Aravaipa cowboys win team roping championship

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By John Hernandez

John Henry Gaona, Jr. of Aravaipa is part of Arizona’s best junior high school roping team. John Henry, along with his partner Jose “Junior” Zambrano III from Tucson, took first place in Team Roping at the Arizona State Junior High Finals Rodeo in Prescott on May 14.

Their time at the state rodeo was 6.480. It was nearly two seconds better than the runner up team. Last year, the two were state champions and finished second in the National Junior High Rodeo finals.

The top four places in each event at the Arizona State Junior High Rodeo qualify for the National Junior High Rodeo (NJHR). Zambrano also qualified for the NJHR in the Tie Down and Ribbon Roping events by finishing third in both events.

John Henry and Junior have been roping together for a little more than two years now. They met each other while competing in jackpot roping contests around the state. They decided to team up and are now two time state champions.

They practice daily on their own with other partners, Junior in Tucson and John Henry at his family’s Aravaipa ranch. Occasionally they get together for practice but they have enough of an understanding of each other’s moves and roping skills to be the champions they’ve become.

John Henry and Junior both were selected for the Arizona Team Cinch of the National High School Rodeo Association Junior High Division. Team Cinch honors those elite cowboys and cow girls in high school and junior high rodeo that have excelled in rodeo competitions and the class room.

The 2013 National Junior High Rodeo will be held June 23 – 29 at Red Rock Park in Gallup, New Mexico.

See more photos online at:


Junior Zambrano, left, and John Henry Gaona Jr. together make up Arizona’s best junior high roping team. (John Hernandez photos)

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