postheadericon Core group brings finale to Duncan

DUNCAN, Okla. – It takes dedicated group and a resounding community effort to pull off a championship-caliber event.

Enter the organizers for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16-Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan.

“The core idea that we all had was that we wanted the circuit finals to be a bigger, better, more productive event than what we had ever had here or what the circuit finials has ever been,” said Joe Henderson, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual event. “That’s still our goal.”

This year marks the third straight fall that Stephens County has hosted ProRodeo’s biggest stars from the Prairie Circuit, the rodeo region made up of contestants and events primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. In order to compete in Duncan, the top 12 cowboys and cowgirls from each event qualify based on how well they performed through the rigors of the 2014 ProRodeo season.

It is the year-end championship for the contestants. The Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo is one of the major driving forces to those cowboys and cowgirls – from full-time rodeo hands to those who have full-time jobs and compete at events closer to home when time allows.

Tana Poppino

Tana Poppino

“The circuit finals are a big deal, especially in our circuit,” said barrel racer Tana Poppino, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier and an 11-time circuit finals qualifier from Big Cabin, Okla. “You’ve got the best horses and the best girls out of our area.

“Our circuit is always tough, because we’ve got so many former world champions and NFR qualifiers there.”

The same can be said in every other event that is part of the three-day competition.

“I think we firmly believe we have something special here,” Henderson said. “From a production standpoint, this rodeo means to those contestants as much for most of them that the National Finals would for some of the NFR competitors. This would be like an NCAA regional tournament as compared to a Final Four.

“From a local businessman’s point of view, you have a captive audience for three to eight days. For other rodeos that are in town, you have a captive audience for maybe 12 hours. I think this is a good opportunity for our community and also for the contestants. There is a lot on the table for them all.”

Locals who work hard all year to plan the annual championship see it as a two-fold opportunity: To bring many of ProRodeo’s biggest stars to Stephens County and to provide regional contestants with the perfect home to conduct their annual finale.

“For me, I think it’s important for the contestants to know that they’ve got a place that they’re going to come every year, that they’re familiar with the goings-on and what the committee is doing,” said Sandy Bowden, who, with her husband, Billy Bob, was instrumental in developing the committee. “I think that eases some of the contestants’ minds. They don’t have to worry about it.

“To us, we thought it would be a good idea to bring to the community and, for those who don’t get to go to the NFR, have a premium rodeo for them to watch. The Prairie Circuit is blessed because there are so many guys and girls from our circuit that are the top contestants in the country and go to the NFR every year.”

They know. The Bowdens’ daughter, Shy-Anne Jarrett, has qualified for this year’s circuit finals; her husband, Ryan, is the 2005 all-around world champion and an eight-time NFR qualifier who also has qualified for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo several times. With attention to the details that are important to both community members and rodeo contestants, the committee puts on a full-court press to impress.

“The committee in Duncan is awesome,” said Poppino, whose son, Brodie, is a steer roping qualifier to both circuit finals and the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. “That group of people has been on our side of the fence. They know how much it means to the contestants, and they have gone out and made it their top priority to make the circuit finals something that the contestants wanted to get to because they got treated so well.

“It was set up to be the best for the contestants, and I think they have done that.”

It helps to have an amazing facility in the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center.

“It’s an awesome place,” Poppino said. “I don’t believe anybody else is going to get it set up for the contestants like those people have with RV hookups, stalls, a warm-up area and amazing hospitality.

“There are so many events there that it takes a while to build up a big event, but I think the community is learning that this is a big finals. We have a lot of NFR people right here in Duncan.”

The work to make the experience special for everyone involved is done by a small group of people who volunteer to accomplish every task. That selflessness is contagious.

“This committee is so unselfish,” Henderson said. “They won’t take any credit for it, but they deserve all the credit for it. I have the blessing of getting to take credit for all the work that others have done.”

postheadericon Northwestern women win title in Pratt

ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State University women’s rodeo team has continued on its hot streak to start the Central Plains Region season.

In the opening two events of the 2014-15 campaign, the Rangers have two outright victories, earning the titles at the Cherokee Rodeo hosted by NWOSU three week ago and the Pratt (Kan.) Community College Rodeo this past weekend.

Stockton Graves

Stockton Graves

“The women’s team is doing really well, and I’m real proud of them,” said Stockton Graves, the program’s coach. “We haven’t blown anybody out yet, but we’ve got the victories. The whole women’s deal is pretty fun watching. We dang sure have some good girls, and it’s going to be exciting this season. There are two or three teams that are sure stacked up.”

That’s true. The Northwestern women lead the region standings with 650 points, just 35 points ahead of runner-up Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

A key, Graves said, is that the fall schedule of four rodeos places the Rangers at events that are all close to home. In addition to Cherokee (a 22-mile drive), Pratt is just an hour north of Alva, while the Oklahoma State University Rodeo this coming weekend is just two hours southeast in Stillwater. The final event of the season, the Northwestern Rodeo, will take place Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

“We’ve been able to keep everybody home and drive back and forth,” he said. “We don’t have to stay out there and camp out. They can keep their horses at home. It’s really nice having them this close.”

It’s working quite well. Several Rangers qualified for the championship round in Pratt, with steer wrestler Grayson Allred winning his discipline and Michael Edgmon placing fourth, based on results posted by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

Other men who placed at Pratt were tie-down roper Hayden Pearce, heeler Dustin Searcy and headers Dalton Richards and Layne Harold. The men finished the team standings fourth in Pratt, while the women edged Garden City by just five points.

“It’s a tough region, especially in the men’s division,” Graves said. “Being more of a timed-event school, we’re just going to have to have all six guys on the team to do well to be competitive. That’s hard to do. It can be done, and we’ve done it before.

“The difference between the timed and the roughstock events are the numbers of competitors.”

There are a lot more wrestlers and ropers at the collegiate level than those cowboys who ride bucking bulls and horses. With more contestants, it’s tougher for timed-eventers to make the final round.

“The men did better, and we had three bulldoggers make the short round,” Graves said.

The women’s contestants have just three events in which they compete: barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat-tying. Four Rangers placed in Pratt, with goat-tiers Lauren Barnes (second), Shayna Miller (third) and Elli Price (sixth) placing; barrel racer Kylee Cahoy also placed.

“We’ve got a good set of goat-tiers this year and have for a little while,” Graves said. “This women’s team is dang tough all the way around.

“I don’t really stress the all-around standings or the team stuff. I just say to do good in your individual events and let the all-around and team stuff fall into place; that’s all just a bonus for us.”

As long as they keep winning, the bonuses will continue to come.

postheadericon McKee a key voice in circuit finals

DUNCAN, Okla. – Justin McKee is the most recognized voice in rodeo.

Over the past two decades, the Oklahoma announcer has called the action at some of the biggest events in the game. He also has been the television commentator for numerous rodeo-related events, which makes him recognizable to so many fans.

He returns to southern Oklahoma for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan.

Justin McKee

Justin McKee

“It’s always very flattering and very exciting to me,” said McKee, who announced the 2012 circuit finals in its inaugural year in Duncan. “It’s one of the highlights of the year for me. I never take it for granted, and I just hope I can do justice to the contestants who qualified.”

The finale features the top contestants from the 2014 season in the Prairie Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of contestants and events primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. In order to play the game, contestants had to finish the campaign among the top 12 on the money list.

It’s a championship that is cherished, especially in the Prairie Circuit – the region is home to numerous world champions and qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. That’s why it’s such an honor for McKee to be part of the three performances.

“I think I understand it so well because I am a competitor,” said McKee, who has won numerous steer roping titles. “I think it’s most of who I am as an announcer. I was fortunate enough to have experienced every event. I think it’s important to know the event as a competitor.”

That translates well into his post as the main voice of the rodeo, relaying the action to the fans. He’s quite comfortable with a microphone in his hand.

“I grew up in the livestock auction business, and I’ve always been mesmerized by the auctioneer,” he said. “I’ve been behind the microphone since I was 3 years old. I started selling when I was 7. I’ve been competing in rodeo all my life. It was a pretty natural migration to the announcer’s booth for me.”

He announced rodeos while still a teenager, then started doing it for pay a short time later. He became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1993 and worked his first circuit finals rodeo a year later. In 1995, he began working as an announcer for the Professional Bull Riders.

“I announced live events for seven years and did 10 years of TV for the PBR,” McKee said. “At first, it was quite an adjustment because there was no crowd to feed off of. I didn’t realize how much I fed off the energy of a live crowd.”

While television was his primary focus for a long time, McKee still competed and called rodeos. He’s been doing more of that while still doing some TV work throughout the year. He loves the opportunity to share his experiences with a crowd.

“As far as my career, 80 percent or 90 percent of what I’ve got is because I take everything I’ve ever done in the arena with me,” he said. “I think that helps me so much.”

It helps the fans in Duncan, too.

postheadericon Cannon wins hometown rodeo

Listen to Clint Cannon’s interview with Rob Matthews

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – In his career, Clint Cannon has earned many significant titles.

Eleven years ago, he was the Resistol Bareback Rookie of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Since then, he’s followed that with wins at RodeoHouston, the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede and numerous other ProRodeo events. He’s a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Waller, Texas.

Clint Cannon

Clint Cannon

He had never won the championship at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo … until Saturday night. He rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Night Bells for 87 points to win the championship, pocketing $2,121 in the process.

“I’ve been coming to the Waller County rodeo since I was little,” Cannon said. “We got it to be a ProRodeo four years ago, and I never even placed this year. To win in front of everybody – I’m getting toward the end of my career – feels good to let everybody come out and see in person that I can ride.

“A lot of people in my hometown never get to see me win, they just get to see me on TV.”

It marked the second time in two nights that Cannon won in Hempstead; on Friday night, he was part of the 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head match against rising star Richie Champion of The Woodlands, Texas. In all, Cannon pocketed more than $3,600 at his hometown rodeo, and he topped it off on the final night on Night Bells, a horse that’s been to the NFR for several years.

“That was my first time on that horse, and he’s awesome,” he said. “He blows out of the chute hard and comes across the arena. I’ve wanted to get on that horse for a while.”

Casey Huckabee had been Pete Carr’s Line Man before, so he knew a little about the big spotted bull. On Saturday, he posted a 90-point ride on the bull that’s been to the NFR each of the past two seasons.

“Winning this rodeo means a lot, because I came down here and didn’t have anything,” said Huckabee, 25, of Grand Saline, Texas, indicating he had little to no money in his rodeo bank account. “I thought I forgot how to ride.”

Apparently he figured it out just in time, earning $1,433 for the victory. For every buck, jump and twist Line Man threw at him, Huckabee responded well.

“It was touch-and-go from the time I nodded my head,” he said. “I thought he was going to get me any second, but I kept going.”

Other winners were all-around champion Landon McClaugherty, steer wrestler Darrell Petry, team ropers Tyler Wade and Kinney Harrell, saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley, tie-down roper Matt Shiozawa, barrel racer Kelly Tovar and steer roper Trevor Brazile.

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 2-4
Hempstead, Texas
Landon McClaugherty, $1,179 in team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping

Bareback riding: 1. Clint Cannon, 87 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Night Bells, $2,121; 2. Winn Ratliff, 86, $1,623; 2. Kyle Brennecke, 84, $1,202; 4. Wyatt Denny, 82, $778; 5. (tie) Evan Jayne and Scotty NeSmith, 81, $424 each; 7. Matt Bright, 80, $283; 8. (tie) Will Lowe and Anthony Thomas, 79, $106 each.

Steer wrestling: 1. Darrell Petry, 4.0 seconds, $1,411; 2. (tie) Bill Pace and Cooper Shofner, 4.4, $1,046 each; 4. (tie) Aaron Vosler and Tommy Cook, 4.6, $559 each; 6. Ted Gollaher, 4.7, $243.

Team roping: 1. Tyler Wade/Kinney Harrell, 4.4 seconds, $2,562; 2. Lane Ivy/Tommy Zuniga, 5.0, $2,228; 3. Kenton Woodson, 5.5, $1,894; 4. (tie) Logan Olson/Travis Woodard, Tyler Waters/Kory Koontz, Jake Cooper.Tyler McKnight and David Key/Martin Lucero, 5.8, $1,058 each; 8. Justin Davis/Colby Lovell, 5.9, $223-.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 80 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Icycle, $1,284; 2. Bradley Harter, 79, $973; 3. (tie) Dean Wadsworth, Justin Caylor, Kobyn Williams and Tab Hildreth, 78, $409.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Matt Shiozawa, 7.9 seconds, $1,963; 2. Houston Hutto, 8.9, $1,624; 3. Ross Tucker,9.0, $1,286; 4. Ace Slone, 9.2, $948; 5. Timber Moore, 9.3, $609; 6. Marty Yates, 9.6, $338.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kelly Tovar, 14.52 seconds, $2,051; 2. Amanda Davenport, 14.64, $1,743; 3. Mary Walker, 14.75, $1,436; 4. Sydni Blanchard, 14.82, $1,231; 5. Lisa Thornton, 14.85, $1,026; 6. Morgan Breaux, 14.89, $718; 7. Brittany Grant, 14.90, $513; 8. Christy Loflin, 14.91, $410; 9. Courtney Sokol, 14.92, $359; 10. Taylor Jacob, 14.93, $308; 11. Stephanie Jacks, 15.01, $256; 12. Brittany Kelly, 15.02, $205

Steer roping: First round: 1. Scott Snedecor, 9.8 seconds, $963; 2. Trevor Brazile, 10.4, $797; 3. Roger Branch, 11.2, $631; 4. Rocky Patterson, 11.5, $465; 5. (tie) Vin Fisher Jr. and JB Whatley, 12.0, $232 each. Second round: 1. J.P. Wickett, 10.0 seconds, $963; 2. Mike Chase, 10.9, $797; 3. Landon McClaugherty, 11.3, $631; 4. Cody Lee, 11.7, $465; 5. Guy Allen, 12.4, $299; 6. Tony Reina, 12.7, $166. Third round: 1. Joe O’Rourke, 11.0 seconds, $963; 2. Trevor Brazile, 11.2, $797; 3. (tie) Rocky Patterson and Landon McClaugherty, 11.3, $548 each; 5. Cody Lee, 11.4, $299; 6. Mike Outhier, 11.5, $166. Average: 1. Trevor Brazile, 36.4 seconds on three head, $1,445; 2. Scott Snedecor, 37.4, $1,196; 3. Vin Fisher Jr., 38.4, $947; 4. Tony Reina, 39.4, $697; 5. Will Gasperson, 39.6, $448; 6. Paul Patton, 43.7, $249.

Bull riding: 1. Casey Huckabee, 90 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Line Man, $1,433 2. (tie) Zeb Lanham and Chad German, 85, $934 each; 4. Jay Turner, 83, $521; 5. Nile Lebaron, 81, $304; 6. Caleb Sanderson, 76, $217.

postheadericon Dirty Jacket is a champion horse

Richie Champion rides Pete Carr Pro Rodeo's Dirty Jacket for 91 points to win the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo in July. It's one of many key wins for Champion this season and one of many outstanding bucking trips for the 10-year-old bay gelding. (RIC ANDERSON PHOTO)

Richie Champion rides Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket for 91 points to win the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo in July. It’s one of many key wins for Champion this season and one of many outstanding bucking trips for the 10-year-old bay gelding. (RIC ANDERSON PHOTO)

DALLAS – Dirty Jacket was an exceptional bucking horse the first time he bucked.

The bay gelding was just 4 years old at the time. He’s grown up a lot since then, and he’s just gotten better.

“He’s the perfect bucking horse, because he loves what he does and he’s excited when it’s time to buck,” said Pete Carr, owner of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo. “He ready when he gets to the chute, and he stands there until the gate opens; then he has a big leap in the air and bucks hard every time.

“When the whistle blows, he lines out with the pickup man and allows the guys to get off without any problem. He’s the kind of horse all the bareback riders want to draw, because they know that as long as they don’t stub their toe, they’re going to win.”

Richie Champion

Richie Champion

Ask any bareback rider, they agree with Carr. Over the past three years, bareback riders have selected the 10-year-old as one of the top three horses in the game. This year should mark the sixth straight year the powerful and athletic gelding performs at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale that takes place in Las Vegas each December.

“I’ve been on big horses that look big and feel big,” said Richmond Champion, who rode Dirty Jacket for 91 points to win the championship at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days. “He has a huge frame, but he’s so athletic from nose to tail. He just looks like an athlete. If you could pick a horse out of a herd that could jump nine feet in the air, he’s that horse.

“If you’re going to win a big rodeo, that’s the horse you want.”

That’s true. In 2012, Dirty Jacket finished the season as the runner-up Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse. Last year, he was the Reserve World Champion. Can he be the No. 1 bareback horse in 2014?

“I think Dirty Jacket should’ve gotten the halter a long time ago,” Champion said of the Bareback Horse of the Year title. “I think he deserves one.”

Three pasture mates from the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo herd have earned that title: Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night. So far this year on Dirty Jacket, three-time world champion Kaycee Feild posted a 92.5-point ride on the big bay during the Fort Worth (Texas) Super Shootout; Champion was 91 in Cheyenne; Bill Tutor was 88 points in Lovington, N.M.; and Steven Dent won the final rodeo of the season with a 91-point ride in Stephenville, Texas.

Bill Tutor

Bill Tutor

“It’s an awesome feeling when you draw him, because he’s absolutely the one you want to draw,” said Tutor, of Huntsville, Texas, who has been on Dirty Jacket four times in his young career, winning in Claremore, Okla., and Stephenville, Texas, in 2013. “But you get worked up about it, and your heart’s pounding all week. I don’t want to mess up a horse that great.”

Not many do. In 2013, cowboys earned rodeo wins in 12 of 13 rodeos in which Dirty Jacket bucked. The scores in 2014 are proving he’s been better.

“When I saw the draw for the short round in Cheyenne, I knew I wanted him,” Champion said. “There were a bunch of good horses in the short round, but I wanted Dirty Jacket. When I found out I had him, there was no chance I was going to sleep good. I was super excited. When I got to the arena and got behind the bucking chutes, everybody was congratulating me on the draw. I was pretty nervous, because I didn’t want to waste the opportunity.”

He didn’t. In fact, he took in all the atmosphere of one of the biggest rodeos of the season.

“I wanted to take in every bit of that experience to get on him,” he said. “He looked healthy, probably the best I’d ever seen him was that day. Pete Carr and his crew do a phenomenal job taking care of their horses.

“I went and hung out with him for a while. That was probably the most excited I’ve ever been to get on a bareback horse that day. I was a kid in a candy store.”

He got his fix. Dirty Jacket burst out of the chute like no other horse had ever done. The images of that first move out of the chute were magic on social media.

“It felt like he wound himself up, and the next thing I know, I’m just looking vertical,” said Champion, whose only appearance on the photograph was his right boot. “I’ve never felt anything like that. From the rare out to about the fourth jump, it was just phenomenal. There are about two jumps I don’t remember happening. Once he lined out and was stacked up underneath me, that’s where I really started to have fun. I didn’t want the whistle to blow; I was having way too much fun.”

A lot of cowboys have had that experience over the last six years. They talk about tremendous athleticism. They talk about explosiveness. They talk about an animal’s love for what he does.

They talk about Dirty Jacket.

postheadericon Ratliff hoping to defend title

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Winn Ratliff won a share of the bareback riding championship at last year’s Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

He’d like to win it all this year. On Friday night during the rodeo’s second performance, the Louisiana cowboy rode Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Cimmaron for 86 points to take the lead. He’ll await Saturday’s final show to see how he finishes the weekend.

Winn Ratliff

Winn Ratliff

“My first horse was a Pete Carr horse called Blue Smoke,” said Ratliff, who will compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this coming December for the second time in three years. “Every once in a while, he’ll throw a little fit, and tonight he decided he didn’t want to perform, so we decided to give him a break and give me a reride.

“I had some history with Cimmaron and knew him real well. He’s a real nice horse and just circled around to the left. He’s real showy, and I just tried to do my part by making a strong ride.”

It worked. Ratliff may have been assisted by the 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head match between Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, and Richie Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, both of whom are NFR qualifiers. It was a historical special event for the Waller County rodeo. Though it wasn’t part of the ProRodeo, it was a highlighted event in which both cowboys put on exceptional rides – Cannon won the match with a 90-point ride on Pete Carr’s River Blast, two points better than Champion’s ride on Carr’s Little Sister.

“It definitely helps when you see two of the top guys make jam-up rides,” said Ratliff of Leesville, La. “It makes you want to show out. I’m thankful I could see that. It definitely got my riding juices flowing.”

The 25-year-old cowboy finished the 2014 regular season ninth in the world standings, having earned $73,000. With this being the first week of the 2015 season, he was excited to get off to a good start.

“September was a tough month because I wasn’t drawing good and just wasn’t riding good,” Ratliff said. “Toward the end and to now, my confidence has shot back really high. My year’s been a blessing; I just tried to keep my priorities in line and not take anything for granted, because we’re never promised tomorrow.”

He is in great shape to collect a nice payday in Hempstead.

“Last night I was at my hometown rodeo, and I kind of choked,” he said. “I came over here and knew I needed to redeem myself.”

Mission accomplished.

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 2-4
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Winn Ratliff, 86 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Cimmaron; 2. Kyle Brennecke, 84; 3. Wyatt Denny, 82; 4. (tie) Will Lowe and Anthony Thomas, 79; 6. Bee Jay Scott, 78; 7. Kash Wilson, 77; 8. Ethan Assmann, 75.

Steer wrestling: 1. Darrell Petry, 4.0 seconds; 2. Bill Pace 4.4; 3. (tie) Aaron Vosler and Tommy Cook, 4.6; 5. Jarret New, 4.9; 3. Matt Cupp, 8.4; 6. (tie) Adam Strahan and Donelle Goodman, 5.9.

Team roping: 1. Lane Ivy/Tommy Zuniga, 5.0 seconds; 2. Kenton Woodson, 5.5; 3. (tie) Logan Olson/Travis Woodard, Tyler Waters/Kory Koontz, Jake Cooper, Tyler McKnight and David Key/Martin Lucero, 5.8; 7. Justin Davis/Colby Lovell, 5.9; 8. Nathan McWhorter/Cole Davison, 6.0.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 80 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Icycle; 2. Bradley Harter, 79; 3. (tie) Dean Wadsworth, Justin Caylor and Kobyn Williams, 78; 6. Isaac Diaz, 77.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Matt Shiozawa, 7.9 seconds; 2. Houston Hutto, 8.9; 3. Ross Tucker,9.0; 4. Ace Slone, 9.2; 5. Timber Moore, 9.3; 6. Marty Yates, 9.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kelly Tovar, 14.52 seconds; 2. Amanda Davenport, 14.64; 3. Mary Walker, 14.75; 4. Sydni Blanchard, 14.82; 5. Lisa Thornton, 14.85; 6. Morgan Breaux, 14.89; 7. Brittany Grant, 14.90; 8. Christy Loflin, 14.91; 9. Taylor Jacob, 14.93; 10. Brittany Kelly, 15.02; 11. Kelly Allen, 15.05; 12. Tiffani Sonnier, 15.06.

Bull riding: 1. (tie) Zeb Lanham, on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Rainbow, and Chad German, on Lancaster & Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Kubota, 85 points; 3. Jay Turner, 83; 4. Nile Lebaron, 81; 5. Toby Collins, 71; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Bareback riding match tonight in Hempstead

This is going to be a must-see event for rodeo fans in southeast Texas.

Clint Cannon

Clint Cannon

The 8 Second Bareback Shootout takes place during tonight’s second performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, featuring veteran Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, in a head-to-head match vs. newcomer Richie Champion of The Woodlands, Texas.

Richie Champion

Richie Champion

It’s protégé vs. mentor. It’s a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier vs. a 21-year-old cowboy about to make his first appearance at ProRodeo’s grand finale this coming December.

Champion learned the tools of the trade at the Southeast Texas Bareback Riding School, which is organized by Cannon and his family and takes place every November at the Waller County Fairgrounds. This season, the young cowboy has expounded upon those lessons like others before him: Austin Foss of Terrebonne, Ore., and J.R. Vezain of Cowley, Wyo. They will join Champion on those golden bucking chutes in Las Vegas.

The shootout is scheduled to be the third event during tonight’s performance. It’s just another explosive feature for fans who love the excitement that is the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

postheadericon Petry kicks off season strong

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Like every cowboy who tries his hand on the ProRodeo trail, Darrell Petry has gold buckle dreams.

He just needs to get to the sport’s championship first. In his distinguished career, Petry has yet to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He hopes that changes in 2015, and he got the season off to a good start Thursday night during the first performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. The Beaumont, Texas, cowboy wrestled his steer to the ground in 4.0 seconds to take the lead.

Darrell Petry

Darrell Petry

“It wasn’t pretty, but they don’t put pictures on checks,” Petry said. “That’s what I’m hoping is that I get a check so nobody will know.”

He’ll wait through the final two performances – set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead – to see if his time will hold up for the victory.

“This has been a good rodeo for me,” he said, noting that this is the first week of the new season, so he needed a solid start if he hopes to secure a spot in Las Vegas in December 2015.

Petry finished the 2014 season way down the money list. In fact, he didn’t conclude the campaign among the top 50 in the world standings.

“I’ve got a good horse going now,” he said. “We went through a year and a half of training. I took him out on the road last year to get him seasoned, and this year I think he is 10 times better, so I’m hoping he packs me to the finals.”

“I’ve had him about two and a half years. He was pretty ornery when I got him. He turned out to be a really nice horse.”

It showed during Thursday’s run.

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 2-4
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Wyatt Denny, 82 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet’s Web; 2. Ethan Assmann, 75; 3. Tucker Zingg, 71; 4. Jake Choate, 68; 5. Justin Miller, 67; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling: 1. Darrell Petry, 4.0 seconds; 2. Jarret New, 4.9; 3. Matt Cupp, 8.4; 4. Clayton Hass, 10.4; 5. Tyler Gibson, 15.2; no other qualified times.

Team roping: 1. Nathan McWhorter/Cole Davison, 6.0 seconds; 2. Ty Blasingame/J.W. Borrego, 8.6; no other qualified times.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 80 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Icycle; 2. Bradley Harter, 79; 3. Dean Wadsworth, 78; 4. Nickolas LeBlanc, 72; 5. Aaron Lide, 71; 6. (tie) Cody Anthony and James Greeson, 65.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Matt Shiozawa, 7.9 seconds; 2. Colton Turbeville, 16.9; no other qualified times.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Mary Walker, 14.75 seconds; 2. Morgan Breaux, 14.89; 3. Christy Loflin, 14.91; 4. Kelly Allen, 15.05; 5. Kimmi Byler, 15.22; 6. Teresa Turbeville, 15.48; 7. Sydney Fuller, 15.41; 8. Scamper Cole, 16.39; 9. McKinley Goodger, 18.56; 10. Laura Kennedy, 20.33.

Bull riding: 1. Zeb Lanham, 85 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Rainbow; 2. Jay Turner, 83; Nile Lebaron, 81; 4. Toby Collins, 71; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Opening night big in Hempstead

The 2015 ProRodeo season begins tonight during the first performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo in Hempstead, Texas.

And as most expect in this southeastern Texas community, many of the top athletes in the sport will test their mettle inside the arena. In the roughstock events, there are three cowboys who have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo who will try to kick start the new season on a good note: bareback rider Richie Champion and saddle bronc riders Bradley Harter and Jacobs Crawley.

WallerLogoHarter is a nine-time NFR qualifier from Loranger, La., and he will be matched with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Rodeo Spot. Crawley, the 2013 NFR average champion and a four-time NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, will try Pete Carr’s Classic’s Icycle.

From The Woodlands, Texas, Champion has qualified this year for his first NFR. He’s had an exceptional year, including his $1.1 million victory at RFD-TV’s The American this past spring. He will be matched with Carr’s Perfect Storm. His traveling partners, Taylor Price and Bill Tutor, both of Huntsville, Texas, will compete tonight. Taylor has Blame It On Rio, and Tutor will match Cimmaron.

In bull riding, two of the top animals from last year’s NFR will be part of Thursday’s show. Nic Lica of Garden City, Mich., will try his hand on Carr’s Line Man, while Jay Turner of Stephenville will tackle Medicine Show.

Other top Carr animals in Thursday’s performance are bareback horse Scarlet’s Web, a bay mare that should go back to the NFR for the eighth straight year this coming December. At last year’s NFR, she guided cowboys to round victories in her two trips in Las Vegas. Another Carr mare, Grass Dancer, has bucked at the NFR four times.

postheadericon Rumford returns to circuit finals

DUNCAN, Okla. – Much has changed in the life of Justin Rumford over the past two years.

Since he last worked the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in October 2012, Rumford twice has been honored as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Clown of the Year. His triplets were born in September 2013.

He returns to this year’s championship – set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16-Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan – with a whole new legacy, both in and out of the arena.

Justin Rumford

Justin Rumford

“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Rumford, who grew up in a rodeo family at Abbyville, Kan. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not just a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”

It’s as if he finally found his niche. There isn’t much in the sport of rodeo that he hasn’t done, from bullfighting to picking up to working as a flankman to riding broncs. He’s roped and bulldogged. He’s driven thousands of miles with bucking beasts loaded behind him.

These days, though, he totes his young family with him from one rodeo to another. He and his wife, Ashley, make sure the triplets are a big part of everything they do.

“This year’s been way better,” he said. “Last year was really hard, because Ashley goes with me and takes care of everything for me; she couldn’t go last year because of the triplets.”

That’s definitely changed. In fact, the Rumford clan has worked several events in the Prairie Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of events and contestants primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. This summer, Justin Rumford has worked rodeos in North Platte, Neb.; Kansas events in Strong City, Pretty Prairie, Dodge City and Coffeyville; and Oklahoma stops in Elk City, Altus and his hometown of Ponca City.

In addition to being the reigning two-time clown of the year, Rumford also was named the 2013 Coors Man in the Can for his work as a barrelman. It’s the all-encompassing aspect of the cowboy’s life as one of the premier entertainers in rodeo.

“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I worked really hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.”

He’s there, and he has the opportunity to play before the crowd in Duncan for the second time in three years.

“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning.

“It’s just me being me.”

He is a three-time circuit finals qualifier in steer wrestling. He worked the finale in 2011 and 2012. Last October’s Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo marked the first time in Rumford’s life he hasn’t been part of the championship.

“It’s something I’ve always done,” said Rumford, who also worked the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2013. “I’ve flanked bucking horses there, been the chute boss, flanked and untied calves. I’ve made the full circle.

“I just feel blessed to do something I love this much.”