Rodeo: Bourdet, Bell on to nationals

Jake Bourdet and Lilla Bell have qualified for the Junior High Nationals Finals Rodeo in team roping.

Jake Bourdet and Lilla Bell have been friends for all of their lives—literally. Bourdet’s parents, Mitch and Kristy, and Bell’s parents, Dean and Nikki, are close, getting together every couple of weeks. Jake is an eighth grader at Spring Grove, and Lilla is an eighth grader at Southside.
They are both 14 years old, and they’ve been in each other’s lives for as long as they can remember. That’s what made their showing in the team roping competition in the State of California Junior High Rodeo on May 12 to 15 in Plymouth all the more heartwarming. The duo won two of three rounds, including the best time average, to secure a spot in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo (NJHFR) in Tennessee June 19 to 25.
Bourdet and Bell, who have been team roping together for three years, said their performance in the state finals was the highlight of their rodeo careers. The top four in each event in the state finals qualified to go to nationals.
“It’s the best memory so far,” Bell said. “We work well together and have always gotten along.”
Said Bourdet: “This is the highlight (of my career) because team roping is my favorite (event in rodeo). We’ve been talking about doing well in this event all year.”
Bell earned the most prestigious title in rodeo: The title of All-Around Champion Cowgirl. She also qualified for nationals in the breakaway roping and pole bending events. Bourdet qualified in two individual events as well, light rifle and saddle steer bronc riding.
This is the third straight year in which Bourdet has qualified to nationals, but the first time he’ll actually be in competition.
“We know it’s going to be tough (because it’s the best competitors in the nation),” he said. “If we happen to do good, it would be amazing. But just doing the same at state (would be a big accomplishment).”
That’s because Bourdet and Bell were remarkably consistent in each round. In rodeo, like in all sports, consistency is paramount. Bourdet and Bell rarely argue—“I’ve got an older brother to argue with,” Bell said—and their cohesiveness shows in the arena.
“We practice together a lot, so we don’t really think about what we’re doing when we’re out there,” Bourdet said.
Things come rather naturally for the childhood friends, both of whom are ingrained in the ranching lifestyle. They grew up feeding and cleaning animals, and now they’re guiding animals still more than twice their size in rodeo competitions. Bourdet and Bell aren’t planning on leaving the ranching lifestyle anytime soon, if ever.
“I would like to continue a lifestyle of rodeo and agriculture,” Bell said. “I’m in 4H and usually show steers, but this year I’ll be showing pigs (at the county fair).”
“I like rodeo more than any other sport I’ve ever done,” said Bourdet, who also grew up playing baseball, basketball and football.

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