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story.lead_photo.caption MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER/Lincoln sophomore Landree Cunningham scores on this breakaway layup after making a steal. A multi-sport athlete, Cunningham also won the 2019 Lincoln Riding Club Rodeo queen crown.

LINCOLN -- Taking a bull by its horns in the rodeo arena eliminates all but two options.

Either a trampling occurs or fear finds itself conquered and a rodeo contestant climbs aboard for the ride. The principle extends far beyond bull riding for Landree Cunningham, 2019 Lincoln Rodeo Queen, who recently made an appearance at the Professional Bull Riders Touring Pro Division "Buckin' At The Ranch" event held at Ogden Ranch south of Prairie Grove.

Rodeo Queen

Landree faced many opportunities to give in to fear thus far in 2020, but she uses her faith overcoming all of them.

Brushing aside fear like an annoying gnat, Landree prepares to preside over the 67th annual Lincoln Rodeo Aug. 6-8.

"Trust in God," Landree urges those who may be afraid to leave their houses or want to come out to the rodeo but they're not sure if they should.

"Everything happens for a reason. I'm a strong believer of that," Landree said. "The rodeo's a good place to just get out and have fun even if corona is going around. Make sure you wash your hands and just stay safe and God will bring you through it."

Basketball Blow

Landree relied on her own personal faith to get her through some challenging circumstances this year.

During a Feb. 7 girls basketball game at Elkins, Landree hit the hardwood with her face bouncing off the floor when the Elkins' center wiped her out after blocking a shot. The block was clean, but momentum brought the defender crashing down on top of Landree.

The tough cowgirl laughed it off and jumped to her feet ready to play on.

"Once you get hurt, you really just got to jump back up," Landree said. "Just like if you get bucked off a horse, you got to get right back on."

Medical Evaluation

The next week she collapsed on the bench in the early moments of a Valentine's Day game at home against West Fork and was taken for a medical evaluation. The diagnosis pointed towards pseudo seizures, but doctors weren't able to pin-point a triggering factor.

"They don't really know what's been causing it right now, but we're working through it," Landree said. "At first they were saying it was stress and now they think it might be a little bit medical so we're going back and we're just going to try our hardest to stay safe and work through it."

Courageously Competing

Landree courageously continues representing Lincoln Riding Club as rodeo queen

"I'm really not supposed to be riding right now," Landree said after a recent LRC Play Day. "But I trust in my horse and I know God will get me through it."

Her faith represents the spark giving her a quality resembling fearlessness, which doesn't mean the absence of fear, just determination to overcome.

"Oh, absolutely, Jesus has brought me through a lot and I couldn't live my life without him and that's who I turn to no matter what," Landree said.

Friendly Rivalry

During basketball season Landree found herself going head-to-head against another cowgirl, Heidi Rust, of Greenland, whose coach Allen Barton wishes she wouldn't rodeo as much during the summer so he could have her at basketball practice more often.

Both girls have been members of the Lincoln Riding Club and they wound up guarding each other. Landree admits there was an extra incentive involved, but says the rivalry stays friendly.

"Oh yeah, me and Heidi are always very competitive against each other, but off-the-court we are good friends," Landree said. "We always talk about how we can help each other out on-and-off-the-court and in the [rodeo] arena."

Basketball Therapy

According to Steve Nash, who played 18 seasons in the NBA, practicing shooting baskets can be just a little bit meditative because it gets the mind away from concerns or even worries.

"You forget about everything else," Nash said in his 2013 film biography. "Sometimes, you're thinking about other things when you're shooting [baskets], but its still good for you. Its good for you to let your mind go, to let your mind go and to not have to be in a regimented place or time always."

Landree finds basketball therapeutic while enjoying the sport. Like Nash, she discovered concentrating on basketball empowers her to get her mind off a world of cares.

"Man, basketball has really brought me through a lot especially with anxiety," Landree said. "Basketball helped me a lot through it and it's just a go-to sport where you can just get your mind off of something and work your way through it."

Injury happened on the basketball court. Healing can occur there, too.

photo
MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER/Lincoln rising junior Landree Cunningham, 17, will preside over the 67th annual Lincoln Rodeo at the Lincoln Riding Club Arena one mile west of town Aug. 6-8.

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