Lilla Bell and Jake Bourdet, two local 14-year-olds who recently competed in the 2016 National Junior High Rodeo Finals in Lebanon, Tennessee, each came out with their own set of successes after the competition last weekend. The rodeo, from June 19-25, included a variety of individual and team events. Bell and Bourdet, who have been close friends almost their whole lives, entered the National Finals together for team roping, after they qualified in the State Junior High Rodeo Finals in early May.
Each section of competition in the finals is broken into three brackets; the 20 top performers in each bracket are allowed to advance to the next round. While Bell and Bourdet didn’t qualify together in Team Roping, Lilla did qualify on her own for Girls' Breakaway. In the short go she earned sixth place, qualifying her for the final bracket; in the end, she earned third place in the nation. Bell also just missed qualifying for Pole Bending, in which she earned 22nd in the nation. Bourdet made it to the second qualifying round in Saddle Steer Riding, in which he took 16th place in the nation.
BenitoLink spoke to Lilla and her mother Nikki by text, as they were traveling back to California from Tennessee. Said Nikki of Lilla’s plans to continue roping with Jake, “I’m very happy they’re going to keep roping together in high school. They are good friends first which makes for a good team! I encourage her to continue competing in rodeo as long as it’s what she loves to do. I think it will always be her passion.”
Lilla, in speaking about her personal future rodeo aspirations, said: “I will continue to compete in [rodeo] and try to improve my breakaway roping. It’s one of my favorite events. I will continue with all of my events, which are team roping, barrels, poles, and goat tying. I’m going to work to improve in all of my events because the competition only gets tougher in high school, and then [more so] in college. I plan to continue rodeoing through high school and college.”
She continued, “I am very excited about placing third at nationals. My horse and I have worked hard to reach the goal of making it to nationals. I’ve had a lot of support from my family and friends, and I appreciate all they’ve done to help me get to this point. Rodeo is a very supportive community, and I really enjoy being a part of rodeo family life!”