Popko wins both go-rounds, average at Camp Pendleton
Last updated 5/1/2008 at Noon
Kerry Popko won both Pole Bending go-rounds as well as the average (aggregate) at the California High School Rodeo Association competition April 13 at Camp Pendleton’s Ace Bowen Arena.
The points for the go-round and average wins moved Popko from fifth in the CHSRA District 8 standings to a tie for second entering the final District 8 rodeo of the season – and of Popko’s career – May 3-4 at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds.
“It really boosts my confidence to go in there and win them both,” Popko said.
Popko entered the April rodeo with 87 points, placing her 17 points behind Carolann Scott, 12 points behind Laura Herron, two points behind Tyla Treasure, and six points in front of sixth-place Maddie Dewberry. The top five in the point standings at the end of the season will be invited to the CHSRA state finals.
“I was actually really nervous going into it,” Popko said. “I knew that the end of the year was coming and the pressure was intense.”
Destri Devenport entered the rodeo with 140 1/2 points, although her horse was lame and she used a borrowed horse for the Camp Pendleton rodeo. Devenport earned one point in April after finishing tenth in one go-round and hitting poles in her other run.
Popko rides Banjo, who was ready for the April competition. “I’d been working hard with my horse,” Popko said. “I was just hoping for the best.”
Popko’s primary goal was to avoid any five-second penalties incurred for knocking down a pole. “I just went in there for the clean run,” she said.
Popko and Banjo had a time of 20.94 seconds on the first run. “I wasn’t expecting that time, so I was pretty stoked about that,” Popko said. “It was one of my highlight wins because it kind of proves that I’m out of my slump.”
Treasure was second with a run of 21.09 seconds, Herron placed third at 21.64 seconds, Bobbi Kushner earned fourth with a time of 21.83 seconds, and Paige Connelly took fifth at 21.90 seconds. Dewberry’s time would have placed third had she not hit a pole.
Popko’s second run took 20.90 seconds. “I was a little higher up in the draw, so I didn’t have as much time to sit there and think about my run,” she said.
The run didn’t require too much improvising. “It was just smooth,” Popko said. “He just felt like the horse that I knew.”
Popko’s time narrowly beat the 20.94-second mark of Dewberry. Scott’s time of 21.03 seconds placed third, Treasure was fourth at 21.21 seconds, and Herron had a 21.29-second run to earn fifth place.
The two runs gave Popko an average of 41.84 seconds. “Consistency is the key,” she said. “I just needed those points.”
Ten points are given for the first-place time in each go-round, and the average winner earns another ten points. Points are also awarded to the rest of the top ten finishers in each go-round and in the average. “I wasn’t going in there to get 30 points,” Popko said.
Popko won’t turn down the maximum number of points. Her 117 points following the rodeo tied her with Scott and put her ahead of the 114 points apiece of Treasure and Herron, who finished second and third in the average respectively with times of 42.30 and 42.93 seconds.
Devenport’s single point at Camp Pendleton gives Popko a mathematical chance of winning the District 8 championship, although that’s not Popko’s desire. “I don’t want Destri to do bad,” Popko said. “She’s my competitor but she’s also a really good friend.”
Even if Popko or Scott were to win both go-rounds and the average in Lakeside, Devenport could clinch the season championship with one fifth-place go-round. Seventh-place Kortney Cleveland has no chance of qualifying for the state finals other than as an alternate, and even if Dewberry is perfect Popko could clinch a berth in the state finals with one third-place go-round.
Popko promises not to coast at the Lakeside competition. “It’s basically going to be my last district rodeo, so I’m going to go out with a bang,” she said.