Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame celebrated at the Marriott

Rosa Salazar, Copy Editor

The Annual Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Banquet took place at the Bakersfield Marriott on Feb. 19.

The event included sponsors Clifford & Bradford Insurance Agency, W A Thompson Inc, and Jim Burke Ford.

One of the four inductees was John Stenderup. Stenderup, born in Kern County took up mountain climbing. Stenderup summited Mount Everest on May 21, 2017, and two days later he summited Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world. Stenderup has summited Denali located in Alaska, Peru’s Alpamayo, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and several other mountains. In 2018, Stenderup summited K2 whose elevation is 28,251′ feet.

In an article from the Bakersfield now website, Stenderup spoke about his hometown.

“As I reflect over my climbs, we have a lot of free time on the mountains. I realized that so much of my success is because of my background in agriculture and this community that I have here…So much of our rich history is grit and perseverance. My family, they’ve been in agriculture about 95 years now in the Arvin area. It just means a lot to me,” he said.

Donald Valpredo, horse racer, was another inductee at the event.

Valpredo has been on the board of every major horse racing and breeding organization. One of the boards Valpredo has served on was the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Board from 1972-90. Furthermore, Valpredo was president of the board from 1986-90.

Besides being a multiple stakes winner, Valpredo laid the foundation to highlight California bred horses in the California Cup. The establishment is known as the Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint, and it will be its 29th year this year.

Jake Varner, a wrestler, was another inductee. Varner attended Bakersfield High School and graduated in 2005. In high school, Varner’s wrestling career took off with 159 victories including 132 wins by pin. In Varner’s junior year, he won the Junior National Championship in Nebraska.

By the time Varner was a senior, he remained undefeated with a score of 80-0 and at the time a four-time medalist. Also, Varner made the Junior World team when he defeated the NCAA 3rd place medalist.

Varner pinned all of his opponents in League, Yosemite Valley, Masters, and all six opponents at the California State Championships, making him the first in history to do so. Varner continued wrestling at Iowa State University where he was awarded the prestigious ISU Male Athlete of the Year twice among other winnings.

In 2011 Varner won the Bronze medal at the World Championships and the Gold medal at the Pan-American Games. In 2013, Varner won the 2012 Olympic Games Gold Medal in London.

Dennis Watkins, a rodeo contestant, was another inductee. Watkins began roping when he was eight years old and has been a professional rodeo contestant for 44 years.

In 1974-92, Watkins competed at the National Finals Rodeo 19 consecutive times. In 1981 Watkins was a Nationals Finals champion and in 1984, he teamed up with Dave Motes and won the 1990 Dodge National Circuit Finals Team Roping championship. Then in 1974 and 1990, Watkins won at the Reno Rodeo with Motes, and in 1978 and 1979 he won with his partner Julio Moreno.