Recent Magdalena High School graduate, honor student and multiple-sport athlete Jaxson Mirabal has accepted a scholarship to attend school and ride rodeo at the University of Wyoming for the upcoming fall.
Mirabal, who's been a straight-A student for the entirety of his scholastic career was a standout basketball player for the Steers, who reached the New Mexico state playoffs in all five years of his playing career and helped his team make it to this year's Class 2A championship game.
However Mirabal was as much a force in the rodeo arena, qualifying for the National Junior High School Rodeo Finals as well as the National High School Rodeo Finals multiple times in multiple events, and that's where he'll make his mark in the coming years.
True to form, he'll participate in multiple events for the Cowboys beginning in August.
“That's part of the reason I was recruited the way I was,” Mirabal said. “I work both ends of the arena. So I’ll be riding saddle broncs and bare backs, and cattle roping and team roping.”
Mirabal was offered some form of scholarship by nearly two-dozen schools, but said Wyoming seemed to be the right fit for him.
“I felt like it was a good place for me to go to where I was going to have to push myself, and a place where I have the ability to reach my full potential as far as an athlete or as far as a student,” he said. “I felt like Wyoming was the best option for me as far both things.”
Academically Mirabal said he'll focus on agriculture, in which Wyoming should give him a variety of options. The university offers nine agriculture-related programs ranging from applied economics to microbiology to plant sciences. Mirabal is eyeing the animal sciences program.
“Sure there’s a good program down here at New Mexico State,” he said, “but the situation as far as rodeo, it just felt like a perfect fit. They’ve got a big program too.”
Wyoming isn't called The Cowboy State by accident, and the campus in Laramie is no exception to the geographical beauty the state provides. Set at the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains the school would offer anybody a scenic place to call home, but for someone like Mirabal who grew up in cowboy country it might be a comfortable bonus.
“I think it’s a pretty spot. I’ve been to Wyoming a few times. The people up there are pretty cool. They’re nice. Both the coaches over there are really good guys,” Mirabal said. “The vibe there is really cool. There are things you can relate to up there, for me personally. I just feel like it’s a pretty cool place to go to.”
Given his extensive experience in the rodeo community, there's a chance Mirabal might already have friends at his new school.
He was the Student Vice President for the NHSRA as well as the NJHSRA and as a humble and well-spoken kid, the experience brought him new opportunities.
While serving as VP, Mirabal had to write articles for magazines, provide interviews for publications, prepare speeches and give speeches to large crowds.
“It was just a cool experience because I made friendships I’ll probably have for a lifetime,” he said. “We traveled all over, talked to a bunch of different kids and went to several different conventions. It kind of pushed me to come out of my comfort zone.”
But anyone familiar with Mirabal whether in a classroom, on the rodeo floor or on the hardwood wouldn't think of him as anything other than fiercely competitive and even more humble. His father and basketball coach Jory described him as an old soul.
“He's been a special kid since he was little. I think he probably could have easily been born in the 1800s,” Jory said. “He's just a down-to-earth, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of kid. He approaches every aspect of his life just like that. He's pretty humble, intense; kind of all those older generation traits.”
Growing up with two brothers, one two years older and one two years younger, competition has been in Jaxson's blood since he was a toddler.
His older brother Jorrell was an all-state basketball player and successful rodeo rider as well, and his younger brother Jorren was part of a triple threat in the Steer's most recent post-season run through the playoffs.
“I feel like I’ve always been pushed by both of my brothers as far as sports and academics go. You always want to be the best you can be. We’re pretty competitive,” Jaxson said. “Growing up, us three boys always treated everything like a competition no matter what it was. I think it pushed all three of us to become better athletes. We learned how to push ourselves harder to be better at something.”
Academically Jaxson, much like the rest of his siblings have been consistently scholastically motivated by his entire family. Growing up, he said the family agreement was that if they didn't make A's and B's in school, they couldn't play sports.
“I always felt like I was safe if I kept straight A’s, and that’s what I did,” Jaxson said. “It helped push me because I love sports so much to also push myself academically.”
That method paid off for the honors student, but his relationship with Jory as both coach and father seemed to as well. Jaxson said the father-coach dynamic he experienced throughout much of his life and most notably in high school was a great one, and difficult to describe.
“To have the role model you’ve been growing up watching coach you in a sport you love … there are hard things that come with it, but I think that also pushed me to be better,” Jaxson said. “It’s not the same playing for your dad as it is playing for another coach. There are more things that come with it. There’s more eyes on you because you’re playing for your dad. So you have to hold yourself accountable for more, and you have to keep your head level.”
Jory, who was a football, basketball and track and field coach when his sons were very young said they just grew up in that type of coaching atmosphere, and he never had to separate coaching too much from his fatherly duties. But he's admittedly not a typical parent.
“I don't like running around with my kid's number on my shirt. I'm just not that guy. It's been pretty natural for me to coach my kids because they're part of what I love to do anyway,” Jory said. “Now, there is some pride and some feelings there as far as having your own kid be successful and be a part of what you love to do to, of course. I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to share all these moments with kids that I love and doing what I love, but with my very own ...that's kind of a unique experience.”
Whether Jory was playing role of coach or dad, Jaxson said his dad would treat him like both – to a good point. Jory played the role of father and coach on and off the court and Jaxson played that of player and son, respectively.
“He’s still my dad. When I was in the gym I wouldn’t treat him like he wasn’t because he was. He does a really good job as far as being coach and being dad,” Jaxson said. “We would step away and have conversations as dad and son, and we would have conversations as player and coach. We built a relationship based on each other. It was a cool experience.”
The Mirabal family's eldest son Jorrell is currently quarantined while on mission in Spain, and while the difficulty of watching two sons venture into the world while leaving a close-knit family can be challenging, they seem ready to watch their next child venture out of Socorro County to do great things. Jaxson said the process would be a little weird and hard at first. After all, he's going to be 700 miles away from his family, and for the first time.
“We’re pretty close knit and we’re always there for each other. We do things together. I think it’s going to be hard but I think it’s going to be a cool experience, to go out and experience things on my own,” Jaxson said. “I’m not going to be real close to home so it’s going to be hard for me to just kind of go back home and relax and reset. I’m excited to go out and be on my own.”
His father, and now former coach agrees.
“It's hard, but only for a minute. When you sit there think about the opportunities he has to grow and what he's done to set himself up, and the adventures he's going to have … then you're excited for him,” Jory said. “Because as adults we've had a chance to go through that. It's a really exciting time for the family too, because we feel like he's earned this chance to go and do what he's wanted to since he was four years old.”
Jaxson will soon be a part of one of the few Division-I rodeo programs in the country, and Wyoming was placed No.1 in points in both the men's and women's divisions of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association polls in 2019, before the season was mostly canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
He'll be in one of the best collegiate programs around, so naturally he's ready to take on the challenge.
“I feel like I have something to prove. Sure I’ve had a great career in high school, but I’ve always been hard on myself,” he said. “I understand there are things I have done that are pretty cool, but I always feel like I can do more. Going into this next step I feel like it’s a time to reset. I can set goals, and just restart from scratch. I have a pretty good work ethic. Going to Wyoming, it opens up a lot personally for me.”