Portales rodeo champ honored with own day

Kevin Wilson

Michael Trujillo’s had a few days to remember over the last two years.

Add Friday to the list.

That day has been declared Michael Trujillo College National Finals Rodeo Day by Gov. Bill Richardson.

“It’s pretty crazy that day’s going to come up Friday,” said Trujillo, a Portales High graduate who found out about the honor last week. “We’re all pretty pumped up about it.”

Trujillo, who finished his freshman year at Eastern New Mexico University, was honored for recent rodeo accomplishments. The most notable accomplishment, Richardson spokesperson Caitlin Kelleher said, was when Trujillo and freshman partner Chance Kiehne claimed the team roping championship June 19 at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

Also honored Friday are Kiehne, an Arizona native, and Sydni Blanchard of Albuquerque, who claimed the barrels championship at the CNFR competing for Tucumcari’s Mesalands Community College.

Kiehne and Trujillo were ENMU’s only competitors at the CNFR, but their performance vaulted the school to a 10th-place nationally finish.

ENMU rodeo coach Albert Flinn said he always believed the freshman team roping pair could win a national championship. But he didn’t expect them to get their own day.

“That was a big surprise,” Flinn said. “We didn’t have any idea the governor had plans to do that.”

Flinn said he did remember last season that Richardson’s office honored Jesse Kirkes of Farmington for his performance at the High School National Finals Rodeo. He doesn’t imagine he’ll use the event as a recruiting tool, however.

“I think it’s a great honor for rodeo to receive the recognition that it does from the governor’s office,” Flinn said. “I don’t know if it helps individual schools (as much as it helps the sport).”

No events are planned in Santa Fe, or — to Trujillo’s knowledge, in Portales

“There’s no telling,” Trujillo said. “I’ll probably end up roping somewhere.”

He and Kiehne have roped together a few times over the off-season, placing in a pro rodeo in Alamosa, Colo. College rodeo athletes are allowed to compete in professional rodeos to help defray competition costs.

The championship wasn’t Trujillo’s first. On Dec. 8, 2008, he helped Portales win a Class 3A football championship by passing for 409 yards and accounting for all seven touchdowns in a 48-10 win over Lovington.