Elston, Connelly qualify for national high school rodeo finals

   For the second consecutive year, Cameron Elston is the California High School Rodeo Association state Tie-Down Roping champion.

   Elston, who graduated from Ramona High School in June, won both the average (aggregate) and the overall first-place position at the CHSRA state finals June 14-19 in Bishop and will close out his high school rodeo career at the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) finals July 18-24 in Gilette, Wyo. 

   “They definitely didn’t give it to me. It was a pretty good roping,” Elston said of his state championship.

   Another 2010 Ramona High School graduate, Paige Connelly, qualified for the NHSRA national finals in Pole Bending after a third-place state showing. She qualified for the state competition in five events: Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Goat Tying, Breakaway Roping and Cutting.

   The top five competitors in each event from each of the CHSRA’s nine districts qualify for the CHSRA state finals. Ramona is in District 8.

   Competitors carry in points to the state finals based on their district standings, and points are given at the state finals for go-round and average positions. The top four finishers at the state finals qualify for the NHSRA national finals while the fifth-place through 10th-place finishers qualify for the Silver State International Rodeo in Fallon, Nev., which this year will be held July 5-9.

   Elston qualifed for the state finals in three events: Tie-Down Roping, Team Roping and  Steer Wrestling. Elston won the CHSRA District 8 Tie-Down Roping championship while Clayton Van Aken of Descanso placed second and Jordan Warrack of Agua Dulce finished third. All three placed in the top four at the state finals to qualify for the national finals.

   Connelly’s first Pole Bending run took 21.121 seconds to give her second place in the go-round. Her run of 21.084 seconds was worth eighth place in the second go-round while her time of 20.983 in the third go-round placed fifth.

   Connelly was third in the short go with a run of 20.502 seconds to give her a third-place average of 83.690 seconds. She had finished second in the District 8 Pole Bending standings.

   This year the CHSRA format utilized three full go-rounds plus a short go for those in the top 15 after three runs.

   Elston’s first run June 14 took 9.97 seconds and gave him the go-round win. 

“I ended up drawing a good calf,” Elston said.  “Started out the rodeo good.”

   Warrack’s time of 10.19 seconds placed second in the initial go-round.

Last year, Elston used Ramonan Marcus Battaglia’s horse Ghost to win the state championship. This year Battaglia took Ghost to the Reno Rodeo and Elston rode Matt. 

   “This was really the first big rodeo he’s been to. He did really good,” Elston said of Matt.

   Elston’s sister, Alyssa, used Matt as a Barrel Racing horse before her 2009 high school graduation. Cameron Elston began training Matt, who is 12, as a Tie-Down Roping horse in August. “He’s a good horse.  He’s real smart.”

   District 7 champion Lane Santos-Karney of Creston won the second go-round with a time of 10.42 seconds while Elston was second at 10.89 seconds. 

   “My calf kind of went hard right,” said Elston.

   The calf was in a less than ideal position when Elston took it down during his run the morning of June 17. 

   “I didn’t get him up right to make a fast run,” Elston said.

Elston’s third run took place the evening of June 17. His time of 12.31 seconds placed seventh. 

   “He kind of ran down there aways,” Elston said.

   The calf was about three-quarters of the way across the arena before Elston was able to rope him. 

   “Got a little bit of points out of it,” he said.

   Elston entered the June 19 short go in second place, 0.33 seconds behind Warrack, who missed on his first loop and roped his calf on his second loop, taking 21.66 seconds to complete his run. Van Aken won the short go with a run of 9.79 seconds while Elston was second at 10.63 seconds. 

   “My calf was real weak,” Elston said. “I didn’t pull on that rope enough to keep him standing on his feet.”

   While Elston sought to win the short go, he knew that a high enough placing would ensure him the championship. 

   “I just had to catch one pretty good,” he said. “That was more than enough to get me to the top.”

   Elston won the average with a time of 43.80 seconds on four runs. Van Aken had the second-place average at 45.15 seconds.

   Elston became only the second cowboy in CHSRA history to win two consecutive state Tie-Down Roping championships. 

   “That was pretty cool,” he said.

   Elston and San Pasqual’s Macy Devenport placed sixth in the Team Roping average and seventh in the state standings, but they will forego the Silver State rodeo to compete in the Roy Cooper Calf Roping Championship July 9-11 in Denton, Texas. 

   Devenport, who was a sophomore at Julian Charter School during the district season, also finished seventh in Barrel Racing and Girls Cutting.

   Although Connelly finished 14th in Breakaway Roping and did not qualify for the short go after missing her first and third attempts, her second run took 3.54 seconds and won the go-round.

   
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