Mondovi youths head to national rodeo event
by Beth Kraft
Two local middle school students are currently in the thick of competition at the 2015 National Junior High Finals Rodeo this week.
Nathan Pelke, 13, has been to the event in Des Moines, Iowa, before but this year marks 14-year-old Morgan Rud’s first time on the national stage competing against hundreds of other youths from across the country.
Pelke will tackle an impressive six events—adding two new events to his rodeo repertoire this year.
In his first year at Nationals, Pelke competed in goat tying, breakaway roping, team roping and ribbon roping. He will add bull riding and chute dogging to the list this year.
Additionally, Pelke’s season points totals were enough to earn him Reserve All-Around honors at the State Finals, where he took first in breakaway and second in goat tying among other top finishes. He was named Rookie of the Year at State in 2014.
Rud, who is also the reigning Midnight Riders Rodeo Queen, will try her hand at barrel racing and pole bending at Nationals, slated to take place June 21-27 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
Rud said the prospect of competing at Nationals for the first time was “nerve-wracking” but she hoped she would be able to settle in and perform well once the competition got rolling.
Both Pelke and Rud have goals of making the cut for the “short go,” or Top 20 after preliminaries, in their events—a tough accomplishment considering the massive number of rodeo youths that will compete.
After taking in the unique experience in his first go-around at the 2014 Nationals and “just seeing what it’s all about,” Pelke said he was looking to at least make it into the top 60 in all of his events this year.
He came relatively close to that goal last year in team roping, placing 76th just ahead of a team from Texas, which Pelke says was “a surprise.”
Kids from a lot of those southern states are tough to beat, but it’s fun to compete against them, he said.
“It’s fun to cheer for other kids from your state,” added Pelke, noting the point totals from each state’s competitors are tallied in the end.
Other fun aspects about Nationals are “competing against different states, talking to different kids and trying to do your best,” said Pelke.
Rud was looking forward to a similar experience at Nationals, noting that “just having the chance to compete” was exciting.
Nathan is the son of Dave and Lori Pelke; Morgan is the daughter of Mike and Michelle Rud, all of Mondovi.
The NJHFR is the world’s largest junior high rodeo featuring roughly 1,000 contestants from 42 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia. In addition to competing for more than $75,000 in prizes, NJHFR contestants will also be vying for more than $100,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named a National Champion.
Rodeo youths will compete throughout the week for a chance to make the “short go” (Top 20) to advance to Saturday evening’s final round. National champs will then be determined based on their three-round combined scores.
In addition to great rodeo competition and the chance to make new friends from around the world, NJHFR youths can enjoy other activities such as shooting sports, volleyball, tug-of-war, contestant dances and other family-oriented activities while at Nationals.
To follow Pelke and Rud’s progress at the NJHFR, check out www.nhsra.org for daily competition updates and results.
Saturday’s championship performance will be televised nationally as part of the Cinch High School Rodeo Tour telecast series on RFD-TV. Live broadcasts of each NJHFR performance will also air online at NHSRATV.com. Performance times are set for 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day this week.