Summit County 14-year-old wins team roping competition in the Colorado State Junior High School Rodeo
Rudy Mendiola Jr. attends The Peak School during the day and practices team roping by night
The Mendiola family isn’t your typical Summit County family.
Before moving to the U.S., Rudy Mendiola Sr. worked on his family’s ranch in Mexico, but after learning of the opportunity Summit County offers through an uncle, he and his wife, Ana, immigrated. The couple landed first in Grand County for a few years before finally ending up at Triple Creek Ranch just north of Silverthorne in 2010.
As soon as his sons were old enough, Mendiola introduced them to the rodeo.
“We got involved with rodeos because we like horses so much. About four years ago, we started going to clinics to learn how to team rope,” he said.
His son, 14-year-old Rudy Mendiola Jr., has participated in the team roping competition of the Colorado State Junior High School Rodeo for the last few years. Last year, he and his partner, 14-year-old Mason Neese from Keenesburg, earned fourth place in the state.
This year, the duo took home first place at the competition held on Monday, May 31. Rudy Jr. was the first Hispanic in the competition’s history to place first.
Rudy Jr. said he’s wanted to compete in the rodeo since before he can remember.
“When I was little, I always wanted to do rodeo and be a bull rider, but I stuck to team roping because bull riding is more dangerous,” Rudy Jr. said.
During the school year, he attends The Peak School. After class wraps up, he heads back north where he usually practices for four hours at either the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo in Kremmling or at Triple Creek Ranch.
This summer, he plans to practice even more, with the help of his dad and brother, in preparation for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Perry, Georgia later this month.
Rudy Jr. said there isn’t much about team roping that he doesn’t like. The sport requires two people on horseback — one person to lasso a steer around both horns and one person to lasso two of its feet.
“It keeps you away from trouble and you win many prizes,” Rudy Jr. said. “There’s a lot of money (involved). … You can win a lot of money.”
The national tournament is June 19-25, and Rudy Jr. said that he and his family are hoping to fly and have someone else drive down his horses. The family bought Rip, an American quarter horse, for his birthday this last year for competitions. He was previously practicing on another one of the family’s horses, Revolver.
Rudy Sr. said that he’s witnessed firsthand the benefits his son is getting from competing in the rodeo.
“It’s very good and keeps kids out of trouble,” Rudy Sr. said. “A lot of kids, they mature by teaching your kids how to take care of an animal and how to feed your animal and make sure your animal has water, so it gets your kids very mature. The ranch lifestyle is totally different than a city (life)style, and we’re blessed to be able to do that here in the county.”
Living on Triple Creek Ranch helps too. The family has lived on the ranch for about 12 years, during which Rudy Sr. has helped manage it for the owners, who are a couple from Denver. In addition to the ranch, he also owns an excavating business and a log cabin restoration business. His wife, Ana, works for the Head Start federal program that helps prepare children for school. Their second son, 10-year-old Emiliano, also participates in small rodeo competitions.
Rudy Jr.’s success at the rodeo isn’t the only thing the family is celebrating either. Shortly after moving to the U.S., Rudy Sr. and Ana began the process of becoming U.S. citizens. Three weeks ago, both of them finally got to see that dream come true.
“We are living the American dream,” Rudy Sr. said.
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