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Durand teen representing stateline as Miss Teen Rodeo Illinois

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DURAND (WREX) — Emilee Simpson has been around horses her whole life.

She lived just feet away from a stable full of them on her family's ranch in Durand.

Emilee's mom Jeanne is filled with memories of her daughter wanting to ride.

"Her older sisters would get on the horses and she'd always have her hands out because she wanted to ride," Jeanne Simpson said.

"She just always wanted to be on horses."

Emilee's passion continued to grow after going to multiple rodeo events.

Everything went at a different speed than the showing of pleasure horses she was doing which appealed to her.

"I started seeing events at the rodeo where they went against a timer. I really liked beating the timer instead of beating another person. It really changed my whole view on the 'show and go slow' mentality," Emilee Simpson said.

"I just started going fast and I can't stop now."

Picking up the pace brought Emilee to Palestine, Illinois, about 300 miles from Durand, to compete for the Miss Teen Rodeo Illinois title.

She was left on her own without her family behind her to showcase a lot more than just her ability to ride a horse.

"I had to do speech, model in front of the whole town I had to rodeo's every night, PR, presenting ourselves in the highest morals she can," Emilee said.

Through all of the trials, Emilee came out on top to win the Miss Teen Rodeo Illinois Crown.

Holding the title allows her to travel across Illinois making appearances and spreading a message of high morals to the youth of the state.

I'm helping younger people who want to follow their dreams and be who they want to be and showing them that you can chase any dream that you want and you can always have it," Emilee said.

"Just always go for whatever you want to go for. Don't let anyone bring you down or defeat you because you automatically can do it."

The 16-year-old is learning a lot about being a role model for others, which is a development her family has loved to see.

"It's been really awesome to watch her grow," Jeanne Simpson said.

"To see the seeds that we laid when she was little that's she's taken it and it's grown and it isn't done yet. It can continue and it can be her career."

While Emilee is excited about the opportunity to travel and meet other people, she loves being able to represent the stateline as Miss Teen Rodeo Illinois.

Her title is giving her the ability to educate people on the small town she calls home.

"It's pretty cool to be able to travel and people be like 'where are you from' and I get to tell a lot of people about Durand since no one really knows about it," Emilee said

Emilee held the title of Miss Teen Rodeo Illinois through 2019 and was asked to keep the crown through 2020.

Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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