Meriden cowboy national bound
by Holly Davis
Jarek Van Petten, Jefferson West graduate, was named the “all-around cowboy” by the Kansas High School Rodeo Association after placing first in the steer wrestling event and second in both calf roping and boys’ cutting for the year at a competition in Hutchinson. He won the award with ease and was well ahead in the point system, but says it was still very rewarding. He will represent Kansas at the national competition in Rock Springs, Wyo., July 15-21.
For Van Petten, this isn’t his “first rodeo.” His love for the sport began when he was just a little boy. “I rode horses before I could walk,” Van Petten said. He began participating in rodeos when he was just 8 years old.
Growing up on a farm and having a family with the same love for rodeo helps the competitor to stay focused on the time consuming sport. His parents, Dr. Jeff and Jackie Van Petten, were both involved in rodeo as well as his older sister, Jolie, 23. Following in their footsteps makes him want to work harder and live up to the challenge. Van Petten admits that there has always been a little sibling rivalry and that he couldn’t let his older sister do something that he wasn’t involved in.
His competitive ego and hard work paid off in the long run. This is the second time he has won the “all-around cowboy” award that is only given to one boy and girl every year. “I decided to go for it because it’s a pretty big deal,” he said, “It just takes so much time if you’re going to be good at it. It takes a lot of juggling.”
And time it does take out of the young man’s schedule; he practices almost every day come competition time. As a former senior, he has had to balance schoolwork, friends, work, and rodeo. With his dedication to the sport, he has also had to make many sacrifices. As a kid, he had to do away with school sports and has missed out on many social activities.
Van Petten says it is all worth it though. “It’s kind of like having a second life because even though I’m missing out with my friends at home, I have a great group of (rodeo) friends. I also really like the fact that I was with my family. It’s a sport where everyone helps out. Rather than competing against someone like in football or basketball, in competitive rodeo, we just try to see who does their best,” he said.
The cowboy plans on continuing his hobby and passion. He will be attending Western Oklahoma State where he received a two-year rodeo scholarship. He hopes to make a career out it, but knows it will be a very challenging route. Aside from competitive rodeo, he plans to pursue a degree in agricultural business and continue at Kansas State University.
Carrying around the “all-around cowboy” title means a lot to Van Petten even his second year. “It says that I was the best at competing. It’s an honor because it shows that I wasn’t good at just one event, but many more. I don’t think I would have the desire to work hard if I wasn’t as competitive as I am. I can’t stand to lose,” he said.
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