Cody Cambre, of French Settlement, and Kyle Sullivan, of Livingston, will take the rides of their lives next week.
The two teens, and best friends, qualified to test their bull-riding skills in the Junior High Division at the Seventh annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M., for a chance to win the national championship.
The event officially begins Sunday.
“Hopefully, I get a bigger bull (than I did last year,)” said 14-year-old Cody, who is about 6 feet tall. “It’s hard for taller guys to ride.”
Cody, who tied with Kyle for fifth place in the state finals, said he is just pleased to be competing in this year’s competition.
“I was real surprised,” Cody said of qualifying for the national competition.
His friend and now competitor, Kyle agreed.
Kyle said that he was also surprised to learn that he too would be competing in bull riding. “I knew I had qualified for chute dogging but was unaware about bull riding,” Sullivan said.
“Once I found I was going in bulls, it just made me more determined to win. Once I get there, I plan to just take it easy, not wear myself out and stay focused.”
Cody, who has competed in past national competitions, said he was congratulating the “younger” guys when he found out that he would be going to compete in this year’s national competition as well.
“They take the top four (at nationals),” Cody’s mother, Karen Cambre, said. “One person didn’t get to go, so that pulled them into running.”
Last year, Cody won state, and placed about 15th at nationals, Karen Cambre said.
Like her son, Karen Cambre agrees that winning the national competition just depends on the luck of the draw.
“Cody is 6 feet tall and if he gets a short bull, he’d have problems,” she said.
She also agrees that winning isn’t everything.
“I just want him to do his best,” Cambre said. “Give it your best shot and have fun.”
“It’s 95 percent mental and 5 percent physical,” Cody said of the sport two years ago when he participated alongside his brother at the competition. His brother, Corey Cambre, competes at the high school level.
And like many youths involved in the sport, Corey and Cody are second-generation bull riders. Their father, Duane Cambre, rode bulls for about 10 years before having a family.
“He let us get on our first bull and didn’t tell us what to do,” Cody recalled. “After we got off, he told us how to ride.”
Scott Sullivan, who works full time, teaches the art of bull riding at the Flying S Bucking Bulls outdoor area at the Sullivan home in Livingston.
“My biggest influence was my dad,” Kyle said of his father. “Once I got to old to ride steers, he told me I had a decision to make — either step up my game or stop riding. Once I started really thinking about what he said — that I had every advantage in my backyard … I made up my mind up to step up and keep riding.”
“He has encouraged me to always do my best, give it all or nothing and I wouldn’t be the bull rider I am now if it wasn’t for him,” Kyle said. “I’m really thankful to have him here to help and gradually improve me.”
For the Cambres, the trip is also about making a “family vacation out of it,” Karen Cambre said.
Cody said he still remembers last year’s trip, when he and Kyle wrote a song after the truck the Cambres were traveling in broke down on the way to the national competition.
It’s a friendly competition,” Cody said of fellow bull riders.
“We didn’t really care (last year at nationals) who won as long as it was one of us,” Cody said of Kyle Sullivan.
On the Internet: http://www.nhsra.com.