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Alabama Teen Wins World Barrel Racing Title

Alabama Teen Wins World Barrel Racing Title
November 30, 2022 |

By Marlee Moore

2022 was a banner year for 18-year- old Noah Mills. He and bay quarter horse Deuce clocked 14.6 seconds to snag first place in the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Teen World Championship — scoring an engraved belt buckle, big check and bragging rights. Months earlier, Noah and Central High School baseball teammates won the state championship days before graduation.

“Talk about a big year,” Noah said with a grin.

Noah’s run to the 2022 championship began in 2021. Racers must attend three-plus NBHA-affiliated shows (or purchase a wildcard) to qualify, earning points as they go.

Once at the championship in Perry, Georgia, 1,200 teen competitors have two tries to make the finals. The top 25 in each of five divisions make the final run, and divisions are split in half-second increments, which are measured off the fastest time.

Noah qualified for the finals, ranking 23rd in the second division with a 15.2. The day’s fastest time was 14.5.


Noah Mills and quarter horse Deuce bolted out of the gate to clock 14.6 seconds, and a first-place victory, in the National Barrel Horse Association World Teen Championship.

“I knew I could do it,” Noah said. His mother, Laura, added, “There were people who had run faster but not on the day it mattered.”

In barrel racing, horses bolt into the arena, making a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. Horse-rider connections are critical in the highly competitive event, with some horses pushing fast to get to each barrel, hugging it as they round the corner. Others need more space, making big passes around each barrel.

“Your timing has to be impeccable,” Laura said. “You have to be bonded with your animal.”

The Millses, who live in Crawford, have traveled the show circuit for years, with Laura and husband Jerry attending dressage and show-jumping events before Noah was born. When he was a toddler, Noah started off riding ponies, eventually progressing to Deuce, who measures 16.2 hands.
At a solid hand, or 4 inches, over most barrel-racing horses, Deuce complements Noah’s 6-foot-2-inch

frame. Males and females compete in NBHA’s adult, teen and youth divisions (youth are 12 and under), while rodeo barrel racers are solely female.

The Millses have formed deep friendships through barrel racing and fellowshipping at cowboy church services during contests with folks like Kim and Phil Slay of Chambers County. Their daughter, Audra, competed before aging out this past year.

“We’re proud to have a world champion from small-town Alabama,”

Phil said. “Noah put in the hard work, and it paid off. Horses can be expensive, but it’s really a family sport. We travel to these events as a family and are thankful to make life-long friends like Laura, Jerry and Noah.”

In barrel racing, the slowest contestants lead off the finals, ending with the fastest previous competitor.

After Noah’s 14.6 run, nearly 80 horses remained. The Millses led Deuce to his stall and were surrounded by family and friends during the tense hour till the final horse entered the ring.

“I told myself, ‘If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,’” Laura said. “It was too nerve-wracking. I brushed the horse, cleaned the stall, tried to stay busy. I cried when it finally happened.”

The closest times were 14.7 and 14.9 seconds. “We’ve always known Deuce had the potential and ability,” Laura said of the former track horse. “We’re just your regular working-class people. I have a retired budget. I’ve always told Noah that if we win anything, we’re ahead. We do this because we love it and for our own fulfillment.”

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