Sunshine State Sisters are Women Ranch Rodeo Champs
Fort Pierce Natives Jenna Adams Stierwalt and Sage Adams Follow in Dad’s Footsteps
Written by: Kathy Ann Gregg
Billy Adams of Fort Pierce, Florida, has been involved with ranch rodeos since they first came on the scene in the Sunshine State in the mid-2000s, including competing in them and running the annual one hosted by the St. Lucie County Cattlemen’s Association. At the age of 55, he was the oldest competitor at the 2019 state finals. While not related to the late rancher and cattle breeder Alto “Bud” Adams Jr., Billy is the ranch manager of the Adams Ranch, as was his father before him.
And Billy’s two daughters, Jenna Adams Stierwalt and Sage Adams, are just like him at the national women’s ranch rodeo level. Both women started out competing at the junior rodeo level and in Florida High School Rodeo.
In 2006, River Ranch put on a ranch rodeo as its Saturday night rodeo, and Billy entered himself, Jenna, John Adams (of the Adams Ranch family) and “some ol’ Yankee kid”—and the family banked its first ranch rodeo win. The Working Ranch Cowboys Association, or WRCA, started holding events at Arcadia Rodeo Arena shortly thereafter. Jenna competed on the Adams Ranch team until going to college in Oklahoma in 2009. Then Sage stepped in to take her place.
For almost a decade, the 33-year-old Jenna, who is a mother of two toddlers, has competed on a team in the Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association, or WRRA. With Sage joining the team on occasion, the core of her team has been Jenna and her friends Billie Franks and Neesa Smith. The 57-year-old Franks was a co-founder of the WRRA and is still its director.
The events used in the WRRA are similar to those used in Florida ranch rodeos—team sorting, trailer loading, calf branding, doctoring and mugging. The calf branding differs in that the gals have to drag two calves to the “fire” to be branded, and the mugging differs in that they head a steer, and then can choose to either heel it or mug it down and tie three legs together.
And Jenna is very proud to have Florida cattle ranches as sponsors of her teams over the years. Rancher Clayton Charles of Midnight Cattle has been a prior sponsor, and currently they ride under the name of Push Hard Cattle, owned by rancher Charlie Hamner. Dad Billy rode for years under the Push Hard Cattle name in the Florida ranch rodeos.
Hamner has every reason to be proud of his female team—it is the only team to have won the Finals for three consecutive years, from 2012 to 2014, as well as the average for the weekend those same years. In 2016, they were the Reserve World Champions, and Jenna was crowned the Top Hand for that year, when she announced that she was pregnant.
Three months after Jenna gave birth to her daughter, Sonora, the women hit the road and competed in a double-header rodeo in Colorado, winning one and placing second in the other. Jenna won Top Hand at Boone, Colorado, while Sage took the Top Horse award on Jenna’s horse “Wee Man” in Limon, Colorado. “Wee Man” is a Buck Daniel Ranch horse, out of Okeechobee.
Also in 2016, Jenna’s other horse, “Sorrely,” won the Top Horse award for her husband, Shane, and the Stierwalt Cattle team at the men’s WRCA ranch rodeos in Claremore, Oklahoma, and Encampment, Wyoming.
Leap years seem to bring good luck to Jenna. In 2012, she was crowned Top Hand at the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association annual ranch rodeo, the only female to receive that honor. She describes it as “truly exciting for this little Cracker!” The year 2016 saw the honor come from the WRRA, and 2020 was a repeat for her—in October of last year she was crowned Top Hand for the Finals, held in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, near her home at Stierwalt Ranch outside Shidler. The award was against 15 teams, and 59 other women, from New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Colorado.
Says Jenna: “This was such a shock and an honor. This and the 2012 Osage County award are two of the most awesome moments that I have felt so humbled to earn.” She gives the credit to her teammates. In addition to her individual award in 2020, the Push Hard Cattle team was Reserve World Champions, and placed third for the weekend average. Kudos to Jenna and Sage, as well as “Wee Man” and “Sorrely”—and they are just getting started!