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Popko wins CJRA opener, CHSRA go-round


Last updated 3/22/2007 at Noon

Kerry Popko’s February 17-18 rodeo weekend at City of Industry included a win in the California Junior Rodeo Association season opener February 17 and a go-round win in the California High School Rodeo Association competition February 18.

“I just needed to keep the poles up,” Popko said of winning two of her three Pole Bending go-rounds. “There were a lot of people hitting poles this weekend.”

Popko competes in the Senior Girls division during California Junior Rodeo Association competition. Popko and her horse, Banjo, had a time of 20.46 seconds to take first place in the CJRA event. “That’s a good way to start off the junior rodeo season,” she said.

Pole Bending requires a rider to go between poles, and a five-second penalty is assessed for each pole which is knocked down. Popko hit the final pole with her feet and had to catch the pole with her hand to keep it upright. “I could have run a 19 on that one, but I picked up the pole,” Popko said of her time. “I’d rather have a slower time than a hit pole.”

Popko incurred two five-second penalties during the first go-round in the CHSRA competition. “I’m not mad at my horse at all,” she said. “After he hit those poles I knew it was something I needed to work on.”

Popko’s time on her first CHSRA run, including the ten seconds in penalties, was 30.87 seconds. “I made up for it, and I won the second go,” she said.

The Fallbrook High School junior had a time of 20.92 seconds in the second go-round. “Banjo was speedy this weekend,” Popko said.

The cowboys and cowgirls who are in the top three in their district standings for an event at the February deadline qualify for that event at the Challenge of the Champions, which will take place March 23-25 in Plymouth and features competitors from all nine CHSRA districts. Popko finished the high school rodeo in second place in the Pole Bending standings, earning her a berth at Challenge of the Champions. “I’m so excited,” she said.

Popko believes that the traditionally muddy arena in Plymouth allows riders to run faster if they can take advantage of the ground. “It rains every year up there, so I’m hoping this will be the year I get to run in the mud,” she said.

The February 18 rodeo also saw Fallbrook High School sophomore Maria Valdez earn her first CHSRA points of the season. Valdez placed in one Breakaway Roping go-round, in a Barrel Racing go-round, and in the Barrel Racing average. Valdez rode Blackie for Barrel Racing and had a time of 16.73 seconds in the first go-round, 4/100 seconds away from the tenth-place position, but her time of 17.13 seconds in the second go-round placed ninth and her average of 33.86 seconds on two runs gave her eighth place. Valdez rode Wyatt in the Breakaway Roping, missing her first calf but placing eighth in the second go-round with a time of 18.50 seconds.


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