Archive for June, 2018

postheadericon VIP Experience is growing

Patrons who purchase a VIP Experience can enjoy great hospitality and a behind-the-chutes tour of Rooftop Rodeo.

Patrons who purchase a VIP Experience can enjoy great hospitality and a behind-the-chutes tour of Rooftop Rodeo.

Town of Estes Park, Rooftop Rodeo enhancing the opportunities for guests

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Just a year after creating the VIP Experience for Rooftop Rodeo, the town of Estes Park is already upping the ante to those patrons.

“This is going to be great for those people who are interested in experiencing our rodeo in a very special way,” said Ben Vigil, president of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “What the town has established this year will make it an even better experience.”

It’s all a major component for fans of Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5-Tuesday, July 10, at Granny May Arena inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds. The VIP Experience allows patrons a tour of the rodeo grounds before the show, access to the exclusive VIP patio at the west gate, dinner in the hospitality area, drinks and the opportunity to utilize the padded seats in the grandstands.

“We sell our VIP Experience tickets at $100 apiece, and those people will have a permanent host for the evening,” said Rob Hinkle, the community services director for the town of Estes Park. “This year in the VIP area, we have brought in a stage that we will be able to convert into an elevated viewing area with its own bar.

“It’s going to be set up west of the arena where the hospitality tent used to be.”

The VIP and contestant hospitality will now be in the Estes Park Events Complex west of the arena.

“We really wanted to provide a better experience,” Hinkle said. “We were having to rent the tent every year, and it just didn’t provide the experience we wanted.

“By doing this, it allows us to put this really nice viewing platform in position, which we hope will enhance the experience for those patrons.”

Over the years, Rooftop Rodeo has been recognized as one of the premier stops in rodeo. Much of it has to do with the picturesque setting of Estes Park, but it also has to do with the hospitality provided and the nature of the competition. Cowboys and cowgirls have marveled at the fans who make their Rooftop Rodeo experience even better.

“We’re in a unique position in Estes Park where we have a beautiful setting and a wonderful community to welcome the contestants,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of the rodeo committee that has received six Rodeo of the Year awards in its history. “We strive every year to give the cowboys, the cowgirls, the sponsors and the fans the best experience they can have.”

postheadericon Rangers finish 3rd at college finals

Northwestern Oklahoma State University's Cody Devers wrestles a steer to the ground during last week's College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. Devers finished second in the nation in steer wrestling, and the Rangers placed third in the men's team race. (PHOTO BY THE TURQUOISE LENS)

Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s Cody Devers wrestles a steer to the ground during last week’s College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. Devers finished second in the nation in steer wrestling, and the Rangers placed third in the men’s team race. (PHOTO BY THE TURQUOISE LENS)

CASPER, Wyo. – The cowboy way is alive and well in Alva, Okla., and the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team proved it last week at the College National Finals Rodeo.

Five Rangers qualified for the championship round in Casper, and the men walked away as the No. 3 team in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, thanks to the fantastic showing of steer wrestler Cody Devers, heeler Tanner Nall and all-around cowboy Maverick Harper, who made the final performance in tie-down roping and team roping.

“It was a big year for us as a team,” said Harper, who finished third in the all-around race, 11th in the tie-down roping and fifth in team roping with Nall, of Colcord, Okla. “There were some places I could have improved, but for my first time there, I thought I did pretty well.”

While Harper secured points in both events in which he competed, Devers stood out in steer wrestling. He finished the seven-day rodeo as the reserve college champion, knocking down four steers in a cumulative time of 18.5 seconds. He also won the first round with a 3.8-second run and was fourth in the championship round with a 4.6.

Cody Devers

Cody Devers

“I made as good of runs as I could with the cattle I had and was fortunate to win a round,” said Devers of Perryton, Texas. “I just wanted to be the best on every steer that I could and see what happens.

“Being the reserve champion means a lot to me. I’ve been there three times, and this being my senior year, finally doing something good was quite an accomplishment.”

Yes, it was, and so was the team title. Not only did Devers, Nall and Harper score valuable points for the Rangers, but they also got some big help from freshman steer wrestler Bridger Anderson of Carrington, N.D., who won the second round with a 3.5-second run.

“Our team did really well,” Devers said. “We had quite a few people who scored points for us, so that was pretty big. We were pretty diverse in where we were getting points, too. Third place is pretty high for as many schools that were there.”

The Texan rode Woody, a buckskin horse owned by teammate Talon Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa. That served to be quite a benefit to Devers.

“I’d never ridden that horse until the finals,” he said. “He was really easy, consistent and ran straight up the steers’ backs every time. He had a great pattern and worked really good there.”

Having a good horse is important in any rodeo event. Harper and Nall have confidence in their mounts. Harper placed in the first round of tie-down roping, while he and Nall placed in both the first and short rounds in team roping.

Maverick Harper

Maverick Harper

“I treated it like another rodeo,” said Harper of Stephenville, Texas. “I wanted to be aggressive, doing what I knew I could do.

“The two guys that were there in three events beat me in the all-around. They had one extra event ahead of me. It’s a great accomplishment to be in that group considering I had one less event.”

The Northwestern women had two cowgirls qualify for the championship round: breakaway roper Brandi Hollenbeck of Hutchinson, Kan., and goat-tier Jenny Massing of Ponoka, Alberta. Hollenbeck finished 13th in the nation in her discipline, while Massing was ninth.

Barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., won the third round with a 14.12-second run, while Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., posted a 1.8-second breakaway roping run to finish second in the third go-round. All said, it was a strong showing from all Northwestern athletes, something that bodes well for the program and coach Stockton Graves.

“The thing about Stockton is that he’s always really confident in us,” Devers said. “He’s actually really laid back and trusts that we’re going to go out there and win.”

It worked last week in Casper.

postheadericon Top bullfighters return to Reno

Colt Oder has jumped into the Bullfighters Only scene and will be one of the top men in the game competing this week during the Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop at Reno Rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Colt Oder has jumped into the Bullfighters Only scene and will be one of the top men in the game competing this week during the Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop at Reno Rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop to feature six of the top seven in the BFO

RENO, Nev. – Over the past couple of weeks, Colt Oder has experienced the highs and lows of freestyle bullfighting. He got tangled up with Rockin’ B & Magnifica’s Mexicano at the Bullfighters Only Wrangler Bullfight stop in Decatur, Texas, resulting in a concussion and six stitches.

“I was a little too aggressive,” said Oder, who rebounded a week later, posting an 83-point fight to win the Wrangler Bullfights Tour event at Crosby, Texas. “I didn’t give myself a shot. I should have gone slower and read my bull better.

“Now that was a solid bullfight, and my fundamentals were there. My confidence is through the roof right now, and I’m ecstatic to be competing with the top guys in the game coming up.”

Oder will be taking part in the BFO Wrangler Bullfights that will be part of the Reno Rodeo, one of the most storied events in ProRodeo. He’ll be one of six men battling in the four-day championship. The event takes place June 19-22 – one of the first big stops through the summer run of rodeos.

“There is a lot of money up, so you have the opportunity to really cash in and move up the standings,” said Oder, the No. 5 man in the BFO Pendleton Whiskey World Standings from Moorspark, Calif. “I’d really like to be a household name in the BFO.”

He’ll have that chance. The contestants make up a who’s who of the top names in freestyle bullfighting: two-time reigning world champion Weston Rutkowski, top-ranked Toby Inman, second-ranked Kris Furr, Beau Schueth and Justin Josey. In fact, the Reno field features six of the top seven bullfighters in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings.

Josey won the recent BFO stop in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on June 9. He’s already had a couple of big victories this year. In addition to winning north of the border, the Apache, Okla., man also won the Bullfighters Only stop in San Angelo, Texas, in February.

“I want to carry the momentum over into Reno and keep moving forward one step at a time,” he said. “I want to keep learning what I can at each stop.”

The dangerous game of freestyle bullfighting comes with a price. Toby Inman, who finished second in the 2017 season, suffered a cracked rib in Decatur, then was knocked unconscious in Crosby. Ely Sharkey was also knocked out, but only after securing his first BFO victory in Decatur.

“For me, it’s just cool to compete against guys like Weston and Toby, because they’re the very best,” Josey said. “When you beat the top guys in the game, it just feels better. You have to step up your game to win at this level.

postheadericon Concert, auction a big deal in Gunnison

Legendary songwriter Dean Dillon is always the headline act for the Cattlemen's Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink Songwriter Concert and Auction, which will take place Tuesday, July 10, in Mt. Crested Butte, Colo. It is the largest fundraiser of the year for Gunnison's pink campaign.

Legendary songwriter Dean Dillon is always the headline act for the Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink Songwriter Concert and Auction, which will take place Tuesday, July 10, in Mt. Crested Butte, Colo. It is the largest fundraiser of the year for Gunnison’s pink campaign.

Farr, Otto to join legendary artist Dean Dillon for the No. 1 TETWP fundraiser in the nation

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – The Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink program is the largest of its kind in professional rodeo.

It’s a grass-roots effort that has been raising money for the needs of families battling breast cancer in in Gunnison County. More than $2 million has been raised, all to be invested in the local community, which says quite a bit about how locals feel about the work being done by the organization.

“Our Songwriter Concert and Auction has become our largest fundraiser of the year,” said Heidi Sherratt Bogart, executive director of Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink. “A lot of people who are in that room have been there since the beginning 13 years ago.

“There’s a connection there that’s hard to describe. It’s like you’re part of a big family. It’s something people don’t forget and want to be part of again.”

This year’s festivities begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at Mountaineer Square in Mt. Crested Butte and will feature country stars Tyler Farr, James Otto and legendary songwriter Dean Dillon, who also serves as a TETWP board member.

“The concert brings in all our donors into one room,” said Michael Dawson, also a TETWP board member. “With the connections and the leadership involved in this, it’s become more of a celebration of our efforts and community than simply a fundraiser.”

Because of the intimate setting, it offers something special to those who want to be part of something truly special. The money always will be used locally, in line with the TETWP mission. A year ago, the TETWP board purchased a 3D tomosynthesis machine, which is a higher-level mammogram for those who need better imaging technology due to breast density.

Within the first few weeks of being put in service, Dawson said, the three-dimensional machine detected abnormal growths in patients that 2D machines would not have identified. The 3D pictures are shockingly clear. These patients may have gone undetected for another year under standard screening protocol. The faster diagnosis allowed for patients to be diagnosed and treated quicker, reducing treatment timelines and, hopefully, saving lives.

Its those types of instances that mean so much to the community and serve as a reminder to the importance of the event to the TETWP board members.

“What makes it so special is that it’s a comfortable setting and the intimacy of the room,” Dawson said. “You not only get the songs, but you get the stories behind the songs. You don’t get that if you go to a 10,000-seat venue or to a traditional concert.

“That brings the audience in. When it’s communicated why we’re there and what we’re doing (raising money for TETWP), it sets an amazing tone for the entire evening.”

Gunnison TETWP has been in the Top 3 fundraising organizations for the PRCA TETWP campaign since its inception and is one of the overall leaders for fundraising in the nation. With the TETWP program platform giving all of the contributions back to its local community, this will be truly an event not to miss to raise funds for breast cancer and enjoy a unique and intimate evening with country music’s brightest new stars and legendary icons.

postheadericon Stars returning to Pollockville

Top cowboys, bucking horses will be featured at the Hard Grass Bronc Match in July

POLLOCKVILLE, Alberta – There were a number of amazing things that happened to Layton Green in 2018:

  • He won the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association saddle bronc riding championship.
  • He qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time, finishing ninth in the final world standings.
  • He won 17 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events, 12 of which were co-sanctioned with the CPRA.

All will hold a special place in Green’s heart as he cherishes every memory from that campaign, including his victory at the inaugural Hard Grass Bronc Match. Now he hopes to defend that title during this year’s event, which takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in Pollockville.

Layton Green

Layton Green

“That was probably the best bronc riding I’ve ever been to in my life,” said Green, 24, of Meeting Creek, Alberta. “There were so many great rides that day. That money I won solidified me a spot to go to the NFR, so that will always mean a lot to me.”

That’s because the Hard Grass Bronc Match was something special a year ago, and it promises to be again this July. The top 30 bronc riders in the world standings are expected to be in the field, and they will be matched with some of the greatest bucking horses in Canada.

Throw in a terrific purse to attract the top hands in the game, and there’s something special awaiting fans who want to see one of the greatest bronc matches in professional rodeo.

“It’s such a cool setting,” Green said. “You might think you’re driving into the middle of nowhere. There’s not a lot around there, but they’ve got this arena set up there. Everybody there pulled a trailer out there and made a weekend out of it. I’d suggest that over just going camping. You can pull your trailer out there and have one heck of a show.”

Those that make their way to the eastern Alberta community of 10 people will be assured of seeing the top names in the game. If members of the field haven’t qualified for either the NFR or the Canadian Finals Rodeo – or both – then they are about to do so. In fact, half the field at last year’s grand finale in Las Vegas were part of the Hard Grass Bronc Match.

“I love bronc matches,” said Zeke Thurston, a second-generation bronc rider and the 2016 world champion from Big Valley, Alberta. “They’re awesome, and when you can get one that counts for the world standings, then it’s even better.”

Money was a big reason many of the biggest names in the game made their way to Pollockville, but there were other reasons: The unbelievable horses from the Calgary Stampede Ranch and Big Stone Rodeo.

“You don’t see a pen of horses like that very often in one place,” Green said. “There aren’t very many long rounds with 30 bronc riders where dang near everybody could have made the short round. Those horses bucked hoard. It took at least 83 points to make the short round. Jake Watson was 88 points to finish fourth in the short round. You’re not going to see those kinds of scores very often.

“If you go to a rodeo, you might see one or two of the broncs that were there that day. Any bronc riding fan needs to go and witness that bronc match.”

postheadericon Broadcaster lauds Rooftop

Steve Kenyon returns to Estes Park, Colo., to announce Rooftop Rodeo on ProRodeo Live and on Rural Radio, Sirius Satellite 147. He will broadcast t he final five performances. (WT BRUCE PHOTO)

Steve Kenyon returns to Estes Park, Colo., to announce Rooftop Rodeo on ProRodeo Live and on Rural Radio, Sirius Satellite 147. He will broadcast t he final five performances. (WT BRUCE PHOTO)

Estes Park rodeo performances to be featured on satellite radio, Internet

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Steve Kenyon’s voice is recognizable to those who have heard or seen him.

He’s a personality in rodeo, the radio voice that listeners turn to when they want to know what’s going on in the sport. He’s been to dozens of rodeos across this big country, so he knows the game better than most.

He returns to Rooftop Rodeo for this year’s festivities, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5-Tuesday, July 10, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds. He will call the action for the final five nights of award-winning rodeo, and his broadcasts can be found on his website, www.ProRodeoLive.com, and on Rural Radio, Sirius Satellite channel 147.

“I’ve learned as time goes on that you want to present events that are popular with the contestants and the fans,” said Kenyon, one of just eight individuals to have been honored with media awards from the largest rodeo organizations in the world, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association.

“How can you argue with the opportunity to go to a place like Estes Park, Colo. The people are great. The committee works very hard at their event, and they take their event very seriously. Besides that, the place is drop-dead gorgeous. When you combine all those things, it’s the kind of place you want to be in and the place you want to watch a good rodeo.”

Kenyon will actually be part of two national broadcasts coming out of the picturesque mountain town. He will be joined by the Wrangler Network, www.WranglerNetwork.com, which will showcase the action during Saturday night’s July 7 performance.

“We are very honored to have such prestigious national broadcasts that team with us at Rooftop Rodeo,” said Ben Vigil, president of /Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “They help us showcase our rodeo, which is a very big part of the town’s history.”

Kenyon is also a ProRodeo announcer who calls the action inside the arena at several rodeos around the country, but his trademark is in the radio-style play-by-play of the rodeo action. It’s something he began doing in 2006, calling the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for a broadcasting company.

When that folded after the 2007 NFR, he established the webcast on ProRodeo Live.

“I saw a market there and an opportunity,” he said. “I talked to the PRCA, when Karl Stressman had just started as commissioner. He was a big supporter. I told him I’d like to continue to put the NFR on the Internet. At the time, it was just the National Finals.

“I decided to do more rodeos, so I started with San Antonio, the (RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo) and Cheyenne, and it just started to grow. I started finding more and more people were listening to me.”

Five years ago, he began partnering with Rural Media Group, which owns also RFD-TV, and his broadcasts hit the national airwaves on satellite radio.

“The first rodeo we did was Salinas (Calif.), and that moved into more of what I do now, including Western Sports Roundup on 147 and on RFD-TV,” said Kenyon, who indicated that several thousand people will listen in to the Rooftop Rodeo broadcasts.

“This whole ProRodeo Live deal has opened up a bunch of doors that I never thought would have been opened. To be able to make a living and promoting the industry is amazing. To have it morphed into satellite radio and television, you’re talking about things that I could never have expected.”

As he travels this country, Kenyon is offered the opportunity to see some amazing scenery and witness some incredible rodeo. He’ll have both when he arrives in Estes Park.

“What’s most incredible to me is how hard the people of that committee work,” he said. “It’s an award-winning rodeo for a reason, and that’s because of those volunteers. You see how dedicated they are to making it a first-class project.”

postheadericon PBR heading to Dawson Creek

Alpha Bull to showcase Canada’s top bull riders during big December event

DAWSON CREEK, British Columbia – Zane Lambert has ridden bulls all across Canada.

He is one of the top men on the PBR Canada tour, and he will join other top cowboys competing at the PBR Dawson Creek Fueled by Lyons Production Services, set for Dec. 1 at the Encana Centre.

Zane Lambert

Zane Lambert

“It’s great up there,” said Lambert, 31, the reigning PBR Canada champion from Ponoka, Alberta. “They have a new building there, and it’s a good size for us. The last time I was up there, they filled it, and I would expect the same thing when we get there in December.”

That’s a big drawing card for the best Canadian cowboys in the game.

“This is going to be for the 2019 season, so it’s going to be a good one to go to,” said Dakota Buttar, the 13th-ranked cowboy in the PBR world standings from Kindersley, Saskatchewan. “It’s going to be my first event in BC, so I’m excited about it.”

The event is produced by Alpha Bull, which has a solid reputation for top events all across Canada. Chad Besplug, Alpha Bull’s founder and CEO, is a former bull rider who has extended his expertise in bull riding into developing top events.

“I think Chad will do well with this event,” Lambert said. “it will be top of the line with what Chad’s doing with his production crew. He has been at it for two years, and he’s got his unique stamp on what he does.”

Though he hasn’t been to many Alpha Bull events, Buttar said the word is out.

Dakota Buttar

Dakota Buttar

“The atmosphere he has going with pyro and lights is cool,” Buttar said. “He brings a different view to the production side of it, which is pretty awesome.

“I’m on the road a lot, so to compete in Canada is always home, and it’s fun coming back home and riding with your buddies.”

Buttar has focused his attention on the Unleash the Beast series, the PBR’s premier tour, which features dozens of events primarily in the United States. Those events feature the largest paydays in the business, but cowboys must earn their way onto the tour.

Lambert is riding a hot streak and hopes to be on tour by the end of the regular season. Until then, he plans to hit rodeos in Canada and the U.S. as well as PBR Canada stops.

“I think having the Dawson Creek event in December will be good for us,” said Lambert, the top bull rider in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s standings. “It will be good timing. If you look at the schedule now, they pack so much into June and July that it will be nice.”

He is scheduled to compete at the Calgary Stampede in July and has his sites set on qualifying for the Canadian Finals Rodeo and repeating as the PBR Canada champion.

“There haven’t been too many people back it up, so it would be cool to win it again this year,” he said. “I want to leave as much with the sport as I can before I’m done with it.”

postheadericon Teen giving back to kids after brain injury

Hanna Conley continues her recovery from a traumatic brain injury she suffered a year and a half ago. As she heals, she is also reaching out to other youth by raising money for the Cowboys Who Care Foundation. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

Hanna Conley continues her recovery from a traumatic brain injury she suffered a year and a half ago. As she heals, she is also reaching out to other youth by raising money for the Cowboys Who Care Foundation. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

MARION, La. – Hanna Conley has no recollection of the barrel racing wreck that changed her life.

On Dec. 9, 2016, as her horse tried to round the second barrel, it stumbled then fell, and Hanna, then 13 years old, landed face first in the arena dirt. The result was a traumatic brain injury that landed the young lady in a coma for a few days, in the hospital for longer and eventually a rehabilitation center.

She’s a survivor. Now 15, she is thriving, but she still has some rough patches that she and her family hope will be ironed out through therapy and her own will. There are side effects that come with such an injury.

“Hers was a frontal lobe injury, type 2,” said her mother, Becky. “She has ADHD due to the injury, and she struggles with anxiety and depression. Hanna had a little bit of survivor’s guilt from her accident, her making it and coming out as well as she did. It was recommended she see a psychiatrist.”

That helped turn things around, but so did Hanna herself. While attending the Stampede at the Ike rodeo in West Monroe, La. – close to the family’s home in Marion, La. – Hanna watched a video about the Cowboys Who Care Foundation, which provides cowboy hats and smiles to children that have life-threatening injuries or illnesses.

“I was feeling guilty that I walked out of the hospital OK,” Hanna said. “Most of the people in the hospital with me won’t survive, and if they do, they won’t have much of a life.

“I walked out like I was almost fine. I really didn’t have much hope when I was in the hospital. I know what those kids feel like. Just to give them a cowboy hat and make them smile for 20 minutes – and help them forget their problems – would just mean the world to me.”

The young lady is already making an impact. Earlier this month, she conducted an auction that raised nearly $1,200. She also acquired a $100 gift card and sold raffles to help raise money. All told, she raised $1,565 that will go to Cowboys Who Care.

More importantly, she and her parents are coming up with other ideas to help raise even more money for the foundation. That’s just the giving nature Becky and Brian Conley have provided their daughter, and she is happy to carry it forward.

“I’m still learning to deal with all the new adjustments with my personality,” said Hanna, who is utilizing therapies to help her rewire all the circuits that were damaged during her injury. “I feel like I’ve progressed really far. If I don’t progress any more, I’m OK with that, but I’m going to work my hardest to reach my potential.”

That’s the true definition of a cowboy … or cowgirl, in this case. She continues to fight, and her family, friends and community have been there supporting her along the way, both during the time of her injury and now giving back to those who need it more than she does. It takes a great deal of work and faith in God, but each step is a giant stride as she battles back from the injury.

“Hanna’s story is uplifting, because she’s overcome so much,” said Pete Carr, owner of Dallas-based Pete Carr Pro Rodeo and a member of the Cowboys Who Care Foundation board. “The fact that she’s young and wants to give back is inspiring to me, and we are thankful she is involved in our foundation.”

postheadericon PBR to debut in Whitecourt

Byrne, other top bull riders to be part of Alpha Bull event in central Alberta community

WHITECOURT, Alberta – The danger and excitement of man vs. beast dates back to the days of gladiators.

Now, though, it’s a nearly orchestrated dance of 150-pound men doing their best to tame nearly a ton of bucking flesh that kicks, spins and stomps beneath them. That raw power allows for some phenomenal athleticism, as the Veteran Oilfield PBR Challenge kicks off Aug. 10 at the Scott Safety Centre in Whitecourt.

“This is going to be our first year in Whitecourt, and I’m excited to bring the PBR there,” said Chad Besplug, founder and CEO of Alpha Bull, which will produce the event. “We want the fans there to be just as excited as we are.”

Tanner Byrne

Tanner Byrne

The inaugural event will be a true showcase of the greatest animals and the top bull riders on the PBR Canada tour, and fans in this central Alberta community will have a chance to see it inside the quaint auditorium.

“I would love to be the first guy to win that,” said Tanner Byrne, 25, of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. “This is my comeback year. I spent most of 2017 out with injuries, so I’ve had some ground to make up.”

He’s done a pretty well. He’s climbed to 21st in the PBR world standings and is one of the seeded cowboys on the Unleash the Beast series, the association’s premier tour.

“My goal is to come back, make the world finals and just get back to where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “It’s been going well this year. I feel good again and have been riding good again.”

He wants that to continue. While the premier tour is taking a few months off, Byrne plans to hit all the important stops in Canada. That’s why he’s excited about making sure he gets to Whitecourt.

“Having the PBR go to Whitecourt for the first time, I’m excited,” Byrne said. “I’ not only showing off myself as a rider but also our bulls with the Flying Four Bucking Bulls.”

Byrne is a co-owner of the livestock company with his father and father-in-law. That means he will be pulling double-duty when it comes time to buck bulls in Whitecourt.

“We’ve been raising bulls for over 10 years and have had some pretty good success with it,” he said. “It seems to be getting better every year. I’ve got 20 bulls that I wouldn’t be afraid to take to any PBR across Canada.”

Byrne said he’s excited to be part of the Alpha Bull event.

“I haven’t been able to get to a lot of those events due to scheduling conflicts, but I always see the highlights and hear the guys raving about the Alpha Bull events,” he said. “Anytime that anybody is trying to grow the sort of bull riding in Canada, I’m all for it.”

postheadericon Rangers ready for college finals

ALVA, Okla. – Maverick Harper is as confident as he’s ever been in his rodeo career, and it comes at a good time.

The Northwestern Oklahoma State University cowboy is competing at the College National Finals Rodeo for the first time, and he likes the opportunities that are before him when the action takes place Sunday, June 10-Saturday, June 16, in Casper, Wyo. But it’s not just an individual confidence; he sees great things for both the Northwestern men and women’s teams.

Maverick Harper

Maverick Harper

“I don’t see how we couldn’t be competitive,” he said, referring to the men’s team of six cowboys competing in seven events and the women’s squad of four competing in five events. “Everybody on our team is capable of winning a national championship in their event.”

Harper, a senior from Stephenville, Texas, won the team roping-heading title in the Central Plains Region, joining his heeling partner, Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla., for the top spot in the circuit made up primarily of college teams from Oklahoma and Kansas. Harper also finished second in the region’s all-around race, so he will also compete in tie-down roping at the college finals.

He and Nall will be joined in Casper by tie-down roper Ethan Price of Leedey, Okla., who finished second in the region. Also in the mix are a trio of steer wrestlers: Talon Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa, the regional champ; Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, who finished second; and Bridger Anderson of Carrington, N.D., the fourth-place bulldogger.

For the women, Jenny Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, finished second in both goat tying and the all-around race, so she will also compete in barrel racing. Taylor Munsel of Arnett, Okla., finished second in breakaway roping, while Brandi Hollenbeck of Hutchinson, Kan., earned the spot on the team by finishing fifth.

Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., won the regional title in barrel racing and hopes to carry over that success to Casper.

“Seeing the arena does help,” said Bynum, a senior making her third trip to the college finals. “The ground is always a little bit different every year, so you don’t know what to expect. I think the mental game is easier after you’ve been there a couple times.”

She blazed through the 10-event season on her talented 8-year-old paint mare, Loretta. Bynum knows her success runs through the talented horse’s legs.

“I think the biggest thing is to go out there and have fun,” she said. “I need to take care of my horses and take care of me, then I need to let it all fall where it does. The big thing is to not to try to do too much. I’ve had to learn that if I just go and enjoy what I do, I usually do better.”

She also realizes what kind of talent will be wearing those black and red NWOSU vests.

Sara Bynum

Sara Bynum

“Having a full team back at the college finals says a lot about Northwestern rodeo and about Stockton (Graves, the rodeo coach),” Bynum said. “He does a very good job recruiting, and having a full team back at the finals gives us a chance to do well as a team.

“I think we have the potential to win it all. We have the right girls, and we have a lot of talent going this year for both teams.”

The CNFR finalists earned the right to compete in Wyoming by finishing the region race among the top 3 in the standings. Only the top two teams in the men’s and women’s divisions advance, so that’s why Northwestern is able to have two full teams comping for the top prizes in the sport.

What they’ve gained through schooling in Alva has definitely paid off.

“Stockton doesn’t know a lot about barrel racing, but he knows how to win regardless of what rodeo event you’re in,” Bynum said, noting that Graves is a seven-time steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “He helps any way he can, and he knows the mental game of a big stage. He knows what comes into play and what will keep you competitive.”

At the intercollegiate level of any sport, the mental approach to the game is vital.

“One of Stockton’s key things is learning how to win,” Harper said. “It doesn’t always take a fast run to win. It’s knowing your stage and knowing what you have to do.”

That has worked through the rigors of the regular season. He plans to take that same approach when he competes in both events in Casper.

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