Despite having only practiced once or twice together before the California High School Rodeo Association State Finals in Bishop June 13-18, Billy Aviles and Carson Jones finished as the runners-up in team roping.
The performance earned them a spot in the National High School Rodeo Association Finals in Gillette, Wyo., July 17-23. Aviles is an incoming senior at San Benito High and Jones is a recent De La Salle High graduate set to attend Cal Poly University and compete on the rodeo team there.
Four additional Hollister residents—Trista Reid, Vince Nino, Tristan Schmidt and Brett Pura—also advanced to Nationals by virtue of finishing in the top four in their events: Nino and Schmidt in calf roping, Schmidt in reined cow horse and Reid in goat tying. The quartet are all recent graduates, Nino from Palma High and Pura, Reid and Schmidt from San Benito High.
“I’m pumped because this is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” said Nino, who finished high school with a cumulative 4.1 GPA. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people at Nationals and putting up some sweet runs to show off our talent and that we actually do have some pretty good cowboys in California.”
Nino turned in his best time on his first run, which set him up to have solid runs the next couple of days in the competition.
“So far in my high school rodeo career, this is one of the greatest moments, qualifying for Nationals,” Nino said. “I knew everything came together and achieving that felt great.”
Aviles and Jones developed into a strong team, which, given their history, made their performance at State an impressive turnaround. They first competed together in team roping five years ago, and let’s just say things didn’t turn out too well.
But since that time both made incremental improvements, and their first of three runs at State turned out to be their best one. Team roping is a timed event in which two mounted contestants attempt to rope and immobilize a full-grown steer.
The ropers wait on both sides of the steer’s chute. The first roper, or header, begins behind a barrier and gives the steer a head start.
“Carson is the header and ropes the head and turns it, and I come pick up the feet,” Aviles said. “There’s not much to it. Just a lot of practice.”
Because the duo live far apart—Aviles in Hollister and Jones 90 minutes north in Danville—they only practiced together a handful of times leading up to State. But they both practice on their own, putting in countless hours.
“We individually roped everyday getting ready for State,” Aviles said. “We’ve done that for many years.”
The lack of practice time together did little to affect their chemistry.
“We’re buddies,” Aviles said. “We both play football and rodeo and we get along pretty good. We’re more mature now and learned how to rope a little better and figure each other out as a team.”
Aviles and Jones didn’t talk about roping together again until the beginning of this year, when they saw each other at an event. From there, they kept in touch via texts and Snapchat, and they both talked to their dads about teaming up at State.
“It’s a great feeling knowing we’re going to Wyoming to compete against the best,” Aviles said.
What most of these National qualifiers have in common is taking up the sport at an early age or getting indoctrinated into the rodeo culture.
“I was swinging a shoelace in the stroller and always had a rope in my hand,” Aviles said.
“I’ve been doing rodeo my whole life,” Nino said. “I was riding horses when I was little.”
Even though neither of Nino’s parents competed, he knew they were always behind him.
“They supported me 100% and were always willing to help me achieve my dreams,” Nino said. “They put me in a position to succeed and do my best.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]