The bulging muscles of powerful horseflesh beneath Oakdale soon-to-be seventh graders Travis Kent and Cody Buchanan seem to ripple under the saddle as the pair expertly thunder down the practice arena toward speeding calves.
With deft tosses of the rope and superb control of their mounts, Kent and Buchanan repeat a roping process that is already a routine exercise.
The calves fly from their chutes with surprising explosiveness, but the Oakdale youths have already mastered the art of a quick pursuit.
It’s hard to believe that both youngsters have less than two years of roping experience between them.
The inexperience didn’t keep the two from qualifying for the state finals in May, when each finished fourth in his respective event to snare a qualification for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, New Mexico.
“I was real nervous at the state finals, because there was a lot of good kids there,” Kent, a Valley Home student, said. “But I managed to get in and I am real excited about nationals.”
Kent was fourth in breakaway roping to earn the national honor. He has only six months of roping experience under his belt buckle, but has picked up the sport with a fierce tenacity.
“It just takes a lot of repetition,” his coach, Justin Spence, said. “This is the level that rodeo pros start at, and if Travis can stay dedicated, he has a possible future in this.”
Spence and his wife Leandra (also a barrel racer) will make the trek to Gallup with Travis and his horse in tow.
Cody, a student at Cloverland, will travel with his grandfather, David Buchanan.
“I was really excited to know that I was going to make it,” Cody said. “My whole family has been into rodeo and I really like it.”
Buchanan was fourth in ribbon roping, along with teammate Sierra McClure of Acampo. He has his own shot at national accolades after just a year of experience in the sport.
Both local boys will vie for a portion of over $75,000 in prizes and another $80,000 in college scholarship money. The National Rodeo will feature over 1,000 contestants from 47 states, as well as Australia and Canada.
Both are currently accepting sponsorships for the trip to Nationals, which is scheduled from June 27 through July 3. For more information, contact Lynn at (209) 968-9937.