Four local teens are bringing San Benito County to the national stage June 24 to June 30, when they compete in the 2018 National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Huron, South Dakota.
Local competitors include Tristan Schmidt, Beth Hitchcock, Trista Reid, and Michael Curto. These individuals will represent District 4 of the California Junior High Rodeo Association. These four young riders beat out hundreds of other rodeo contestants to place in the California Junior High Rodeo State Finals, which took place in Red Bluff, California in early May.
To qualify for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, contestants were first required to compete at the state level. To make it to the state finals, students had to be ranked in the top five in their district for their respective event. At the state finals, the top four contestants in each event qualify to go on to compete at the national level.
Leading the field will be rookie Tristan Schmidt, who earned the boys' reserve and rookie all around at the California Junior High Rodeo State Finals. He was also the state champion in the saddle bronc steer riding. The now-incoming freshman will compete in the saddle-bronc steer riding and team roping, as a heeler.
“I feel excited to represent California and San Benito County at nationals," Schmidt said. “I look forward to winning on a national level.”
Beth Hitchcock will compete in the team roping with partner Schmidt as a header. The team roping duo earned the reserve state champion title. Hitchcock said she feels very blessed to represent California, California High School Rodeo District 4, and San Benito County on a national level.
“I would like to thank my sister Emilee for letting me use her old barrel horse, Paycheck, to rope off of,” Hitchcock said. “This is going to be his second time to nationals in the team roping.”
Trista Reid will advance to nationals in girls' goat tying. A third-year member of the California Junior High Rodeo Association, she said she is blessed to represent California in goat tying on her horse Jazzy.
“I'm very thankful for my parents that have supported me throughout my journey,” Reid said.
Michael Curto qualified to nationals in the chute dogging. A rookie this year, he looks forward to representing District 4 and California in South Dakota.
“This is my first year qualifying to nationals I look forward to meeting news friends and hopefully bringing home that championship buckle,” Curto said.
Figuring roughly 1,000 contestants from 43 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia, and Mexico, the National Junior High Finals Rodeo is the world's largest junior high rodeo. Contestants compete for $80,000 in prize money, $200,000 in college scholarships, and the chance to be named a National Junior High Finals Rodeo World Champion.
Valley Pizzeria in Hollister is holding a fundraiser for the national qualifiers through June 9. Bring a copy of the attached flyer or a picture on your phone. For every pizza sold, the pizzeria will donate 20 percent to the national qualifiers.