LOS FRESNOS — Nicholas Ruiz is having an incredible year.

His spotted calf “Max” has already won Grand Champion in two livestock shows, and now he’s looking forward to the upcoming “Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo” in Mercedes.

Nicholas, 13, and his family have been working with Max for several months, but he wasn’t sure how the now-celebrated calf would perform at show.

Max, however, came through for him in a big way.

“I was just really happy about his behavior,” said Nicholas, a seventh grader at Liberty Memorial Middle School in Los Fresnos.

Max won his first Grand Champion at the Sonny Brazil Stock Show Feb. 5 in San Antonio.

He quickly followed up with an encore performance Feb. 18 at the Cameron County Fair and Rodeo in Los Fresnos.

Nicholas began participating in livestock shows about three or four years ago in response to his uncle’s influence.

“My uncle introduced me to it because it’s his favorite thing to do, he raises cattle,” Nicholas said.

Quickly, though, Nicholas found a personal joy in the livestock show experience and pursued it in earnest.

“I enjoy the work,” he said. “I like the way they change their behavior.”

Nicholas did well last year with one breed champion win, but he’s having a truly banner year in 2022.

So what changed?

“This year we did a showmanship camp that taught a lot of different techniques for showing,” he said. Obviously it worked: Max has performed very well under Nicholas’s thorough attention to techniques he learned at the camp.

He’s been working with a total of four animals, and Max has outshined the others.

But he and his family exercised considerable disciple in working with them all.

“We have been working with them almost every day,” he said. “We have been brushing them, bathing them and clipping them to make sure their hair is nice.”

Nicholas recognizes very well the benefit livestock show has had on all aspects of his young life.

“It’s taught me responsibility and work ethics, just being there and taking care of the animals,” he said.

Those crucial tools have empowered his academic life and his participation in athletics.

“I am in all honors classes so they have high expectations,” he said. “I don’t want to disappoint anybody.”

He’s certainly not disappointing anyone.

He was fourth in his sixth-grade class last year, and this year his lowest grade has been an 83. He’s definitely a front runner for the top spot for this year’s seventh grade class.

In the midst of all his hard work in class and livestock show, he also played football and basketball this year and he’s looking forward to playing golf in the spring.

So, he’s managed to succeed in multiple activities and disciplines, and such a regimen is enough to scare many adults by the mere suggestion.

But at age 13 he’s doing it and quite well.

He gave special thanks to his parents, extended family and teachers for their support and direction.