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Meet the Member Ava Nunez
story by Michele Toberer
Excelling in all that she does, cowgirl Ava Nunez of Grand Lake, Louisiana is excitedly taking on the competition of the Louisiana Junior High Rodeo Association as a rookie sixth-grader. Although the 11-year-old cowgirl has already had quite a bit of success in the rodeo arena as she competed in other youth rodeo associations; being a part of the LJHSRA is giving her new goals to focus on and the determined cowgirl has her sights set on a national title at the end of the year. “I would like to finish the season as one of the top four barrel racers and pole benders in the LJHSRA, and I would really love to win the barrel racing and pole bending saddles at the national finals in South Dakota this summer.”
A true all-around cowgirl, Ava is competing in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, and ribbon roping with partner Cougar Racca. Despite the rigorous practice schedule required to stay tuned up in so many events, Ava manages to excel outside of rodeo also. Ava just finished an exciting volleyball season and is beginning the basketball season where she plays for her school, St. Margaret’s Catholic School, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She participates in the Beta Club, where she meets with her team every week to practice their group talent act, “The Evolution of Disney,” and although they recently won second-place at a competition in Sulphur, Louisiana, they are gearing up for the state competition in Lafayette soon. Ava’s favorite classes in school are reading and writing, however she has maintained a 4.0 grade point average so far this year in all her classes. Ava was honored to be chosen by her classmates to represent the sixth grade as a student council member and has gratefully been participating in many volunteer and outreach programs they participate in throughout the community and church.
Ava’s proud parents, Jenny and Heath Nunez, are dedicated to providing as many opportunities as possible for Ava, and her younger sister, Emma, 8, to work towards their goals and fulfill their dreams. When not working in their family-owned telecommunications business, they are typically on the road to rodeos, or spending time in the practice pen to prepare for them. A true family affair, Heath’s sister Rebecca Aucoin and her husband, Kade, live just on the other side of the arena on their family property, and spend most afternoons there helping Ava with breakaway roping. Ava also gets training from Bobby Labby for barrel racing and pole bending, and from Katy Murphy for goat tying.
Competing in multiple events requires a stable of equine partners for Ava. She has competed on her gelding, Hammer, in breakaway roping for the past two years, and a 20-year-old chestnut gelding named Sparky is who Ava has turned to for goat tying the past 3 years. In barrel racing, Ava runs an 18-year-old sorrel gelding with a flaxen mane, named Spanky. Spanky once belonged to Ava’s Aunt Becca, and since she gave him to Ava two years ago, the pair has become unstoppable; recently winning a world champion barrel racing title in the NLBRA, and currently leading the LJHSRA standings. Six months ago, a red roan gelding named Scooter became a part of Ava’s team for pole bending; and although the pair placed second at the first LJHSRA of the season, the gelding suffered an injury after getting caught in some fencing, and Ava has had to compete on her sister’s horse while he’s healing. Ava and her family are hopeful they will once again be weaving the poles very soon.
The Nunez family counts their blessings and are thankful that God has allowed them to participate in the wonderful sport of rodeo, where they can spend so much time as a family. “Rodeo has taught all of us so much. We are so glad to be a part of the LJHSRA, everyone has been wonderful this year, it is a great group.”