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For a group of Central Otago pupils, bull riding, calf roping at speed and galloping full kilter around barrels is a thrill and a passion.

Luke Mckerchar (14), of Teviot, Xavier Sanders (14), of Alexandra, Rubie Cummings (15), of Lawrence and Caitlyn Hey (14), of Cust, were selected as four of the eight-member New Zealand High School Rodeo team, to compete against similar-aged Australian rodeo enthusiasts in the Trans Tasman High School Challenge.

The challenge was held at the Southland and Outram rodeos earlier this month.

The Australians won overall, but the New Zealand team is going to Australia in August for a repeat competition.

Luke’s parents, Stu and Karen Mckerchar, have been competing on the rodeo circuit for many years taking Luke and his sister, Jess (12), with them.

“I have been doing barrel racing and steer riding for two years, and team roping this year,” Luke said.

“It’s fun and exciting.”

He rides Cotton and Gilby.

Both boys said they enjoyed the atmosphere of the rodeos, loved bull riding and team roping, and did not mind the bumps and bruises.

Xavier, who rides Dodge, said it was the first time he had been selected for the team.

He is ranked fifth in the country in the novice steer ride this season and Luke is ranked sixth.

Luke is also sixth in barrel racing this season.

“I was about 5 when I started sheep riding in Canterbury and then we came down here,” Xavier said.

“I thought I might give it a go and have been hooked ever since.

“When I am old enough I want to be a professional bull rider, but will have to go to America and Australia to compete.”

He said he had a couple of scrapes and kicks in his career, and had been stood on by stock sometimes.

“You learn to keep well out of the way.”

His sister Sky Sanders (12), is a keen barrel racer and she and her horse Cougar are the national junior barrel racing champions for last season and she is ranked third this season, with another mount.

YVONNE O’HARA

yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz