It’s time to get back in the saddle.
Rodeo is back on the Central Coast.
This time it’s high school rodeo, the last of the high school sports to kick off its season.
There are two events on tap beginning Friday with a cutting competition at the Jack Ranch in southern Monterey County. In cutting, a horse and rider demonstrate their ability to handle cattle before a panel of judges during a 2½-minute run.
Righetti's boys started the boys-girls water polo doubleheader Wednesday against Morro Bay with a rout.
That will be followed by two full days of high school and junior high school rodeo at the Varian family’s V6 Ranch in Parkfield, the “Earthquake Capital of the World.”
“It’s just like the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) only closer, smaller, cheaper and more fun,” according to the V6 Ranch website.
Unlike the other sports where student-athletes compete for their school’s team, junior high and high school rodeo cowgirls and cowboys are all part of one district, each colorfully named, in the California High School Rodeo Association (CHSRA).
Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura County participants are all part of District 7 — the Magnificent 7 — and one Magnificent 7 cowgirl, Solvang’s Gracie Lopez, is the reigning girls cutting state champion.
“I’m excited,” said Lopez, a junior at Santa Ynez High. “I competed in three WCRA (West Coast Rodeo Association) rodeos this summer but I haven’t cut since the National Finals (where she finished seventh). I’m looking forward to getting back to the high school competition.
With a 12-9 win over crosstown rival Santa Maria Wednesday, the Pioneer Valley boys water polo team squared its Ocean League record at 2-2.
“Some of the District 7 kids were at the WRCA but not all. I’m looking forward to seeing all my District 7 friends again.”
After Friday’s cutting, Lopez and her crew will head to nearby Parkfield where she’ll compete in five events; barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping.
Her crew includes her family and her three horses; reigning state champion Diesel for cutting, Chexie for goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping, and Buzz for pole bending and barrel racing.
“We’ll be bringing our horse trailer which has living quarters in it,” said Lopez. “We’ll do all the events Saturday and then start over again on Sunday. We’ll have winners each day but it’s where we begin earning points.”
Those points go toward qualifying for the state championship in the spring of 2020.
The junior high finals will be held in Red Bluff from May 13-16. The high school finals will be in Bishop from June 7-14.
Parkfield (population 18) will be packed. More than 100 boys and girls make up the Magnificent 7’s junior high and high school teams.
The riders will be joined by their families and they’ll all be hauling horses to the rodeo grounds.
“The V6 Ranch has a little motel, a little café, a pool and the rodeo grounds so most of us bring horse trailers with living quarters,” said Lopez, who is also a member of Santa Ynez High’s swimming and diving team.
When she's not competing or taking care of her trio of horses, Lopez plans to spend some time in the pool.
Both V6 Ranch in Parkfield and the Jack Ranch are in Monterey County, normally out of the Magnificent 7’s area.
But the CHSRA doesn’t keep strict boundaries. It allows competitors from adjacent counties to move over.
“The Varian family has been part of District 7 for years,” said Lopez. “So even though they’re in Monterey County, they’re allowed to compete in our district."
Several of the Varian children have competed in both the state and national championships including Kincade Varian who represented the Magnificent 7 in trap shooting at the 2019 National Finals.
After the season-opener in Parkfield, the cowgirls and cowboys head to the Bakersfield Chute Out from Oct. 4-6 and then are coming to the Santa Maria Elks Unocal Event Center Oct. 19-20.
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