APU Student Harmony Latham Named Miss Rodeo USA

by Rachel White

Since her childhood growing up on a ranch just outside Wrightwood, California, Harmony Latham ’17 has loved three things: horses, sports, and beauty pageants. While many would see these interests as incongruent, they make perfect sense to Latham. “I love the thrill of competition,” said the Azusa Pacific University business marketing major. “These lifelong passions fuel my desire to win.” Latham has discovered a way to play to her strengths and combine all three activities, resulting in her latest accomplishment being crowned 2016 Miss Rodeo USA.

Securing the title at the 50,th anniversary Miss Rodeo USA Pageant in Oklahoma City in January 2016 marked the triumphant culmination of a rigorous competition process, which included speeches, interviews, modeling shows, a written examination on equine science, and two rounds of horsemanship conducted in front of a panel of judges. As Miss Rodeo USA, Latham will travel more than 100,000 miles this year, representing the International Professional Rodeo Association at rodeos and charity events across the nation. She will also share her literacy platform, Royalty Reading, with thousands of school children.

“Serving as Miss Rodeo USA enables me to grow professionally and personally,” said Latham. “I can’t wait to sharing my love of reading with kids across the country, inspiring them to do their best in school, and telling them my story. I’m just a girl who loves horses, worked hard, and followed my dreams.”

Latham’s love of horses came naturally. Her father was raised on a cattle ranch in Colorado and her mother competed in rodeos as a barrel racer. “Horses have been part of Harmony’s life since birth,” said her mother, Kerri. “When she was six weeks old, my husband and I took Harmony horse packing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In fact, she was riding a horse before she could walk.”

“My friends joke that I’m more comfortable on four hooves with a mind of their own than on my own two feet,” said Latham. As an active child, horses provided an outlet for her boundless energy and so did athletics. Latham competed in every sport available in her small town, including earning all conference honors as the only female on her eighth grade football team, where she played as an offensive lineman. “My brother, Garrett, also a business major at APU, wanted to play football in junior high, so I decided to play too. We are only a year apart and he’s my best friend.”

When she wasn’t riding horses or playing sports, Latham traded in her muddy boots and football pads for high heels and fancy dresses. “Harmony began competing in beauty pageants at age 5,” said Kerri. “It was her idea. I wasn’t the girly type, so I didn’t understand her fascination with it, but I thought, ‘Why not?’ She was the type of kid who wanted to try everything and it kept her busy.” Sixteen years of pageants, with many titles and crowns along the way, prepared her for the Miss Rodeo USA competition.

Yet, Latham points to another training ground that ultimately helped shape and ready her for success, her experience as an APU student. “I originally planned to attend a large state university, but when I came to APU to visit a friend, I knew this was the place for me. I loved the welcoming environment and the Christ-centered community.”

True to Latham’s nature, she jumped right in, serving as an Alpha leader, a student equipment manager for the football team, and helping launch the first year of ZuVenturez, the university’s start-up business plan competition for APU students. She points to many caring faculty and students who have offered her support along the way. “APU allows me to be me to realize God’s plan for my life and have the courage to step out in faith,” said Latham. “I’m hoping to use the Miss Rodeo USA platform to inspire others to celebrate their strengths and believe in themselves like the university community has believed in me.” Follow Latham’s journey and read her blog at missrodeousa.com.

Rachel White is the associate director of public relations in the Office of University Relations at APU. rewhite@apu.edu