Meet the Member Joe Stoddard
story by Lillian Landreth Many a high school rodeo athlete has been shaped by Joe Stoddard’s contributions to the sport, from his blood relations to […]
story by Lily Weinacht
Blake Kontz of Flandreau, South Dakota, is a cowboy with many irons in the fire, but his chief interests can be narrowed down to rodeoing, and becoming the first State FFA Star Farmer from his school in 18 years. His uncle Troy Kontz was the State FFA Star Farmer in 1999, the year Blake was born, and Blake has envisioned his name next to his uncle’s in their high school since he was young. “I have some stock cows and feeder cattle and crop ground that I farm,” Blake explains. “I’ve been working on that for five to six years now, working on my records and building that up.” Blake won at the district level, and out of 14 candidates, he finished in the top 4, who will interview at the state level and have their projects reviewed. The winner will be announced mid April at the FFA State Convention.
Blake is also walking in his family’s footprints in the rodeo world. His mom, Kelly Kontz, competed in 4-H and high school rodeos, and Blake enters the tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping in the SDHSRA. He switched from heading to heeling this season so he and his sister, Madison, can enter together. “She’s riding my head horse, Rufus, who’s my favorite, but I’m breaking in one of my other horses on the heeling side. You’ve got to work at something, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun.” Ultimately, Blake’s favorite event is tie-down roping, and he explains that not having a hazer or a heeler to rely on encourages him to hold his roping to a higher standard. “I have a friend, Brock Belkham, and we went to high school together. The last few years he’s really worked with me and pushed me from being a calf roper who catches every now and then to last year when I went into state rodeos with one of the highest scores in the region,” says Blake. “I think the main part of motivation is the competition and the family aspect with all the people. We might not like each other when we’re roping, but after roping, we’re good friends and always hanging out and having fun.”
Along with the SDHSRA, Blake competes in 4-H rodeos and plans to enter the SDRA and some ropings this summer. He travels mostly with his mom and sister. His dad, Brad Kontz, runs their farm and feedlot, but comes to state finals, along with Blake’s younger brother, Jackson. Blake ropes calves on Gypsy, a 20-year-old mare that started out as his breakaway horse in junior high. The pair proved that green and green doesn’t always make black and blue when they advanced to tie-down roping in high school, which they both were new to. “She’s kind of a goofy horse with her gait — nobody else likes to rider her — but she’s my second favorite, seeing how we progressed in calf roping to now winning.” Blake rides Shannon and Gene Pulscher’s 18-year-old mare, Maddie, in the steer wrestling, and practices at their arena since they live nearby. “I’m really grateful to them for letting me ride her. She’s taught me a lot about being a steer wrestler.”
A senior at Flandreau Public High School, Blake says his most challenging classes are government and British Literature. He’ll be studying agricultural business at Mitchell Technical Institute this fall, while he’s also active in FFA and recently finished helping with National FFA Week in February. Blake plans to be on the FFA livestock judging team this spring and continue with his farming project. He was the State FFA Star Greenhand Farmer his sophomore year. “I help my little brother hunt deer and pheasants, and I either ride horses or rope with friends. It’s important to practice and work hard, but it’s also important to take time with friends.
“Especially in the calf roping, last year was my breakout year, proving to myself that I’m good enough to win these events and be competitive,” Blake finishes. “I’ve never made the short go, so my goal is to make it to the short go in calf roping, and I at least want to be qualified in all three events for state finals.”
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