Two local junior high students were practicing throwing rope at the 58th Hawaii Saddle Club Memorial Weekend Rodeo in Honokaa Saturday.
Waimea Middle School student Levi Higa, along with Hilo Intermediate School student Jonah Menino, both 14, were sporting cowboy hats, jeans and boots, while practicing slack roping with 9-year-old Chance Miranda.
Menino, who joined the rodeo almost a year ago, said the key to success is practice makes perfect.
“You definitely have to practice. Practice swinging it; swing and throwing it. You start by practicing on a dummy,” he said while twirling the rope.
Menino is the header, meaning he throws the rope around the cattle’s head to catch it. His partner, Higa, is the heeler, and to him, it’s all about focus.
“I look at the legs because I’m the heeler,” he said. “You have to go through the process in your head before you even go into the chute. So, you just think to yourself that when he catches it, then I throw it,” he said.
Miranda wasn’t competing Saturday but said he plans to in the next couple months. For him, bullriding and rodeos are just in his blood, as his father used to ride in the Makawao Rodeo in Maui.
“I’ve been riding since I was five,” he explained.
People of all ages were competing for a chance in today’s rodeo show starting at noon as part of the community’s Western Week. There were about 10 teams of high school and junior high students and the competition featured people of all ages, from 80 years old all the way down to 5 years old.
The sounds of horses stomping and people clapping resonated outside of the newly renovated Rose Andrade Correia Stadium Saturday. The renovation project was worth about $3 million, and the arena is named after Hawaii Saddle Club member Rose Andrade Correia, also known as “Grandma Rose,” a lifetime Saddle Club member.
Many rodeo attendees were seen sporting a brown and pink T-shirt in her honor.
While focused on Saturday’s competition, Higa and Menino had their eyes on the future, as well. Both will be leaving soon to represent Hawaii in the 2014 National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 9. This is the first time both boys will be competing nationally.
Their mothers, Lynn Higa and Jodie Menino, said when they first heard the news that their sons would be representing the state in the competition, they cried tears of joy.
“When they first qualified, it was Mother’s Day and we were crying and hugging each other and then found out we had 20 minutes to decide if they’re going,” Higa said. “We’re going, but it’s costly.”
The cost of competing totals around $10,000.
“And it was kind of a hard decision to make because it’s not like you have time to call the bank on Sunday before you decide,” said Menino.
Putting money aside, both mothers and their families decided that the experience would be well worth the cost. They pulled together, raising funds for their trip and collecting various donations from around the community.
Higa said already the boys’ involvement in rodeo has helped them learn new skills and forge a bond of friendship that she expects will last a lifetime.
“It was kind of crazy. We didn’t know them,” she said, pointing to Menino. “And they came here to practice. And both boys needed a partner, and that’s how they got to meet. Come to find out, their grandfathers worked together at the Hilo Correctional Facility and they have all these similarities. So it’s been great.”
Higa’s father, Stanley Cypriano, rodeo enthusiast and a Honokaa native, said that’s what the rodeo is all about.
“It’s for the kids and all the families,” he said. “It really brings everyone together,” he said.
For more information, follow Honokaa Western Week on Facebook. If you’d like to make a donation to Higa’s and Menino’s competition, call Lynn Higa at 808-938-1496.
Email Megan Moseley at email@example.com.