.”

Held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds the week following the state fair, Beltrami’s team performed their routine called “Fly” in front of thousands of people, brought home the gold and even got to perform in the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum that Saturday for the Grand Entry Ceremony.

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The Beltrami County 4-H Drill Team takes the arena before performing a routine on Aug. 10, 2022, at the Beltrami County Fair.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“The team was really excited with that victory and the opportunity to ride in the coliseum,” Wickum said. “It was a fantastic show, the crowd enjoyed it and the team had a great time.”

Like dance competitions, horse drill performances use a point system to determine the winner. Each team strives to give their best performance to win the most points and afterward two judges tally up the numbers for a final score.

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“We have a first-place championship under our belt, but we share it with another team,” Wickum said. “We ended up with a score of 194/200 and so did the other team, it just turned out that way when the math was all added up.”

Although this is Beltrami’s sixth trip to the state competition, the bustle and pre-performance nerves were no match for Beltrami’s team of eight. The girls were ready to show Minnesota the routine they’ve been working on all year, but Wickum admits there’s always a little bit of fright before you step foot in front of the crowd.

“There’s always that nervousness going into a competition because you're dealing with a live animal. You know what you can do but you don't always know what your horse is going to do if they get spooked,” Wickum said. “The girls knew the show so well and we worked really hard on putting it together, they knew where they were supposed to be in their routine and got it done.”

Practicing for next season is just around the corner, but before they get back to the drill team grind this winter, the team plans to celebrate by taking a camping trip together. Sitting by the fire, riding a few trails with their horses and reminiscing about their first-place state championship title.

Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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