Gracie Laverdiere Submitted photo

SCARBOROUGH — Maine Connections Academy has selected Gracie Laverdiere, a ninth-grade student from Pittston, as its December STAR student of the month.

The STAR Student recognition is awarded to a Maine Connections Academy scholar who represents the school’s values and spirit.

Laverdiere is no stranger to traveling. She frequently spends days at a time on the road pursuing her passion of barrel racing, which is a rodeo event featuring a horse and its rider racing around barrels in a cloverleaf pattern for the fastest possible time, according to a news release from the school.

“With my racing schedule, I’m very busy — we’re gone almost every weekend,” she said.

The main season starts in April and ends in the fall, but there’s also plenty of time spent prepping for the competitions. Laverdiere will soon travel to Kentucky for intense training before heading to Florida in February for rodeoing. Her family comes along with her.

“We definitely train a lot for going to run 15 seconds,” she said in the release.

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In addition to Kentucky and Florida, Gracie has trained and raced in states up and down the East Coast, including competitions across New England. She previously finished second in two of the region’s biggest races — all while riding a new horse.

She started riding horses when she was six years old as a fun pastime. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and sidelined her ability to play basketball, she started volunteering at a horse barn, which ultimately led her down the path of barrel racing with a horse of her own.

Now in her first year at Maine Connections Academy, Laverdiere appreciates being able to attend classes and complete her schoolwork remotely while traveling, as well as the flexibility of the digital curriculum — completing assignments at her own pace.

“It gives me the time to work with my horses during the day and then do my schoolwork as my schedule allows,” she said.

While Laverdiere acknowledges that barrel racing can be a mentally demanding sport, it’s all in the spirit of friendly competition. She sees plenty of time at the rodeo in her future.

It’s just something I’ve always loved to do,” she said. “I’m working toward building a career in barrel racing when I’m older.”

In the meantime, her dad is currently building a 12-stall barn to make room for more horses. And when Laverdiere isn’t in the virtual classroom or on the road for a competition, that’s likely where you’ll be able to find her.

 

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