Anticipation runs high during the final day of the La Junta Kid's Rodeo. Under their breath, spectators are calling dibs on the jockey wearing the no. 2 silks as Crowley McCuistion enters a timeworn racetrack where his family has competed for generations.

It's Crowley's last race of the weekend. He's already dominated his division both in the arena and on the track, and he's charging down the home stretch to claim the Senior Boy Jockey and All-Around Cowboy titles.

At 100 lbs. soaking wet, the fifteen-year-old punches well below the weight of his senior competitors. But he is built for speed, and what he lacks in size, he makes up for in heart, grit, and an unprecedented work ethic.

Raised in Crowley County, McCuistion comes from a long line of durability and hard work. His grandparents, Jim and Holly McCuistion, own and operate a trucking company and raise Corriente roping cattle. Crowley's dad Curt helps with the family cattle and trucking operations; his uncle J.W. also makes his living in the saddle and is known for his horsemanship abilities.

According to Curt, Crowley is their right-hand man in all aspects of the family business. Pride echoes in his voice as he talks about the work ethic and humility of his youngest son. "We don't come from money, we come from hard work," says Curt. "My kids had to learn that they can rodeo, but they know that hard work is what pays for that rodeo. Crowley puts in a full week's work, then gives it is all on the weekends."

Crowley echoes these teachings when asked about the balance between his work and rodeo schedules. "My work has to be done first, so I have to wake up early in the morning, get all my work done, then practice," explains Crowley. "Everyday is different because we are always doing something new. Some days we'll wake up early and load a big load of hay, then we'll go to my grandpa's and I'll either ride colts with my uncle or help work on a semi, and I try to rope in the evenings when I can."

Crowley's drive to win at rodeos goes far beyond his competitive nature; for him, it's a commitment that he never takes lightly. "My family puts all kinds of money into tires, gas, entry fees, and food when we're at a rodeo. So, if I get to a rodeo and fall off my bull or miss my calves, then it was a waste of their time and money," Crowley humbly remarks.  

Fortunately, the number of gold buckles that adorn the walls of his home indicates that losing isn't a norm for the young cowboy. Buckles for many different events from rodeos across the country make up his collection.

McCuistion dedicates much of his success to his late brother Yancie, who tops the list of his heroes. "I look up to my brother because he was an all-around hand," says Crowley. He honors Yancie by sporting his initials, YWM, over his heart at every performance.

The La Junta Kid's Rodeo was his most recent triumph, where his jockey talents coupled with his arena skills awarded him the All-Around Senior Cowboy title. This year marks his second consecutive year as the all-around champion, but this year's title is especially sweet for Crowley, who is a first-year contender at the senior level.

"It felt good coming in as a freshman and doing better than a bunch of seniors. But, it's all because I have family backing me up, and good horses to ride," he admits.

Crowley's favorite part of the kid's rodeo is the horse race competitions. He's an adrenaline addict, and he craves the rush that comes from pushing his quarter horses across the finish line at full speed.

Crowley won the senior boy's 3/8 miles race, the 3-horse relay meet, and was a top three finalist in the 220-yard dash. Ultimately, he was crowned the Senior Boy Jockey Champion.

In the arena, Crowley was a top contender in both the timed and rough stock events. His first place victory in the senior boys bull riding helped clinch the All-Around Senior Cowboy title and the loot that goes with it.  

 While Crowley likes adding trophies and saddles to his collection, he prefers cash prizes because it allows him to pay his entry fees at the next rodeo.

Crowley will be a freshman at Fowler High School this year. When asked if he is excited for his first year of high school, Crowley dryly replies "yeah because it means I only have three years left."

Though Crowley would rather be on the ranch than in school, his wisdom shines through as he talks about the importance of an education. "I want to rodeo in high school and get a full ride scholarship to college," says Crowley. "I think I want to go into welding or something like that because if I am working on a ranch and we have to sell the cattle, I won't be a broke cowboy. I'll have a backup plan."

Crowley's favorite subject in school is agriculture education, and he plans on joining Fowler's FFA chapter this year.

In all aspects of life, Crowley strives to treat people with respect and believes in the power of the right crowd.

"I try to pick who I hang out with. If they are doing bad things, I won't go with them. If they are polite, do the right thing and have potential I try to go with them," explains Crowley. "If I can teach them something I try to teach them, or if they can teach me, I'll take it and run."

Whether he is on the back of a wide-open quarter horse or handling life's demands, Crowley gives it his all. He values the horses beneath him and admires the people beside him. He's gritty enough to take on larger opponents and wild enough to never back down from a challenge.