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The second round of the girls basketball playoffs kicked off Thursday night with some theatrics as well as some blowouts. The rest of the Regional Quarterfinal opponents will be decided on Friday and Saturday.
HOUSTON – When Steve Blanchard's daughter Marley got all A's, she wanted to ride a horse.
Little did Steve know that this would transform his family.
Marley got to ride a horse and then when she got A's again, Steve took her out to ride again. During that ride, a barrel racing coach saw her.
Instantly, the Blanchard family was thrust into the world of rodeo.
While they were traveling around for Marley's rodeo events, their son Blake would tag along.
"My sister started first, she was a barrel racer," Blake, a freshman at Pearland High School, said. "At the time I was just doing baseball, I really wasn't into rodeo. I started going to all her rodeos and helping out. I decided if I'm going to be around the rodeo world, I might as well rodeo too."
Blake's parents wanted him to get into roping, but he had other plans. He wanted to compete in the premiere events – saddle bronc and bull riding.
"Saddle bronc did look the most fun and the most athletic, so I decided to go that route," Blake, who is sponsored by Hooey, said. "I went to a school for saddle bronc and it started that way."
When Blake was 14, he was just old enough to attend the Lyle Sankey Rodeo School, which travels around the country teaching the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls.
"When it was over with, Lyle was so happy about him, he gave him the spur board he's had since 1970," Steve, who played football at Pearland and then McMurry State and Texas Tech, said. "He took to it like a duck to water. We started signing up for rodeos and then the next thing you know he was winning them."
In the past year, winning is all Blake has done.
The victories have including winning the Texas Region World Finals Championship and then won the Lester Meier Rodeo Tour, which qualified him for the National Junior Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.
"Las Vegas for sure, there's nothing that can beat Vegas," Blake said about his favorite memory so far. "It's the prim of the prim rodeo. The people, the cameras and everything."
Blake went to the 2019 National Junior Finals Rodeo to compete in Saddle Bronc and bull riding, which is held at the same time as the National Finals Rodeo.
"It's crazy looking up watching them do it, while you're trying to do the junior version," Blake said. "It just makes you want to do it more."
The Saddle Bronc riders he looks up to is the Wright family.
Ryder Wright was the youngest world champion of all time at 21, then there is Spencer and then Cody. The trio finished ranked in the Top 5 in the world at the end of the 2019 PRCA season. Ryder was No. 3, earning $273,129.41.
"Their style of riding," Blake said when asked what he likes about the Wright brothers. "It's very technically perfect as it gets. So, you just try to copy them as much as possible."
When Blake left Las Vegas, Steve said he was ranked No. 8 in the world.
Blake has continued to be busy on the rodeo circuit, competing in San Antonio this past week and has qualified for the PRCA Junior World Finals in Dallas on February 28.
"I'm super proud," Steve said. "I couldn't be more proud. And he's a good student and he's a good kid. I've gotten really lucky."
These upcoming rodeos and the rest of the spring is going to prepare Blake for the Texas High School Rodeo Association State Finals Rodeo in June.
Blake has qualified for that rodeo in Saddle Bronc, which will run June 7-13 at the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene.
When Blake turns 18, he says he plans to get his pro card. After that he has considered going and rodeoing for Sam Houston State or Texas A&M before going completely pro in the PRCA.
"It's the most fun that someone can have, especially when you're rodeoing with your friends," Blake said about what he likes about rodeo.
Outside of rodeo, Blake enjoys wakeboarding, snowboarding, hunting, fishing and he played corner back for the Pearland High School football team this past year.
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