This article was written by BenitoLink intern Julia Hicks.
Riding right through the COVID-19 pandemic, the National High School Rodeo Association held its rodeo finals July 13-23 in Guthrie, Oklahoma. For each event, California sends four representatives to compete, and three of those competitors were students from Hollister.
Homeschooled senior Tucker Bourdet competed in the saddle bronc riding competition. Recent San Benito high school graduates Kenneth Moore and Jake Bourdet also competed—Moore in bull riding and Jake in tie down roping. The high school national finals bring in students not only from the United States, but from Mexico and Australia.
Tucker has been involved in rodeo for as long as he can remember. Born into a ranching family, rodeo gives him plenty of opportunities to “meet a lot of new people everywhere I go.” Tucker competed in saddle bronc riding, where he placed 16th overall. The biggest challenge he faced was finding the perfect horse to compete with. However, his biggest accomplishment was making the short rounds during the finals, which is where the top 20 of the first round compete against each other for the championship title.
Eighteen-year-old Moore has been involved in high school rodeo for over a year and has been riding bulls for two years. He finished with results he wasn’t exactly looking for.
“I didn’t come out a world champion bull rider, but a world champion qualifier,” he said.
Although the recent graduate had to push through people telling him he wouldn’t make it in rodeo, Moore was especially proud of being one of the top three bull riders in California.
Jake, a San Benito High School alum, grew up around the rodeo community, winning his first rodeo buckle when he was three years old. Although he wasn’t happy with his results in the finals—83rd overall in tie down roping—Jake reminded himself that “there is always something to work on” in each event he participates in. For tie down roping, he knew “the competition would be tough,” though he was excited about competing in the Lazy E arena because it is the nation’s largest and “most respectable arena.”
COVID-19 put a halt to the California high school state championship, so the boys were picked to go straight to nationals. Tucker found this “not fair to the people that put in their time and money all year to get to [state].” Nonetheless, he took the opportunity with the mentality of “going out there and doing your best. Whatever happens, happens.”
Jake was also impacted by COVID-19 in having fewer rodeos to attend, apart from the nationals. Moore wasn’t as bothered by the pandemic, but on the long drive to Oklahoma, he was highly energetic.
“I was nervous, scared, happy and excited all at once! The rush was insane and I wasn’t even on my bull yet,” he said.
Overall, the three teens enjoyed their experiences. Moore said he wanted to remind kids who have big dreams to “give it your all, put in the work, stay humble, be respectful and you will be a world champion!”
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