CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Dora’s Jesse Clark had a time of 13.76 seconds on his first go in the tie-down calf-roping event Thursday during the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association finals held at the Curry County Events Center.
By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico
Jesse Clark of Dora has been waiting all year to get back into the national finals. After this weekend at the New Mexico High School Rodeo Finals in Clovis, he might have the chance.
The rodeo runs through Saturday at the Curry County Special Events Center.
Clark has been calf roping since he was 5 years old and got started when his sister Kassandra Clark was roping in the rodeo. Clark and his roping partner, Trent Bilberry, have been strong friends for years, but compete against each other all the time.
Bilberry said the friendship takes a vacation once they’re in the arena.
“It is just like being in a football game,” Bilberry said. “You’re going to laugh and joke, but once you step on that field, we‘re bound and determined to see who‘s going to win this deal.”
While their sisters were roping and riding they spent their time riding an old Shetland pony, practicing and learning how to rope.
The top four winners of the calf roping advance to the nationals in Farmington. The last high school competition of the year in Gallup has Clark leading the way with 110 points, according to the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association.
Clark made the national finals last year. Clark said it is a little different being up there, with a lot more people.
“Hopefully I’ll do a good job,” Clark said. “It just depends on how fast the calf will be, but I never hold back cause I always go to win first place. I’m ready for the calf roping to start.”
In the first leg of the first round of calf roping on Thursday night, Clark finished in third place with a time of 13.76 seconds. Chance Barnes of Flora Vista finished in first at 9.88 seconds.
This is Clark’s second time at the Curry County Special Events Center. He competed in Joe’s Boot Shop Calf Roping Colt Cluck Memorial on May 2 and won the event. Clark received $2,500 and saddle for first place.
“It is a real nice place, I kinda like it,” Clark said. “Hopefully it will treat me as nice as it did last time.”
Clark’s stepfather, Jerry Skinner, has taught him everything that he knows over the past 10 years.
“He’s been learning how to calf rope since me and his mom have been married,” Skinner said. “We’ve turned him into what he is today, but he is far from finished.”
Skinner said it was nothing new to him helping to raise Clark, because he has helped raised six children before him.
“I love him just as much as I love the others,” Skinner said. “I taught him everything I know, but (coach) Sylvester Mayfield and his mom … have been with him in the practice pen. A lot of it is just natural ability.”
Skinner said Mayfield has helped Clark out in the event.
“Calf roping is an individual sport,” Skinner said. “The only person who can beat you is yourself. If you make mistakes you’re not going to be in there. It is pretty much an individual sport just like track. You have to have a special talent to rope calfs and go onto the different levels.”
Clark’s mom Myra Skinner has been supporting her children in rodeo for sometime. She said Clark really liked calf roping when he was growing up.
“He makes me really, really proud,” she said. “He works very hard. It is good to see the children grow up and work hard to succeed and meet the goals they want to make.”