Once the steer is released, Matt Costa and Case Hirdes know they can't make any excuses. High expectations surround them pretty much everywhere they go. But especially when the two teenage cowboys are on their horses and they're trying to tie down a relentless animal.
It's the kind of pressure they've accepted all their lives.
Both are third-generation riders who will be partners in team roping at next week's National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo. Both are from Turlock and know that every time they're riding they're representing relatives before them.
“You want to do well for yourself and your parents,” Hirdes said, while taking a break from a recent practice. “You don't want to embarrass them.”
In fact, Case is the grandson of World Champion team roper Les Hirdes. And the grandson is aware of the expectations. So he and Costa practice for about three hours a day under the hot sun, trying to get better each time the steer is released from its holding corral.
Sometimes they practice at the Costa ranch, while Matt's dad, Brian, watches their every move and offers tips. That is, if they're not practicing at the Hirdes home.
The two local cowboys earned a spot at the National Finals — which runs from Sunday to July 24 — after winning the team roping competition at the California State Rodeo Finals in Bishop, Calif. There, they totaled 36.27 seconds between four steers.
Their times went like this:
On the first go, they finished in 9.24 seconds.
On the second go, they finished in 8.79.
On the third go, they finished in 9.15.
Then the top 15 teams earned a short-go run, where the local cowboys got it done in 9.09.
At nationals, Matt Costa and Case Hirdes want to win it all.
“They've been roping together for five years,” Brian Costa said. “They have a good of a chance as anybody to compete well.”
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