story by Kailey Pickering After pursuing a passion for English jumping for four years, Grace Barnett turned back to her love of rodeo when her […]
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Meet the Member Jace James
story by Lindsay Humphrey
At just 11 years old, Jace James has his sights set on redemption at the upcoming AJRA finals. He finished as the reserve all-around cowboy last year and the Bulverde, Texas, roper is determined to take the top spot this year. He’s currently leading both the rookie all-around and overall all-around race for his region in the Texas Junior High School Rodeo Association. He’s sitting second in the AJRA all-around standings. “It’s been surprising that I’m doing so well in the all-around in both associations because they have such strong competition,” said the Spring Branch Middle School sixth grader. This year, Jace is a four-event athlete in the AJRA: double mugging, tie down, breakaway and bull riding.
Calf roping, both as tie down and breakaway, is a family sport for Jace. His mom (Shannon) is a breakaway roper while his dad (Yancey) used to ride bulls professionally. “Calf roping is my favorite because I like to rope but it’s also fun to step off my horse and flank a calf. My grandpa, uncle and dad are all calf ropers, so I like that I am keeping it in the family.” Jace finds the challenge of calf roping an enjoyable aspect of the event and appreciates the same thing about bull riding. As for the double mugging, Jace likes that event for a very different reason than the rest. “I like it because it wears my dad out since he has to mug for me, and he has to flank the calf.”
There’s no question that Jace was born to rodeo but growing up alongside the Tejas Rodeo Company certainly made it inevitable. “My dad works for Tejas and they host an open rodeo every Saturday night March through November. I grew up there, so I’ve always been around horses and rodeo.” Now that’s the only place Jace gets to compete against his 14-year-old sister, Josey. It’s unsurprising that the pair is extra competitive on the Saturday nights they get to compete at Tejas. While the AJRA is Jace’s main focus as a competitor, he’s qualified for the Junior World Finals and Vegas’ Tuffest the past two years in breakaway. Those have been his greatest challenges as an athlete thus far. “It’s been my favorite experience because I went up against the best ropers in the world. And I liked meeting the professionals who were competing at the NFR. Tuf Cooper was my favorite.”
Under every great roper is a mount, or two, that won’t quit when things get tough. For Jace, that’s Crackerjack and Skids. The pair of almost matching 20-year-old bay geldings are tried and true calf horses. Crackerjack is easily Jace’s favorite. “Crackerjack can’t get beat, out of the box or flat across the arena. He’s the best horse I’ve ever had, so far. He was my sister’s horse first and then I got him about two years ago. He takes really good care of me.” Since Skids isn’t quite as fast as Crackerjack, he’s reserved for Jace’s final season in the 10&Under events. “Even though Skids is a little slower, he still gets the job done for me. He works the rope really well too.”
When Jace isn’t occupied with a rope or a horse, he’s usually slinging a football across the field to one of his buddies. He’s been playing for a local team, the Smithson Valley Rangers, since the first grade. Next to rodeo, it’s one of the toughest sports out there. “I like hitting hard and I like that it’s a challenge, which is something I also like about rodeo. It’s not as tough as rodeo, but it’s still pretty challenging.