Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Champion Jade Kenney’s Breakaway Roping Weekend Good for a few More Meals

By Jolee Jordan

Arlington, Texas—Jade Kenney could probably conquer the world with her rope . . . just as long as you let her eat first.

Kenney was one of nine athletes to win a world championship on Saturday, March 7, at the first Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo, the championship event of the new Jr. Rodeo Association, the program recently announced by the PRCA.

Photo courtesy of Jr. Rodeo / Jake Link Photography

Only six competitors in each discipline advanced from preliminary rounds held at Will Rogers Memorial Center March 5-6 to compete in the grand finale of the Jr. NFR which was held in conjunction with RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo at one of the largest venues in all of pro rodeo, AT&T Stadium which also happens to host the home games of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

“You walk in here and it’s a different feel,” said Kenney just moments after clinching the championship in her event, girls breakaway roping. “It’s just breath-taking. You go, oh my gosh, I made it!”

“Icing on the cake,” continued the 18 year old, “Amazing.”

The Canyon, Texas cowgirl certainly didn’t let the stage overshadow her performance. In a tough round that saw many of her competitors struggle as their calves navigated the huge arena, Kenney kept her composure, roping her calf in 3.1 seconds to clinch the victory.

“I was coming up faster than the calf was running,” Kenney noted of her run. “So, I was thinking, rate up, take a swing and really rope him because it’s a catching game.”

Roping second out, she had no idea if her time would hold through the four young ladies still to compete but when each took their shot but had their loops come up empty, the championship—and accompanying huge payday—were hers.

“Well, you’ve gotta make a good run on the good calves and a great run on the even better calves,” said the poised competitor who earned $25,000 payout. “I just tried to use my calf, go out and play my game and then come back and let it all roll.”

Kenney found time to discuss her victory inside the press room at AT&T after grabbing a quick snack following the championship presentations on stage.

“I’m starving!” she noted with a laugh, adding that she would share a piece of her winnings if press members would just let her get more food.

Kenney was also thankful that breakfast was served during the first ever Jr. NFR back number breakfast, presented by Jr. Rodeo founding partner Cavender’s at their historic Fort Worth Stockyards Store.

It was all part of the experience designed not only to provide youth athletes with the chance to share in the $200,000 purse presented by the Cowboy Channel and the PRCA, but to begin to introduce them to rodeo on the professional level, one of the main goals of the Jr. Rodeo initiative.

An added perk to the winners in each of the timed events was the chance to compete at The American Rodeo’s opening performance, which began less than two hours after each Jr. NFR champion was determined.

For Kenney and her fellow champs, it was time to regroup and refocus for the next one . . .  after a quick bite to eat.

That night, Kenney joined 16 of the toughest open breakaway ropers on the planet, all of whom had clawed their way to AT&T Stadium through three rounds of competition in The American’s Semi-Finals over at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth.

“I just kind of thought, just go make a run,” Kenney said. “I made it this far so it’s just fun now. There’s nothing on the line that I need to be worried about now because I’m here.”

Roping first in the draw, Kenney again rose to the occasion. She scored sharp and pulled the trigger fast, stopping the clock at 1.99 seconds. Behind her, just leaving the roping chute where he had pushed her calf for her, her father Jim Blaine Kenney celebrated but Kenney herself didn’t show much expression right at first.

“I didn’t know how fast I was,” she admitted, noting that sometimes it’s hard to hear on the arena floor. Then it took a minute to realize what she’d just accomplished.

“It sunk in and I was like, oh my gosh, I don’t know what to think!”

Kenney waited patiently as competitor after competitor, including several Women’s Pro Rodeo Association World Champion Breakaway Ropers, came gunning for her time. Only the top eight times advanced to the next round of The American.

Finally, only one cowgirl remained, the two-time and reigning College National Finals Rodeo All Around Champion Mia Manzanares. Roping at the end because her first calf escaped, Manzares delivered a new arena record time to bump Kenney to second.

“Then Mia came in there and roped 1.94 and that’s just amazing,” said Kenney.

It was a long night for all of the American athletes who moved on to Sunday—the champions earn $100,000 each, more than enough reasons for some sleepless nights.

Kenney was no different.

“No, not at all,” she laughed when asked about a good night’s rest to prepare for the final day. “I went to bed early but I didn’t go to sleep until like 2 o’clock in the morning.”

“I just couldn’t sleep. I was a little nervous and excited.”

She came into Sunday with the same game plan that had been working for her all week, through five elimination rounds of competition.

“You just kind of get in the zone and go do what you need to,” she said.

Kenney grabs confidence from her horse as well as her own preparation.

“My horse, that’s my dude,” she stated proudly, of the 14 year old gelding she calls Q. “I’ve had him since 6th grade. I don’t think I’ve every really roped off a different horse.”

Though she qualified to compete in Fort Worth on a younger horse that she trained herself, she went back to the old reliable for the pressure runs.

“I can’t just betray Q, that’s my horse,” she noted with a giggle. “He’s amazing.”

Q came to her from a cousin.

“He’s taught me how to rope; he’s basically raised me.”

Like so many pro athletes, Kenney discovered her passion for her chosen sport early on in life. She grew up in the Texas Panhandle and had parents who roped as a hobby.

“Oh, it probably wasn’t me,” laughed her dad, Jim Blaine, when asked if he’s the one who taught Kenney her skills. “We rope but . . . her swing and abilities are God given, and so you just help do whatever it takes to make them better.”

The elder Kenney was also quick to give credit to his daughter’s work ethic.

“She’s put the work in, she tries hard every time, and that’s what it takes,” he said. “You just have to show up and do your best where you’re at and just want to get better.”

The desire to improve is obvious with one glance at Kenney’s resume. In less than two decades in the saddle, the young cowgirl has enough accolades to make a seasoned competitor jealous. She’s roped her way to National Finals competitions in both Junior High School and High School Rodeo.

In fact, she lays claim to a unique accomplishment: she’s been to Nationals representing three different states, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

That has some to do with location—living in the Panhandle, she is likely closer to many rodeos in Oklahoma and New Mexico than those in Texas but it was even more than that for Kenney.

“I made it to Nationals in Junior High from Texas and I said, you know what, I’ve done this, I’m going to go try something else,” said the friendly cowgirl who was looking for different experiences. “Just kind of make my circle bigger with the people that I know.”

“And it’s so much fun. I love seeing everybody, but it’s fun to go see different people and different places.”

On the final Sunday of the 2020 RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo, Kenney roped seventh out of eight ladies. With the advancement to the final round based on the combined average from Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, she had a little room to work and made a solid run at 3.06 seconds to land third with her two-run total of 5.05 seconds.

Then came another round of the waiting game. Under The American’s format, the round of eight concludes for all events before the Final Four begins.

“I went and unsaddled my horse and took care of him,” said Kenney of time spent between rounds.

And then, the obvious.

“I went and got a little bite to eat,” she admitted with a laugh. “I gotta have some food.”

With her dad pushing for her again—she says he’s her “good luck charm”—Kenney roped her final calf in 3.05 seconds.

“I knew my calf was kind of going to go a little bit,” Kenney said. “I got a little nervous in the box and didn’t get the start I really wanted but I went and roped my calf.”

Though she finished third behind eventual champion Kaycee Hollingback, Kenney was still thrilled with the whole experience.

“It’s amazing, it’s an honor,” noted the humble cowgirl. “I know Jackie [Crawford], Kelsie [Chace], there’s so many girls that should be here because they rope amazing and they’re amazing people. And they work just as hard as anybody else to get here and to be here.”

“It’s a great opportunity just to be involved,” agreed her dad. “It’s a pretty grown up world right now when you get to this level and compete.”

“There’s a lot of distractions, a lot of things going on,” said the elder Kenney when asked how he and Jade’s mother Beth helped her mentally prepare. “You just focus on—define what your job is and you go do the best possible you, you can do.”

Kenney is excited for the doors opening up for breakaway ropers.

“The Junior American, Jr. NFR and The American are great opportunities and the way that the breakaway is going . . . what a great opportunity for young women, and women in general,” he said. “It’s turning into not just, I have to have a really nice barrel horse; now I can rope and I can run barrels and actually make a living and that’s an awesome opportunity for women.”

But before she can become a full time pro, Kenney has other obligations.

“I gotta go home and get ready for a high school rodeo,” she laughed. Though she graduated early in November, she is finishing out her final year in high school rodeo “It’s just going to be another rodeo. It’s going to be tough anywhere you go but the nerves will be calmed down a little bit.”

Though she thankfully didn’t have to rush home for school (“we may have had to take a sick day on that one,” her dad joked), Kenney is busy not only with prepping for the next rodeo but also with her own business, Turquoise Pony, in which she is partners with her mother, selling  Native American and Turquoise jewelry. Her family runs Panhandle Leather, selling leather to custom boot and saddle makers.

She’s also making plans to start college in the fall at Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas.

“I’ve got to take my basics still so I’m going to kinda ease around, get my basics done and then spread my wings and fly,” she joked when asked what she planned to study in school. She will compete on the rodeo team for coach Jeff Collins whose men’s team earned the National Championship in 2019. “We’re hoping for a Women’s [championship] this year.”

As for her big payday in Arlington?

“I’m going to put it in the bank,” she said. For her The American runs, Kenney earned $12,250, more than enough to get a big supply of snacks. “I’m going to save up for a little bit. Going to go rodeo and pay for school and just go be.”

Her final thoughts on a whirlwind week were pretty simple.

“I can’t even put it in words,” she smiled. “It’s amazing.”


2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Crowns Nine World Champions

By Brett Hoffman 

Photo of Breakaway Champion Jade Kenney courtesy of Jake Link Photography

ARLINGTON, Texas—In the popular rodeo event of bull riding, fans are captivated when a cowboy conquers a bovine that spins faster than a carnival ride.

That was the case at the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo on Saturday (March 7) at AT&T Stadium. Two bull riders, Caden Bunch, an Oklahoma cowboy, and Koltin Hevelow, who is from Missouri, stayed on two rapid fire spinners for the eight second count when a $10,000 winner’s prize was at stake.

They were the only two competitors of the field of six cowboys who made a qualified ride. Bunch turned in a score of 81.5 aboard a spinner named Cowboy Cool. Hevelow conquered a fast turning bovine named Mini Me and he received a 76.5.

But Bunch, 16, received a score that was five points higher than Hevelow’s because Bunch’s bull jumped and kicked higher as the animal spun. The judges saw through that and gave Bunch a higher marking before 3,500 fans. 

“I had a pretty good bull that jumped out there and turned back to the left,” Bunch said.

But Bunch was in control, enough in sync that he was able to spur the bull, which was not required by the judges.

“I felt pretty good on him so I started spurring him so I could get some more points to help me out to win this deal,” he said,

Bunch received a coveted $10,000 check for the win. All of the single event winners walked away with at least $10K.

The Jr. NFR in Arlington featured six competitors in each event. The rider with the highest score of fastest time clinched the title.

Bunch, 16, who is from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, said he began riding rough stock when he was young boy.

“I started riding sheep, then calves, then steers and now I’m on bulls,” he said.

He said is an amazing feeling to make a prize winning ride.

“When you’re just sitting there and you’re just riding and you just keep going, and you hear that buzzer and you step off and you feel good about yourself,” he said. “When you win the round, or you win the event, it feels even better.”

In steer wrestling at the Jr. NFR during the Saturday matinee show, John Mayes of Kinder, La., clinched the title with a 4.52.

“It feels kind of unreal,” he said of clinching the bulldogging title in the renowned AT&T Stadium.

Though he was awestruck about snaring a big-time youth rodeo title in the famous venue that’s known as the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, Mayes didn’t allow the pressure to win get the best of him.

When he backed in the box to ready himself to make his run, an official accidentally turned his steer out into the arena without Mayes calling for the chute gate to be opened. So, the officials awarded Hayes a rerun.

“I didn’t realize that they had let it out,” he said. “I was sitting there, they told me that I wait. Then, something happened. They let it out.”

But, he had to take on a different steer.  

“I studied that first steer that I had, then they gave me that extra steer,” he said. “I didn’t have a clue what it did. I just hoped that it ran.”

Asked how he adjusted to having to face a steer that he knew nothing about, Mayes said he relied on “muscle memory.”

In bareback riding, Kennan Hayes, 17, of Hayden, Colo., clinched the title with an 84.

Hayes busted a bronc named Fringe Jacket. He had faced the bronc during last weekend at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum during a Feb. 28-29 roughstock rodeo that helped him qualify for the Saturday afternoon (Feb. 7) Jr. NFR final round at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

“I had an awesome horse of Guy French’s, I drew him last week and knew he was awesome,” Hayes said. “He went out there and stacked up real nice and it definitely took everything that I had. He had a lot of drop and so I was trying to stay up on my rigging and let it fly when I could.”

In girls break-away roping, Jade Kenney, who is from Canyon, Texas, clinched the title with a 3.1. She was the only competitor among the field of six who turned in a qualified time.

“You’ve got to make a good run on the good calves and a great run on the even better calves,” she said. “I just tried to use my calf and go out and play my game.”

Kenney, who advanced to RFD-TV’s American Rodeo’s first performance, roped her calf in 1.99 seconds. Kenney’s run punched her ticket to Sunday’s American Rodeo performance. She is the only Jr. Rodeo contestant riding on Sunday.

In team roping, Cayden Harmon and Hayden Powell clinched the title with a 5.71. They were the only team in the six-team short round that turned in a qualified time.

Harmon, 18, who is from Stephenville, Texas, said he and his partner focused on making a clean run.

“When the first [three] teams had a little trouble, we just went to make a good run,” he said. “But when we won it, it felt pretty good.” 

Powell,18, who is Rogers, N.M., a tiny community near Portales, said he was relieved when he effectively caught the steer.

“It was a little nerve racking at first, but once that I caught him, all of the nerves went away,” Powell said.

In saddle bronc riding, Gus Gaillard of Morse, Texas, a small community that’s north of Amarillo, paced the field of six with a 75.

“I set a lot of goals and I accomplished a big one,” he said. “I’m just really excited to be here in this spot in this opportunity.”

Galliard, who attends high school in Gruver, Texas, busted a bronc named Shallygaster, a bronc that he had faced during the Feb. 28-29 qualifier roughstock rodeo in Fort Worth.

“I felt like I had a big advantage knowing what I was getting on,” he said.

During eight second bout, Shallygaster covered lots ground in the large arena. But Gaillard spurred the bronc aggressively.

“I just kept hustling and moving me feet,” he said.

In tie-down roping, Trevor Hale of Perryton, Texas, finished No. 1 in the Junior NFR title race with a 7.41 in a very tough short round.

“It was really tough and a great group of guys,” Hale said. “I just got lucky and had a good calf and a great run.”

Hale said everything worked out smoothly.

“I got out good at the barrier, and my horse ran to the calf just right and gave me a good shot,” he said. “I just had to turn the calf around and I had to make great ground work and not make any mistakes. I had to make a really smooth run.”

When he competes, Hale’s strategy is simple.

“Mentally, I would say my game plan is the same every time and that’s to make the best possible time on the calf that I drew,” he said.

Hale was the first tie-down roper of the afternoon to compete. With a 7.41, he set the bar high for the other five ropers with the 7.41.

Asked what he was thinking about while the remaining five ropers competed, Hale said: “The next five runs went really slow.”

Patton Ann Lynch, a 14-year-old eighth grade student who lives in Crawford, Texas, clinched the barrel racing title with a 16.114. She competed on her steady 10-year-old horse whose barn name is Nos.

“He’s good at everything,” she said. “He’s consistent and I can trust him.”


Keenan Hayes Credits Wrestling for Inaugural Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR World Title

By Jolee Jordan


Arlington, Texas—Colorado cowboy Keenan Hayes was a little at a loss for words on Saturday afternoon following the biggest win of his young career at the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo held inside AT&T Stadium in the hours leading up to RFD-TV’s The American.

“It’s awesome,” grinned Hayes. “Awesome facility, awesome horses.”

“I couldn’t ask for more.”

The 17-year old bareback rider can be forgiven if his brain wasn’t grabbing hold of a thesaurus worthy list of adjectives in the moments after he was handed a check worth $10,000.  He was one of nine champions crowned on March 7 in the first world championship event of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association’s new Jr. Rodeo Association.

The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR brought $200,000 of added money to the plate for the many contestants entered to compete. Every cowboy and cowgirl had to advance through a series of preliminary rounds and the final six left standing were invited to compete alongside the sport’s biggest names inside a venue that is world reknown – AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Hayes’ journey to this title actually began last summer during the National High School Finals Rodeo held in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Hayes claimed the championship in bareback riding at the annual event, a year after earning the Reserve title at the same event. That win earned him an invite to compete at the Jr. NFR.

Once in Fort Worth, Hayes did what he had to during a pair of preliminary rounds inside the historic Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. An opening round 71-point ride left him out of the placings and needing a big ride in round two to advance. Aboard a horse known as Fringe Jacket, Hayes rode for 83.5 points, the best ride of the two days of competition to finish fourth in the average and advance to AT&T Stadium.

Hayes is no stranger to championship competition. He’s competed at the National Finals in both high school and junior high school rodeos, winning titles at both levels. He’s won at major youth events like the International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR), Junior World Finals, and Mini-Bareback World Finals.

But perhaps the competition that was of the most value to the aspiring professional bareback rider was high school wrestling.

“I think wrestling has helped me out a lot, it’s got me in shape,” said Hayes, who was fourth in the state of Colorado in 2018. Physical fitness is huge for bareback riders whose event is often rightly called the most physically demanding in all of rodeo. “With having to make weight every weekend, wrestling all the time; it takes a lot determination and I think that helps a lot in rodeo.”

Hayes was among a tough field of bareback riders in the first Jr. NFR Finals. Four cowboys competed before him and Oregon cowboy Mason Stuller led the way with a ride of 80.5 points.

With his position near the end of the field of riders, Hayes had plenty of time to think about what he needed to do.

“I just have a good time with my buddies back there. I joke around and just am comfortable as I can be, usually getting my stuff ready, getting my riggin’ tight,’ he said. “I don’t really have much time to watch but I do look up and watch as much as I can.”

He had plenty of confidence as he cinched down his rigging. He’d drawn the same horse that carried him to the round two win exactly one week ago, Fringe Jacket.

“Awesome horse of Guy French’s,” agreed Hayes. “I drew him last week so I knew I had a good one.”

“He went out there and stacked up, rode nice,” said Hayes. “Definitely took everything I had.”

Fringe Jacket came out hard and bucked solid through the eight seconds, allowing the Colorado rider to open up with his spur stroke, showing control and exposure, two things that judges are looking for when marking a ride.

“Lot of drop,” continued Hayes, referring to the horse’s bucking motion and how much the front feet came up off the ground. “So, I was just trying to stay up on my riggin’ and let it fly when it felt good.”

The combo of Fringe Jacket and Hayes proved even better the second time around and the judges rewarded the effort with 84 points.

Hayes had just one cowboy to sweat out and when Trevor Lattin was only able to get to 75 points, the historic win went back to Hayden, Colorado.

“It felt good,” said Hayes. “There at the end, I could feel everything and was just thinking through my head what I need to fix just to get a higher point ride.”

“Getting my hand out of there [and getting off with the help of the pickup men], it was an awesome feeling, general pride and I was just stoked.”

The win lands on top of an impressive pile for Hayes, who is an All-Around competitor who also rides bulls and contracts out mini-broncs along with his family. Though by age he should just be a junior in high school, Hayes in graduating in May and hoping to jump right into a ProRodeo career as soon as he turns 18.

As a bright up-and-coming star, Hayes is one of two members of the Cavender’s Youth Rodeo team to win titles on Saturday along with saddle bronc rider Gus Gaillard. Cavender’s is a founding partner for the Jr. Rodeo Association and hosted the back number presentations for all the Finalists Saturday morning.

“It’s an awesome team, I like everything about it,” he said. “They take care of us really well.

It’s a fun team, we always have a good time whenever we’re hanging out.”

Other champions of the first-ever Jr. NFR were: Jade Kenney (girls breakaway roping); Cayden Harmon and Hayden Powell (team roping); John Mayes (steer wrestling); Gaillard (saddle bronc riding); Trevor Hale (tie down roping); Patton Ann Lynch (girls barrel racing); and Caden Bunch (bull riding).

Plans are already underway for the 2021 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR; for more information on Jr. Rodeo, please visit them on-line at www.jrrodeo.org.


Twelve-Year Olds Denton Parish and Skyler Nicholas To Ride at Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR

By Jolee Jordan

Fort Worth, Texas—If any fans showed up on Friday night, March 6, 2020 to watch the Semi-Finals of the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo not prepared to witness an extremely high level competition, they were in for a surprise.

Teenagers showed maturity and poise that belied their age and years of experience as 36 cowboys and cowgirls took the next step forward at the Jr. NFR by surviving another sudden death round of competition to advance to the Finals. The Jr. NFR Finals will be held on Saturday, March 7 at 3:30 P.M. at one of the the largest venues to host rodeo competitions: AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Mixed amongst the 120 contestants competing in the Semi-Finals on Friday were two who stood out—not in stature but certainly in presence and determination. Team roper Denton Parish and barrel racer Skyler Nicholas are living proof that dynamite truly does come in small packages.

Picture courtesy of Jr. Rodeo / Jake Link Photography 

Parish and Nicholas were among the thirty rodeo athletes who advanced to the Jr. NFR Finals on Friday but neither are teenagers like the rest of the field. At 12 years old, they are the youngest of the Finalists this year by several years.

Picture courtesy  of Jr. Rodeo / Jake Link Photography

Spend just a few minutes visiting with either competitor and it’s obvious that this is no fluke or just a lucky break: these kids mean business.

“I’ll probably be asleep by the time I get in the truck,” admitted Parish sheepishly when asked if the pressure of competing for $10,000—the champion’s check for winning the event—on such a big stage would cause him a sleepless night on Friday.

“You can’t [let the pressure bother you] because you’ll just start making mistakes,” he added. “You have to catch every steer for what the steer is so I’m just going to try to catch every steer.”

“Just to do what I did today,” said Nicholas of her strategy for the Finals. “Warm her up good, get some fast figure-8s in before my run and then plan out the alley and see where I need to let her go.”

Clearly, both Parish and Nicholas are miles ahead in terms of the always critical mental game in the sport of rodeo and have already learned the value of keeping it simple and focusing on your fundamentals.

But they’re still kids, too. Nicholas’ smile was contagious as she talked about competing inside an arena she’s only watched on television. AT&T hosts RFD-TV’s The American, which begins Saturday following the Jr. NFR Finale.

“It’ll be cool, it’ll be fun,” said Parish who, like Nicholas, is a homeschooled sixth grader.

Both kids have followed in their parents’ footsteps to get their early start in rodeo. Justin and Tammy Parish both rope while Lisa Nicholas is a leading barrel horse trainer.

Parish couldn’t say how long he’d been roping but when asked if it was as long as he could remember, the Mineral Wells, Texas cowboy nodded and simply said, “Right.”

“Since I was maybe three or four,” said Nicholas of her start in the sport.

Parish’s run to the Jr. NFR Finals began just three days ago. He wasn’t yet qualified to compete and by happenstance fell into an opportunity.

“I was riding around with Caleb Green and I told him I needed a partner,” said Clayton Moore, Parish’s partner. “He was like, get Denton Parish. I walked up to him and was like, hey do you want to rope? He looked up to his dad and his dad shook his head yeah.”

Just shy of his 18th birthday, Moore is a senior at Fortuna High School in Northern California but probably has about the same amount of time in as a team roper as his young header.

“I’ve only been roping for about 4 years. I didn’t pick up a rope until around the end of seventh grade,” admitted Moore, adding that he didn’t begin to heel for a couple years after that. “I didn’t want anything to do with it. My dad, he’s been to the Finals and my mom almost made the Finals in the barrels. I did not want a thing to do with it. All I’d do was hunt.” Moore’s folks are Wes and Leslie Moore.

“One day I’m like, I want to try that,” said Moore with a laugh. “My dad quit rodeoing and we moved actually to Fortuna from Oakdale when I was five. That’s when my dad kind of throttled off and we started working on the ranch.”

Moore and Parish roped during the Last Chance qualifier opportunity on Wednesday, March 4, taking one of 10 advancing positions in that roping before gathering up two steers in 13.29 seconds in the long rounds on Thursday. That performance placed them third, allowing them to easily move on to the Semi-Finals.

On Friday night, the duo were third to last to rope. With many teams ahead of them taking no times, Parish and Moore made a smart, business-man run of 6.73 seconds, risking no penalties. Though fifth following their run with just six teams going on to the next round, when the final two teams failed to earn a time, Parish and Moore began making plans for AT&T Stadium.

“That’ll be pretty sweet. It would help this trip out quite a bit,” said Moore of the chance to earn $10,000 for just one more run. The cowboy has been on the road for most of the month, including his days in Fort Worth and hadn’t won much until picking up his clutch header.

For the Jr. NFR, Parish rode his mother’s heel horse, Sugar.

“I knew I could score enough to see enough on her and to bring me to my spot,” he noted matter-of-factly.

Moore rode his good horse, Goose, who started out as a breakaway horse.

“We bought him for me when I was in the eighth grade. I heeled on him a little bit but he was too much for me.”

“I headed on him in junior high and then he got hurt for a couple of years and I didn’t get to ride him,” he explained. “I started heeling on him again about eight months ago and just realized how good he was. He’s my number one, he’s going where I’m going.”

Horsepower is also critical for Nicholas in her event of barrel racing. She rides an eight-year old brown mare she calls Jessie.

Nicholas has been riding Jessie since the horse was just four and her jockey just eight. The little girl with the huge smile was quick to note that she’ll soon have a baby out of her mare, born via embryo transfer.

“We’re expecting her first baby this year by Tres Fortunes,” she gushed. The mare is registered as Perrywater Dash with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and was trained by Nicholas’ mother.

“My mom, she’s a futurity trainer [competitions for young horses] so we go to those a lot and it’s really fun,” said Nicholas. The cowgirl keeps up with her schoolwork without prompting.

“I love it [homeschooling] because it allows flexibility to do these things without having to miss out on school,” she said. When asked about her favorite subjects, she replied, “mostly English and math is pretty fun.”

Already a top ranked competitor, even against open riders, Nicholas’ love of math will serve her well as her career earnings continue to grow. Nicholas is already a veteran at open rodeos too; in fact, she is ranked fourth in the Cowboys Pro Rodeo Association (CPRA) in her home state of Texas and last fall won a round at the huge Revolution Barrel Racing Finals in Glen Rose. Her closest competitor there? Mom, Lisa, who finished just one one-hundredth behind her daughter.

At the 2020 Jr. NFR, she punched her ticket to the Semi-Finals during one preliminary run on Thursday. Running 19th out of 264 barrel racers, she literally waited hours to see if her run of 15.499 seconds would make the cut for the next round. Finishing 12th in that go allowed her to make another run in front of an enthusiastic crowd on Friday night.

“After the first barrel, it was just all a blur,” admitted Nicholas who says the run home from the third and final turn is her favorite part of a barrel pattern. She bettered her first round time by more than one-tenth of a second, stopping the clock at 15.330 seconds. Fourth at the time, and in a very tight race, Nicholas had to sweat through 11 more runners.

“She came out and she ran a .3 and I was just walking the streets, pacing, trying not to hear the times,” she said.

Once the final run was in the books, everyone waited breathlessly to see who’d made the cut.

“And then they called me out, I was like WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” exclaimed Nicholas. She advanced by just over four one-hundredths of a second and less than two tenths split the first from the sixth barrel racer.

While Jessie and Nicholas already have four years as a team under their belts, the brand new partnership of Parish and Moore has proven lucrative as well and both teams are prepping for likely the biggest competitive moments of their lives on Saturday afternoon.

Not only to the Jr. NFR Champions earn a big payday, they’ll also advance to compete in The American a few hours later, a competition that could end with them winning a share of $1 million dollars.

For Parish and Moore, they’ll have no problem continuing their new partnership.

“Every chance we get,” said Moore of whether they plan to continue roping together while Parish simply said, “yes ma’am!”

The inaugural Jr. NFR reaches its exciting conclusion on Saturday, March 7 with the Finals performance at 3:30 P.M. local time inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The top six competitors in each of nine disciplines—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), girls barrel racing and girls breakaway roping—will vie for a share of the $200,000-plus purse. The event will air live on the Cowboy Channel.


Visualization Propels Grant Soileau to Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Finals at AT&T Stadium

By Brett Hoffman

Photo courtesy of Jr. Rodeo / Jake Link Photography

FORT WORTH—For steer wrestler Grant Soileau, the winning bulldogger at a rodeo is the cowboy who puts in the most time in the practice pen.

But when the Bunkie, La., cowboy competed in the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals qualifier rodeo on Friday night at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, there were no practice pens around to help him prepare for the big moment.

So, the 17-year-old Soileau continually visualized turning in a blistering time.

“I was running steers in my head all day because I couldn’t go to the practice pen, so I was just preparing all of the time in my head,” Soileau said.

It worked. With the steer wrestling title at stake in a final round where no previous times counted, Soileau turned in a time of 4.13 seconds, which was the fastest time of the night among the bulldoggers.

As the result of making the winning run, Soileau advanced to the Jr. National Finals, which is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Central time on Saturday, March 7, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The top six in each event advance to the Jr. NFR finale on March 7 at AT&T Stadium. The March 7 Jr. National Finals will be held in conjunction with the RFD-TV’s The American, a major Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show that’s scheduled for March 7-8 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

In break-away roping at the Jr. National Finals qualifier timed event rodeo on Friday night in Fort Worth, Jordi Edens, 17, of Gatesville, Texas, finished No. 1 in the title race with a 1.89.

Edens closed out the evening performance.

“I knew I had to be quick, but I didn’t want to overthink it,” she said. “I knew I had a really good calf to be quick on. I knew I had all of the chances set up to be good.”

In barrel racing, Acey Pinkston of Stephenville, Texas, clinched the title with a 15.186. She’s the daughter of Liz Pinkston who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in 2004 and 2005.

She said her mother has helped her keep her composure.

“She’s helped me a ton,” Acey Pinkston said. “She helps me through the mental part of it. It’s really been great because she says you need to do this here and you need to stay calm there. You need to chill out.”

In team roping, Will Farris and Tristen Sullivan showed their versatility.

With Farris as the header and Sullivan as the heeler, the duo finished in first place with a 5.95. And with Sullivan as the header, and Farris as the heeler, the duo came in second with a 6.24.

Tristan Sullivan, a senior who is from Centerville, Texas, said they swap around very frequently.

“I usually head at the high school rodeos, but at the jackpots, we go back and forth,” Sullivan said.

Farris, who is from Madisonville, Texas, said he and Sullivan live close to each other and that’s to their advantage.

“We live about 20 minutes away from each other and so we get to practice as much as we want,” Farris said.

In tie-down roping, Conner Atkinson, who is from Needville, Texas, paced the field with a 7.52.

“I knew I had a good calf,” he said. “I knew I had to keep him standing to be good. But when I had him strung [and knew that the run was going well], I slowed down [while tying the calf] and put two wraps on him.”

Riley Webb of Denton finished fourth in the tie-down roping and advanced to Saturday’s competition at AT&T Stadium. He turned in an 8.11.

Webb also advanced to the RFD-TVs The American as the result of finishing sixth in The American Semifinals on March 1 at Cowtown Coliseum in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Webb is the son of Dirk Webb who is serving as the manager of the RFD-TVs The American this weekend. 

Two 12-year-old competitors will be on the card on Saturday afternoon at Arlington's AT&T Stadium as the result finishing in the top six in Friday night’s timed event rodeo at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. They are team roping header Denton Parish and barrel racer Skyler Nicholas.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org and follow Jr. Rodeo on Facebook for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.

The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Semi-Final Round Set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.

By JOLEE JORDAN


Long Go Timed Events

Fort Worth, Texas—After a long day of competition—and the use of four different arenas within the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth—the field for the inaugural Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR in timed events has been narrowed down to 20 contestants per discipline.

The Jr. NFR is the first elite competition hosted under the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s new Jr. Rodeo Association. The event is presented by the Cowboy Channel and features more than $200,000 in prize money for competitors aged 19 and under.

Format

Tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping and girls breakaway roping: one long go with the 50 fastest getting a second run. A minimum of 15 based on the two-head average advance to the Semi-Finals.

Girls barrel racing: One long round to determine the Semi-Finalists.

Semi-Finals

The next step in the Jr. NFR progression, the Semi-Finals performance will be held in Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, the former home of the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, one of the PRCA’s major winter stops, on Friday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m.

The competitors who advanced on Thursday will join a number of exemption contestants who earned a bye into the Semi-Finals by virtue of winning other major youth rodeo championships during 2019. The resulting 20 competitors will vie for one of the six positions in the Finals.

Finals

The final step of the Jr. NFR, the Finals will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, March 7 at 3:30 P.M. The Jr. NFR Finals will be held just prior to the opening performance of RFD-TV’s The American.

The winner in each discipline on Saturday will take home a check worth $10,000. In the timed events, that winner will also move on to compete against the pros in The American.

Tie Down Roping Preliminaries

Multi-event competitor Chet Weitz won the opening round of the tie down roping. Weitz, who turned 19 just three days prior to the beginning of the Jr. NFR, roped and tied his calf in 7.6 seconds, three tenths better than Chance Thiessen.

The cut-off from round one to earn another run was a fast 10.9 seconds, leaving just 3.3 seconds separating the top 50 ropers going into the final run. Because of double qualified contestants among the exemptions, 17 positions were open into the Semi-Finals.

Thiessen stayed hot in the second round, posting a time of 7.8 seconds for the round win. As the only tie-down roper to stop the clock under eight seconds on both runs, he clinched the average win at 15.7 seconds to easily move to the next round.

The Elk City, Oklahoma cowboy was involved in a major accident during a team roping event just over two years ago when his horse fell on him, eventually stepping on Thiessen’s head as the horse regained his feet. Though the wreck could have left Thiessen irreparably injured, he was lucky to escape with a major concussion but no further damage. He was back roping quickly and has earned high school championships for the state of Oklahoma in both the tie down roping and team roping—heading since the accident.

Weitz finished second in the average at 16.2 seconds. He will be busy on Friday night as he also advanced to the Semi-Finals with his partner Mason Pitts in the team roping. The pair finished eighth in that average.

Final Cut-Off for Semi-Finals Position: 19.4 seconds, Jaxon Clegg and Mason Couch

Other Notable Competitors:

  • Riley Webb—earned a spot in The American last week during the Semi-Finals competition
  • Trevor Hale, 2019 International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) Champion
  • Connor Atkinson, 2019 IFYR All Around Champion

Exemptions:

  • Tom Crouse, 2019 Jr. American Champion
  • Chase Webster, 2019 Junior World Finals Champ. Webster will be pulling double duty on Friday; he also advanced through the preliminary rounds of team roping.

Steer Wrestling Preliminaries

Georgia cowboy Jacob Daniell had to do a lot of hustling both before and during the Jr. NFR on Thursday. The cowboy and his family traveled to PRCA World Champion Steer Wrestler Rope Myers’ house from their home in Monroe to try to get some practice before the big event. Winter rainstorms had prevented any riding at home but the practice once in Texas revealed an unsoundness in Daniell’s good bull dogging horse.

Fortunately, Daniell’s college rodeo coach at Cisco College, Don Eddlemen, was able to line up a borrowed mount to keep the cowboy’s Jr. NFR dreams afloat. After a crash course with the new horse during a Patriot event jackpot on Wednesday night, Daniell was on point on Thursday, winning the opening go round in 3.9 seconds. The run came just minutes after the 19 year old all around

contender had finished roping in a different arena in the tie down competition. He missed the cut in that event by just six tenths of a second.

Nearly every competitor with a steer down earned a second run but none were able to budge Daniell from the top spot. He was smooth in 5.03 seconds in the second run to hold off second place finisher Trace Harris for the average win. Daniell was 8.93 seconds on two steers to Harris’ 8.98. The pair were a full second ahead of the next competitors.

Ryan Nettle won the second round with the only other sub-four second run of the day, a 3.96 that allowed the Texas cowboy to advance to the Semi-Finals in sixth.

Final Cut-Off for Semi-Finals Position: 12.67 seconds, Lane Howard

Other Notable Competitors:

  • Jace Logan, 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo All Around and Steer Wrestling Champ
  • Grant Soileau, 2019 Junior World Finals Champ

Girls Barrel Racing Preliminaries

The barrel racing competition was held inside Will Rogers Coliseum and featured more than 260 girls racing for one of just 16 positions in the Semi-Finals. The final results showed a separation of just over three tenths between all of the cowgirls who advanced.

Paige Jones took the win with her run of 15.256 seconds aboard her horse High Cotton Lane. The two-time and reigning Oklahoma State High School Champion finished just .021 seconds ahead of Bayleigh Choate and her horse Hail to be Famous.

Jones made barrel racing history two years ago when she and Cotton captured the championship at the Barrel Futurities of America (BFA) World Championship Futurity, a huge race held annually for horses in their first year of competition. Jones, then 16 years old, is the youngest rider ever to win the prestigious event.

In addition, Jones won the Junior Finals average title at the 2019 Women’s Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) World Finals last October.

Final Cut-Off for Semi-Finals Position: 15.578 seconds, Jada Haken

Other Notable Competitors:

  • Patton Ann Lynch, 2018 WPRA Junior World Champion Barrel Racer
  • Kylar Terlip, 2011 & 2013 WPRA Junior World Champion Barrel Racer
  • Sophie Dunn, whose horse Dial It Fast carried Shada Brazile to a Reserve WNFR Championship in 2013
  • Bradi Good, a two time Texas High School Rodeo Champion Barrel Racer who finished 15th in the barrels and seventh in the breakaway

Exemptions:

  • Trisha Walden, 2019 IFYR Champion
  • Madison Murphy, 2019 Junior World Finals
  • Jaden Thomas, 2019 Little Britches World Champion
  • Macee McAllister, 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo Champion

Girls Breakaway Roping Preliminaries

No event in rodeo is hotter than breakaway roping today as the event has begun to explode into professional rodeo. The future of breakaway roping is very bright—not just judging by the ever-expanding competitive opportunities but also by watching the junior rodeo competitors coming up through the ranks.

During the preliminary rounds of the 2020 Jr. NFR, 239 breakaway ropers backed in the box for their chance to be named the first Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Champions.

Jordi Edens has already been making a name for herself at just 17 years old. After winning $50,000 at the Days of ’47 Breakaway Roping last July, Edens claimed the San Antonio Junior Rodeo Breakaway Roping held during the rodeo and stock show in February. Then, she walked away with the win in the preliminary rounds of the Jr. NFR as she hopes to rope another big check come Saturday.

Riding her horse Honey, who came to her from 19-time WPRA World Champion roper Jackie Crawford, Edens roped two calves in 4.05 seconds to move on to the next round. Josie Connor was right on her tail at 4.19 seconds. In fact, only 1.6 seconds separated the entire field of Semi-Finalists from first to 18th.

Edens is the daughter of Tommy Edens, who roped at the 2007 WNFR with Colby Jones, and is often found wearing her dad’s RodeoHouston buckle earned in 2011.

Final Cut-Off for Semi-Finals Position: 5.65 seconds, Addie Weil

Other Notable Competitors:

  • Sawyer Gilbert, 2019 Jr. American Reserve Champion
  • Beau Peterson, 2019 College National Finals co-champion in goat tying and 2019 The American competitor

Exemptions:

  • Tia Wallace, 2019 IFYR Champion
  • Abigail James, 2019 Little Britches World Champion

Team Roping Preliminaries

The final event of the day was the team roping but the competition certainly didn’t get sleepy given the late hour. Eighteen teams advanced through the two opening rounds with Kreece Thompson and Cole Curry securing the average win after downing two steers in 12.61 seconds.

Thompson is no stranger to big time roping . . . last October, he won the Jr. Open team roping championships held with the United States Team Roping Championships National Finals of Team Roping event. That day, he was heading for Kaden Profili. Ironically, Profili will also be in the Jr. NFR Semi-Finals on Friday; he advanced in ninth with his partner, Peyton Walters.

Curry has previous championship experience as well. In 2018, the Mississippi roper captured the Patriot Young Guns Championship at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Final Cut-Off for Semi-Finals Position: 20.54 seconds, Ky Kreder & Treg Etbauer

Other Notable Competitors:

  • Treg Etbauer (Ky Kreder), the youngest son of five-time PRCA World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Billy Etbauer
  • Chase Webster (Beau Rees), 2019 Junior World Finals Champ in Tie Down Roping (he will compete in both events Friday)
  • Nicholas Lovins (Garrett Miller), 2019 Jr. American Reserve Champ with brother Jordan. Lovins will heel this time around.
  • Will Farris & Tristan Sullivan, qualified twice to the Semi-Finals, as the fourth highest ranking team in the preliminary rounds with Farris heading and 16th with Sullivan heading.

Exemptions:

  • Jace Thorstenson and John Hiesel, 2019 Junior World Finals
  • Kason Davis and Bryce Graces, 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo Champions


Mabry Brothers Ready to Ride at Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR

By JOLEE JORDAN


Fort Worth, Texas—For many teenaged brothers, relationships are a bit contentious. There’s a fair amount of teasing, some flat out harassing and maybe even some grappling and the occasional fisticuffs involved.

But the Mabry boys don’t really fit that mode. They’re generally more concerned about hurting each other’s chances inside the rodeo arena than spending time pestering each other.

Older brother Briar and younger brother Blair both grew up wanting nothing more than to be cowboys. At 18 and 16, respectively, the boys are accomplished multi-event competitors.

“I steer wrestle, calf rope and we team rope together: he heads, I heel. It usually works out for us,” noted Blair with a laugh.

Blair pictured calf roping.

The boys say there are few arguments in the team roping pen.

“Not over about 10 a day,” agreed Briar, who competes in the same events. But when prompted, he joked that heelers have it easier. “That’s true, they don’t have to do nothing but catch.”

During the inaugural Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo held March 5-7 in Fort Worth, Texas, the boys are just competing in steer wrestling. Just don’t expect them to haze for one another.

“We try to find somebody a little better at the bigger deals,” said Briar. “We haze for each other at the house.”

“There’s always that thought in the back of your mind not to screw up for your brother. I don’t know if it’s the same for him, but I always get to overthinking and mess up something. So I always tell him to find somebody else to haze for him.”

Blair agreed with the sentiment. “It’s a lot of extra pressure when you know, whether he’s going to get to make a good run is based on you.”

The brotherly support doesn’t mean there aren’t the occasional disagreements, of course.

“A little bit,” laughed Blair of whether big brother Briar—who serves as his FFA Chapter President—tries to boss him around. “Sometimes when we’re doing chores. But not too bad, we get along and get it knocked out.”

Briar pictured steer wrestling. Picture taken by Southern Shooters Photography


Agricultural life comes naturally to the Mabrys who farm and work cows when not busy playing sports, rodeoing and hunting. They run a couple hundred head of cows on their farms in southern Tennessee.

Briar is very active in his local FFA Chapter and says he enjoys the camaraderie of the group and the challenge of serving as its leader.

“It’s just kind of like a little family of the country kids at school pretty much,” he said. “I like to be in charge of it. It’s kind of fun to lead it, to teach the younger ones what to do.”

Rodeo came naturally too. Their mother, Frann, showed horses at one point in her life and dad, Will, was into rodeo.

“He mainly calf roped and team roped but he kind of tried a little bit of all of it I think,” said Briar.

The boys live in Columbia, Tennessee where Briar is a senior at Santa Fe Unit High School while Blair homeschools and is a sophomore. They earned their spot at the Jr. NFR through the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals in Guthrie, Oklahoma and Briar was the Alabama State Steer Wrestling Champion in 2019.

“We don’t high school rodeo but we do Little Britches,” said Briar, adding that the family has traveled from Alabama and Mississippi, to Kentucky and Indiana. The family even put together their own organization in their home state. “Our family and another family started one in Tennessee last year. We contract the bull dogging steers and the goats. We just kind of help wherever help is needed.”

Blair is a past Alabama State Little Britches All Around and Steer Bareback Riding Champ, an event he has decided to put in his past.

“When I got hurt—I tore my tricep—I decided to hang it up,” he said. “Now, I just focus on my timed events.”

Older brother Briar has never had any interest in competing on both ends of the arena.

“No ma’am, it’s not my cup of tea right there,” he laughed. “I don’t even like a head horse that bucks.”

That attitude led Briar to volunteer his little brother to help with the training of their good steer wrestling horse, Goose, now 13 years old.

“We got him as a head horse; he had been steer wrestled on when he was younger. He was actually my dad’s head horse,” Briar admitted.

“We had a desperate need for a bull doggin’ horse and so . . . I made him [Blair] jump the first ones off of him. I didn’t want to get killed off,” he laughed. Blair survived and Goose proved natural at the event. “He’s worked out pretty good for us.”

The boys are amongst a tough field competing in Fort Worth this week, hoping to advance through several rounds to be one—or in this case, two—of just six finalists in the Jr. NFR who will compete

on Saturday, March 7 in AT&T Stadium, the home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and this weekend’s RFD-TV’s The American.

The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR will boast $200,000-plus in payout with the winners in each of nine disciplines—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), girls barrel racing and girls breakaway roping—earning a check for $10,000.

“It’s special. It’s a big deal,” said Blair. “There’s a lot of competition but I think we’ve got a shot.”

“I think it would be a really good experience,” agreed Briar. “This is the first Jr. NFR and it’s making history, so it’s special to be a part of it.”

Both cowboys hope to one day turn professional in the sport they love but Briar has other plans first.

“I’m actually planning to go to Northwestern Oklahoma State University to college, and rodeo in college and get a degree in Agronomy,” said Briar, who would compete under the tutelage of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo steer wrestler Stockton Graves who coaches at Northwestern Oklahoma. “I kinda want to stay out here in this part of the country. There’s more cowboy stuff to do out here than back in Tennessee.”

“I just want to work with crops and rodeo on the weekends.”

“We’re pretty strong in the team roping but we’ve just been focusing on steer wrestling the past few years,” noted Blair, “We’re probably going to buy our cards when I turn 18 and see what we can do.”

“I’m hoping I can just rodeo my whole life and make it pay,” said Blair.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org and follow Jr. Rodeo on Facebook for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR’s Beau Rees Gifts Horse to Dad to Rodeo Together

By JOLEE JORDAN

Fort Worth, Texas—When most families gather around the Christmas tree, dads often find themselves opening up the usual generic line of presents from their kids: coffee mugs, ties, a various assortment of shavers.

But in 2019 Roger Rees got an unusual gift from his son Beau, one that didn’t fit in a box or come wrapped at all. It was a horse, a special horse given for a purpose.

“When I was about 15, I bought this bay horse from a guy named Mike Shepard. I ended up training her myself,” said Beau, who is known as Gus by many of his friends, a nickname given to him by his dad when he was a baby. “My dad really liked to ride her so I gave her to him for Christmas and now he’s going to start going again.”

Beau pictured on the right riding Arnold, the horse he gifted his father.


The elder Rees gave up competition when his kids were younger so that he would have the time to devote to helping them learn, practice and compete as they chased their own dreams.

“He kind of quit when he was hauling us around,” noted Rees, who is the middle child of Roger and Kathy. Older sister Lauren and younger sister Maddy have also been involved in rodeo. “My dad helped me out a ton. I’ve never been to a school. My dad taught me everything I know.”

Beau was nearly as animated when talking about his dad’s entry into the Perfect 10 roping in late March and he was when asked about his own upcoming plans.

Rees is one of many junior contestants slated to compete in the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo beginning with preliminary rounds on March 5, 2020 at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Jr. NFR is the first elite competition to be offered under the auspices of the new Jr. Rodeo Association, announced by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in December 2019. With a total purse of more than $200,000, the Jr. NFR will be one of the most lucrative junior rodeo events in history and its Finals, held on March 7 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, will be broadcast live on the Cowboy Channel.

That’s not to say Rees isn’t looking forward to the chance to possibly rope inside the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and RFD-TV’s The American rodeo and win the huge $10,000 check reserved for the champions in each of the nine disciplines offered: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, girls barrel racing, girls breakaway roping and, of course, team roping.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Rees, who makes his home in Tooele, Utah, just west of Salt Lake City. “It would be crazy [to win]. I could try to find another horse. Ten thousand would help me out plenty.”

Rees is one of a handful of competitors here who could get more than one shot at the big money and championship prizes. He is entered as both a header and heeler and could conceivable advance to the Finals on both ends of the team roping.

All three partners are familiar to Rees, fellow Utah cowboys who competed in high school rodeos at the same time he did. In fact, he roped behind Webster during his junior and senior seasons and the pair finished inside the top five for the state the last year.

“They rope good, they ride good horses, and they’re all just great people,” said Rees.

Rees has great horsepower on his side as well with the same horses he’s used since high school: head horse Arnold and heel horse Snowflake. The former was a racehorse owned by his grandfather.

Beau riding Snowflake

“When he was done racing, my grandpa just dropped him off at my house. My Dad started him and when he got him broke, I started riding him around.  We made him a head horse together,” he said of the six-year-old gelding.

Snowflake is another story altogether. In a family of riders, Rees is the only one willing to tackle the cantankerous mare.

“She’s ornery to be around, she’s more of a pain in the rear, really. But we somehow get along. Nobody else rides her besides me, no one else even wants to get on her which I think is great, she gets to be mine and nobody else touches her,” he laughed. Snowflake is 11 years old and came to Rees with the name.

A former qualifier to the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo, Rees competed with Webster in Fort Worth a year ago in the events that were part of the Junior American at that time; the duo finished 11th. Most of those events have merged into the Jr. NFR for 2020.

The Jr. NFR preliminary rounds are being hosted by the Patriot Event at Will Rogers so Rees will be busy all week with different ropings. He starts with a muley (no horns) roping competition on Tuesday, March 3 and continues through Saturday, March 7 in various other contests. He will rope in the preliminary rounds of the Jr. NFR on Thursday, March 5.

In the timed events, Jr. NFR competitors will face several sudden death elimination rounds throughout the week. Following the opening round, the top 50 will get to compete in a second go-round from which the top 15 will advance to the Semi-Finals. That performance will be held inside Will Rogers Coliseum on Friday night, March 6 at 6:30 P.M. Central time with the 15 from the long rounds meeting up with five exemptions taken from other major youth rodeo championship events in 2019.

Following the Semi-Finals, the top six will advance to the Finals at AT&T in a performance held just ahead of the opening rounds of RFD-TV’s The American on March 7. An added bonus for timed event competitors, each champion of the Jr. NFR will get to compete in The American that night, where they could share in the $1 million bonus offered in that event.

“It’s a great deal,” said Rees. “I’ve looked forward to it ever since we came last year; it’s my favorite week of roping. I like the arena, the cows are always good, they treat you good. I really do like it down here.”

Rees will be missing a week of school—he is a freshman at Casper College where he is coached by PRCA World Champion Heeler Jhett Johnson, an opportunity that Rees says has helped his roping gain another level.

“He’s helped me out a ton . . . his whole family really,” said Rees. Johnson’s sons Carson and Kellan Johnson are also on the Casper team, which is currently leading the Central Rocky Mountain Region. “Since I’ve been there, I have a whole new perspective for the game of rodeo. And Carson and Kellan, when you get to rope with guys that are that good, and ducking, you learn a lot more in a hurry.

“My roping game has stepped up a ton since I’ve been down there and I haven’t been down there that long.”

Improved roping skills aren’t the only things the Johnson boys have gifted to Rees. They’ve also given him a new nickname.

“They called me Skinny . . . I’m not real big so when I first got there Kellan gave me the nickname Skinny and that’s what everybody at Casper knows me as now.”

Rees is an ag business major who is hoping his roping career works out where he can rodeo professionally. He worked as a vet tech for his grandpa, Dr. Roger Rees, who started the huge South Valley Equine Hospital now located in Saratoga Springs, Utah for several summers. Rees has also helped his dad with his farrier business and he trains horses as well.

“I try to train a couple when I can,” he said. “I find a lot of joy in that.”

In addition to classes and scheduled team practices four times a week, Rees makes sure to spend time every day roping a dummy, both before classes in the morning and after team practices at night. Though he didn’t start heeling until his freshman year of high school, that’s the end he competes on in college rodeos.

“I’ve always wanted to be good at both of them and so I work at both of them and try to be great,” he said. Rees is currently sixth in his region.

In the world of team roping, ropers are assigned numbers based upon their ability, numbers used to divide up competitions, and while Rees is currently in the middle part of that scale, his goal is to move up.

“I hope I get bumped. I want to be the highest number I can be.”

Rees was sure to thank his family for their part in his successes.

“My mom, she didn’t rodeo much but she sure helped me out going. She and my dad are some of my best supporters and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org and follow Jr. Rodeo on Facebook for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Cowboy Channel Jr. Finalist Bradlee Miller Takes Unique Approach to Bareback Riding

By JOLEE JORDAN


Fort Worth, Texas—Bradlee Miller knows the pressure of riding for a chance to compete inside AT&T Stadium, the huge, 80,000 seat football arena that also houses RFD-TV’s The American rodeo and, for the first time ever in 2020, the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo.

Few rodeo competitors, professional or otherwise, can make that claim but at just 16 years of age, Miller had already delivered on that opportunity twice prior to competing in the preliminary rounds of the Jr. NFR on Feb. 28-29, 2020.

One opportunity came back when Miller was still riding sheep; the second came thanks to a miniature bull riding competition. Both qualifying events were held on the grounds of AT&T, but not inside the famed arena.

“They had a 10-round sheep riding and if you won first in the round you got to go inside, so they took 10 kids in,” laughed Miller as he recalled the event. “It was $100 a round [to enter] and my dad entered me in the first one and I ended up second.”

“Then, he entered me in the second one. I ended up second. In the 10th round, the final round, I ended up winning first and I got to go inside.”

A few years later, the Huntsville, Texas cowboy again found himself outside AT&T, this time riding miniature bulls in the Fan Zone of a Pro Bull Riders’ (PBR) event.

“I won the rodeo outside and winded up bucking off my bull inside. It was a draft and I picked the rankest one they had and he got me down,” he noted. “But we’re going to change up this luck we have in AT&T Stadium next weekend.”

Miller gets a third chance to compete inside the massive stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, after delivering another clutch performance in a sudden death format during the Jr. NFR opening rounds. He finished third in the two-head average of the bareback riding held inside the legendary Will Rogers Coliseum.

Riding a horse called Pete, Miller earned fifth in the opening round with his ride worth 74.5 points. With just the top six in the two-horse average moving on to the Finals, Miller was right on the edge and trailing the top competitor, Brayze Schill by eight points.

He delivered in round two with a score of 81 points on Judge Judy, the third best score of round two and fifth best of the whole competition. With 155.5 points on two horses, he finished just several points ahead of the cowboy in the sixth and final qualifying hole, Ty Pope.

It’s unlikely any of the 54 other Jr. NFR Finalists will have as much experience inside AT&T that Miller does. Riding live on The Cowboy Channel, the champions in the nine disciplines—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), girls barrel racing and girls breakaway roping—will each earn a check worth $10,000.

“Hopefully the nerves won’t be as bad as they were last time,” said Miller with a laugh. “It’s an exciting experience.”

The hardest part for the 18 rough stock finalists could be the weeklong wait between the final qualifying round on Feb. 29 and the Finals on March 7.

For Miller, that may not be a problem. He is one busy teenager. He was making a quick break from Fort Worth to get home in time to go hog hunting with a friend, fellow Jr. NFR competitor Chris Villanueva. And, of course, there’s school to consider—he is home schooled through Liberty University On-Line Academy—and practice.

“Got to do school all week and I’ll probably rope some and still get on the training machines. We’ll be tuned up and ready to go,” he said. Miller is a multi-event cowboy who also competes in bull riding, tie down roping and team roping.

Miller was born into rodeo: his dad, Bubba Miller, is the head coach of the highly decorated Sam Houston State University Rodeo team. He has led his teams to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s National team championship on two different occasions.

“My dad rode bareback horses so that’s a plus, he can teach me a thing or two,” joked the affable Miller. “It’s somebody that I can knock on his bedroom door and he can tell what I did wrong at the rodeo.”

Competing in four events, Miller makes the most of practice opportunities and the help and coaching he receives from his father.

“He’s always had practice stock for me to get on every weekend,” said Miller, who notes his rodeo idols are his dad and Trevor Brazile. “We practice one to two days a week, every week. We have all different kinds of spur boards and dummies that we use to get on.”

Due to the grueling nature of bareback riding, Miller limits his live practice, taking advantage of technology that allows cowboys to hone their skills without taking a beating physically.

“If you’re getting on a horse every day, it takes a lot of a man to be able to hold up very long,” he admitted. “So, we get on these different machines that they’ve made, designed for bareback riders to be able to get on every day to perfect what they know.”

Even just five years into his bareback riding career, Miller has already learned to deal with injuries. At the National High School Finals Rodeo in July 2019, Miller injured his neck, an injury that nagged at him for several months.

“I was making an outstanding bareback ride and my hand blew out of my rigging and I kind of did a high flying back flip and landed on the back of my head,” said Miller. “It had messed with me until right before Las Vegas, at the Junior World Finals in December. That’s when I finally got it feeling good.” In fact, Miller earned the Novice Bareback Riding championship in Las Vegas, his sixth championship at the event in four years in both bareback and bull riding.

Miller relied on visits to the sports medicine program at Sam Houston and a faithful workout program that includes daily visits to the gym to aid his recovery.

“I get on bulls and bucking horses two to three days a week. I get on a lot more bulls then I do bucking horses because the bucking horse riding is so rough on your body so I try to save that energy and those muscles for the rodeos that I go to.” Miller competes in high school rodeos as well as open regional associations.

“I try to compete every weekend so I guess my practice [for bareback riding] is at the rodeo.”

Miller nearly qualified for the Jr. NFR Finals in two events. He finished eighth in the bull riding at Will Rogers, just two points shy of advancing in what he says is his favorite event.

“I get the opportunity to rope more than I have the opportunity to ride bulls and bucking horses because it’s not as hard on your body,” he explained. “But the bull riding is my favorite. I love getting on bareback horses but I just cannot compare it to the bull riding.”

Miller got on his first calf at age three, and his first bareback horse eight years later, and was hooked by the adrenaline rush.

“I like to do stuff that I’m good at, something that kind of came natural to me,” he said.

As for the bareback riding, he loves the competitive nature of the event, man versus beast.

“It feels like a fight, the better the horse is, it feels like a huge fight,” noted Miller. “They’re trying to knock you back and throw you off the back of them and you have to send your feet right back to them.”

“The better you ride them, the better they feel. So, if you’re doing everything right on a bucking horse, it feels great.”

The element of riding a horse, with its own brain and thoughts, is what makes the sport unique to Miller, and beyond compare to other sports.

“They don’t have an off button, you can’t tell them to stop, or you can’t tap out like you could in MMA so I think it’s in a total league of it’s own.”

The versatile cowboy was hoping to compete in the tie down and team roping during the Jr. NFR this season but a family ski trip was going to limit his practice time so he opted to wait until 2021.

“I wasn’t going to have a chance to ride my horses and practice and prepare to win,” Miller said. “I knew it was going to be a really tough roping. Definitely next year, I’m coming back in the calf roping and team roping.”

 

Miller has big plans to become a professional rodeo cowboy in the future, after school at Sam Houston, of course.

“I want to study to be a lawyer, so I guess the A&M School of Law which is just right down the road from here [after Sam Houston for undergraduate studies],” he said. “That’s my plan, I’d like to rodeo for a living for as long as I can but definitely need a career that I can fall back on whenever these rodeo days are over.”

For now, he’s focused on being the Jr. NFR World Champion Bareback Rider.

“But for the most part, I’m going to try to keep my mind somewhat off of it, let my mind rest. But we’ll be ready to go here in a week.”

Miller will be joined in the Jr. NFR Bareback Riding Finals by Brayze Schill, Trevor Lattin, Keenan Hayes, Mason Stuller and Kolt Dement. The six riders will get on one more horse in a sudden death battle for the title of Jr. NFR Champion during the Finals March 7 at 3:30 P.M. Central time. The event will air live on the Cowboy Channel.

Timed event competitors will get their turn in the arena beginning March 5 when preliminary rounds begin at Will Rogers Memorial Center to determine the Finalists in those events.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org and follow Jr. Rodeo on Facebook for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Texas’ Canyon Bass Leads Bull Riders to AT&T Stadium for the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR World Title

By Brett Hoffman

FORT WORTH—For Canyon Bass, bull riding is a natural high.

“There ain’t much like it,” he said. “It’s quite the adrenaline rush.”

For two days at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Bass, who is from Johnson City, Texas, got his adrenaline up enough to turn in back-to-back scores in the mid-80s that in turn advanced him to a prestigious rodeo of national significance at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Bass clinched the first segment of the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo, which was Feb. 28-29, at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth. He has earned a berth in the final round of the Cowboy Channel’s Jr. NFR, which is scheduled for March 7 at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

The top six in each event advance to the Jr. NFR finale on March 7 at AT&T Stadium. The March 7 Jr. National Finals will be held in conjunction with the RFD-TV’s The American, a major Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show that’s scheduled for March 7-8 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

While competing at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Bass finished second in the first round on Friday, Feb. 28, with a score of 85.5 He followed up the second round winning score of 84 on Saturday, Feb. 29.

Bass clinched the average title with a two-ride aggregate score of 169.5, two points higher than second-place finisher Caden Bunch, who finished the two-day roughstock riding rodeo with a 167.5.

“I came in and wanted to ride both of my bulls,” he said. “I drew two good ones and got them rode and did my part.”

Asked what was going through his mind when he was about to take on his second-round bull with a chance to advance to the big stage at AT&T Stadium, he said: “Get this one rode so I can ride for the big bucks.”

The winner in each event at AT&T Stadium will earn $10,000 during a live TV broadcast on the Cowboy Channel, which is based in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Bass began riding bulls at age 10, walking in the boot steps of his father, Clay, who also was a bull rider on both amateur and the PRCA circuits.

“I kind of grew up being a cowboy,” he said.

Bass, 16, a sophomore who is home schooled, said he has aspirations of riding professionally.

“I just want to have bull riding make me a living,” he said.


The other four bull riders who qualified for the Jr. National Finals at AT&T Stadium were Joah Bashorun (165 on two rides), Koltin Hevalow (159.5), Lukasey Morris (156.5) and Mason Spain (154).

Bareback Riding

In bareback riding, Brayze Schilll, 15, of West Columbia, Texas, clinched the average title at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.

Schill won the first round on Friday, Feb. 28, with a score of 82.5. He followed up with an attention grabbing 79.5 point effort during the second round on Saturday, Feb. 29.

“I just knew I needed to go in there and take it jump for jump,” he said.


The other competitors who advanced to the Jr. National Finals at AT&T Stadium were Bradlee Miller, Kennan Hayes, Mason Stuller and Ty Pope.

“I just knew I needed to go in there and take it jump for jump,” he said.

Schill said he’s excited about competing at AT&T Stadium.

“It’s going to be a long week,” he said.

Schill said he will not mount any practice broncs to prepare.

“I’ll get on the bucking machine and spur board,” he said.

Schill said he plans to head to the gym and for physical exercises.

“I lift weights at school during athletics and then after school I go to Group Fitness [in West Columbia] and we do running and agility and body weight stuff,” he said.

Saddle Bronc Riding

Frank Florez, 18, a senior from Farmington, N.M., clinched the saddle bronc riding average title.

Florez, who lives in a New Mexico ranch, said he’s been riding saddle bronc the past three years. He also competes in tie-down roping and team roping.

Florez turned in scores of 74 (first round) and 78 (second round). He clinched the average title with a two-ride score of 152, 3.5 points ahead of second-place finisher Gus Gaillard. The other saddle bronc riders who advanced to the finals at AT&T Stadium were Coy Hebert, Deaglan Lundquist, TW Flowers and Dylan Stevenson.


Asked what it took to clinch the title, Florez said: “Just true grit. I had to grit it out today. I did everything I could, just keep lifting and stayed back. Everything worked out good for me.”

Florez said he thrived on divine intervention.

“God was with me,” he said. “He answered my prayers. He kept me safe.”  

Florez said making a standout saddle bronc ride is exhilarating.

“It feels great,” he said. “I can’t explain it. It’s just smooth. Your toes are turned out. It’s unexplainable.”


Brayze Schill’s YouTube Research Pays Off for Upcoming Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Finals

By Brett Hoffman


FORT WORTH--It happened one day when Brayze Schill was about 10 years old. He was nosing around on YouTube and ran across pony bareback bronc riding. He just knew he had to try it.

So, Schill, who is from West Columbia, Texas, and his father, Adam, made a two-hour drive to an arena in Huntsville, Texas, where he took on his first bareback horse.

“I fell in love with it,” Schill said. “I wanted to do it again and again.”

It surprised his father.

“I was thinking I would take him up there and he would fall on his head and be done with it,” Adam Schill said. “Well, the horse went out there and he just laughed all of the time he was on it and fell on his head, got up and wanted to get on another one.”

Brayze Schill was hooked on bareback riding and Adam Shill and his wife, Jennifer, began hauling their son to youth rodeos in the Houston area, in towns such as Waller and Hempstead, on a regular basis. 

Fast forward five years. Schill, at 15, is busting bareback broncs, full grown horses these days, in dramatic fashion.
This weekend, he conquered two head of barebacks in one of the world’s most iconic rodeo arenas, the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth. It’s the former home venue of the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, which traditionally is one of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s largest shows of the year.

Schill clinched the Bareback Riding title during the first segment of the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo, which was Feb. 28-29. He has earned a berth in the final round of the Cowboy Channel’s Jr. NFR, which is scheduled for March 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The top six in each event advance to the Junior NFR finale on March 7 at AT&T. 

The March 7 Jr. National Finals will be held in conjunction with the RFD-TV’s The American, a major PRCA rodeo that’s scheduled for March 7-8 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Schill dazzled the crowd at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum as he made a couple of eight-second rides in the process of qualifying for the prestigious Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR finals at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. 

At Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Schill won the first round on Friday, Feb. 28, with a score of 82.5. He followed up with an attention grabbing 79.5 point effort during the second round on Saturday, Feb. 29.

Schill clinched the average title with a two-ride aggregate score of 162, three points higher than second place finisher Trevor Lattin of Wynnewood, Okla., who finished the two-day roughstock rodeo with a 159.

As Schill makes a successful bareback ride for the required eight seconds, it’s one exhilarating feeling.
“It feels great,” he said. “You can feel it whenever you’re in time and doing a good job and you have to keep on working and firing your feet to keep in time with him.”

Adam Schill, who competed in bareback riding in amateur and PRCA shows in the 1990s, said his son excels in bareback riding because he spurs a bronc aggressively. 

“He just goes out there and opens up on them a little more,” Adam Schill said. “But half of the ride is from the animal also, half of the points come from the animal, and I guess there’s some luck in there also.”

Brayze Schill said he’s received lots of help and support from his father.

“My dad always teaches me, and whenever we’re working on the spur board and tells me what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and what I need to fix,” Schill said.

Adam Schill, who currently is in a business that makes certain that water is flowing correctly in the lines, said there’s a large group of people who have helped his son learn to ride bareback horses.

“It’s not just me,” Adam Schill said. “We have a whole team of people who help. Everybody behind these bucking chutes are friends. They all have good ideas and pointers and practice horses. There’s a whole lot of help out there. It’s all over. You have help coming from all around. You have a lot of help coming from up above.”

Brayze’s mother, Jennifer, said their son is one highly dedicated competitor. “He practices every day,” Jennifer Schill said. “He works really hard.”

Surprisingly, Brayze Schill has had a hard time finding a regular place to ride practice broncs near his Texas home. 
“We don’t have anything right there close to us that he can go get on,” Adam Schill said. “We have a bucking machine in our barn and a spur board. When we can, we try to go up and get on live animals.” 

Adam Schill was talking about traveling to Huntsville area, to the Branded For Christ Arena where his son receives help from Bubba Miller, the Sam Houston State rodeo coach, the same person who saw to it that he got on his first bronc when Schill was 10.

Miller, who led Sam Houston State’s men’s team to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association title in 2011 and SHSU’s women to the NIRA team championship in 2017, said Brayze Schill is showing great potential.

“Brazye is definitely a young athlete who has taken the time to get into physical shape,” Miller said. “He has the right mental aspect. He steps up to those high pressure situations. I expect big things out of him.”

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org and follow Jr. Rodeo on Facebook for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Oklahoma Cowboy Bashorun Overcomes Two Injuries for Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR World Title

By JOLEE JORDAN


Fort Worth, Texas —Coming into the inaugural Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR, Joah Bashorun hadn’t had too many competitive opportunities to use to prepare. The Oklahoma bull rider was coming off two injuries in the last eight months.

“This is the second actual rodeo I’ve been to since breaking my arm in July and then coming back and breaking my shoulder in November,” said Bashorun, who notes his first name is pronounced like Noah but with a “J.”

Despite crunching his right (free) arm and having to sit out for several months, Bashorun didn’t show any signs of rust during the preliminary rounds of competition during the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR on February 28-29 held inside the legendary Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bashorun took fourth on the opening day with a ride worth 83 points; it was just 3.5 points behind round winner and fellow Oklahoman Caden Bunch. With 18 cowboys making the whistle in the first round, there were no gimmies in round two with a trip to the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR Finals on the line. Only six riders would advance based on the average on two bulls.

Clearly the pressure did not bother Bashorun. Aboard a bull called Jackpot, the 16-year-old easily handled a spin away from his hand to earn 82 points and third in the second round, two points behind Canyon Bass’ 84 point round winning ride. 

“I had a solid bull; he didn’t buck real hard but he looked real pretty and I just did what I had to do and got the job done.”


Though Bashorun’s mom Jill owns her own counseling firm, the Chandler (OK) High School junior just laughed when asked if Mom helps with his mental toughness.

“I don’t think I have trouble with mental toughness, my confidence is usually high,” he shrugged. His pre-ride routine involves visualization of his ride and positive mantras about his ability to ride and chances to win. “I can usually keep all my ducks in a row, I’m alright.”

Bashorun will certainly get to test his mental game inside AT&T Stadium on March 7. After finishing third in the average during the preliminary rounds with 165 points earned on two bulls—one of 11 bull riders who were able to stay perfect during the competition—Bashorun advanced to compete for a share of the more than $200,000 total purse during the Jr. NFR Finals.

“I probably won’t get any work done this whole next week,” admitted the cowboy. The Jr. NFR Finals will be held just prior to the opening performance of RFD-TV’s The American.

Bashorun was inspired to ride bulls by his grandfather, Jack Steele, who rode a little bit before turning to roping. He got on his first sheep at age three.

“I started getting on sheep, just for fun,” he said. “My parents didn’t think I’d like it. I got hooked to it and haven’t been off it yet.”

His dad, Abdul, works for the State of Oklahoma in Informational Technology and he has a little brother, Alex. The whole family generally loads up to haul Bashorun to his rodeos and Steele always pulls his rope for him.

“In the past, for 13 years, they’ve been taking me everywhere.” Though he’s old enough now to haul on his own to some events, the whole family came to Fort Worth and they’ll be there to cheer Bashorun as he competes in the biggest event of his young career next weekend.

It’s the thrill of the ride and the adrenaline rush that has kept Bashorun entering and helped him come back from his recent injuries.

“You feel the butterflies in your stomach, your heart starts pumping and you know you’re making a good ride. It’s hard to keep a straight face,” he said. “And then when you get off and you know you did a good job, it’s just the best feeling in the world.”

Bashorun has had his fair share of success prior to competing in Fort Worth. The cowboy is a two-time qualifier to the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo, finishing inside the top 30 in the nation in 2017. He’s also twice won the Central Oklahoma Little Britches Rodeo Association Bull Riding Championship and claimed third in the World standings in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association in 2019.

While still competing in youth events, Bashorun takes advantage of as many local events as well to hone his skills and for a more practical purpose: to make money.

“I basically just do high school rodeos, Little Britches . . . any little pick up rodeos that are around and jackpots where I can make some money.”

There is no better opportunity for a junior competitor to earn a big check than that which is facing Bashorun and his fellow finalists next weekend: the winner earns a check for $10,000 thanks to the partnership between the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Jr. Rodeo Association, and the Cowboy Channel.

Bashorun is single minded in his passion for his sport and has big dreams of becoming a professional bull rider one day.

“Bull riding is about the only thing I do nowadays,” he admits, noting it’s the only thing he wants to do. He draws inspiration from professionals like Ezekiel Mitchell.

“I like to watch him because he’s tall like I am and rides bulls really good,” noted the 6’2” Bashorun. “I’ll watch old videos of Jim Sharp, Tuff Hedeman, guys like that.”

In fact, just about every activity for Bashorun revolves around bull riding.

“I guess, hang out with my friends, practice bull riding, watch videos, films and stuff like that, figure out what I need to do,” he said when asked what he does when not riding or attending school.

“As soon as I turn 18, I’m getting my card,” he said.

For now, the Oklahoman is headed back north of the Red River for a few days but he’ll be back soon, family in tow, grandpa ready to pull his rope.

“It feels good, I’ve got the butterflies in my stomach, my heart’s pumping all ready to go,” he laughed.

“It’s a big honor and such a big blessing but I have to treat it like just another rodeo,” he added. “Not overthink it, not get too nervous, just ride my bull like it’s my hometown rodeo.”

Bashorun will be joined in the Jr. NFR Bull Riding Finals by Bass, Bunch, Koltin Hevalow, Lukasey Morris and Mason Spain. The six riders will get on one more bull in a sudden death battle for the world title of Jr. NFR Champion during the Finals March 7 at 3:30 P.M. Central time. The event will air live on the Cowboy Channel.

Timed event competitors will get their turn in the arena beginning March 5 when preliminary rounds begin at Will Rogers Memorial Center. The Finals on March 7 will include the top six in the bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), girls barrel racing and girls breakaway roping.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org and follow Jr. Rodeo on Facebook for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Caden Bunch Scores Highest Points of First Go Roughstock at Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR

By JOLEE JORDAN

Fort Worth, Texas—The 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR launched out of the chutes on Friday, February 28 as the first round of preliminary action in the three rough stock events began inside historic Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

With a purse of better than $200,000, the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR is the first elite competition offered under the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s new Jr. Rodeo program.

Competitors in nine disciplines—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), barrel racing and breakaway roping—will work through several preliminary rounds, hoping to be among the top six to qualify for the Jr. NFR Finals held inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on March 7.

Bull Riding


Florida cowboy Norman Osceola made history as the first cowboy to nod his head in the Jr. NFR. Though he came up just short, 18 bull riders were able to conquer their bulls during the opening go round.

Oklahoma’s Caden Bunch eked out the first-round victory after covering Watusie for 86.5 points, just one point better than Canyon Bass of Wimberley, Texas. The top six cowboys are separated by just 5 points.

Bunch is no stranger to top national level competition. He is the reigning National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) champion, a title he earned last summer in Rock Springs, Wyoming as a freshman.

Adding a championship from the Jr. NFR would be just as sweet.

“I’ve been involved [in rodeo] since I was a little kid,” said Bunch. “I started out riding sheep and calves and I’m starting to be on big bulls now.”

Riding out of the iconic red diamond bucking chutes in Will Rogers—classic chutes in which such PRCA champions as Jim Shoulders, Don Gay, Billy Etbauer, Kaycee Field and Sage Kimzey have—Bunch was not daunted by the pressure of the moment.

“I’d been on the bull I had today,” he said. “I wasn’t too worried about it. I just knew if I rode my bull, I’d be setting pretty good.”

Bunch will be looking to pair his first-round win with another good score in round two on Saturday, February 29. The top six in the two-head average will move on to the Finals in AT&T Stadium, held just prior to the Semi-Finals round of RFD-TV’s The American.

“I hope I’m there one day,” laughed Bunch. His strategy to make that happen within the next week is pretty simple. “Just get my bull rode and hope for the best.”

“I’d be real happy,” he said when asked what he’d do if he won the Jr. NFR World Title and the winner’s $10,000 check. “Probably go buy me a car or something.”

Bareback Riding


In bareback riding, another cowboy on a hot streak took the first-go win. Brayze Schill recently captured the championship at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo’s Youth Rodeo in his signature event. That win came just over a week before he competed in the Jr. NFR.

Unlike Bunch, he didn’t know the horse he’d drawn, Base Camp.

“I didn’t know but I heard that was a good horse; I just knew I needed to take it jump for jump and bear down,” noted the West Columbia, Texas cowboy.

As the last rider of the go-round, he snuck into the lead with an 82.5 point ride aboard the good little white horse that allowed him to show off an outstanding spur ride; the ride was marked 43.5 points, also the best on the day. Oklahoma cowboy Trevor Lattin finished second with 82 points.

Schill was inspired to ride bareback horses by his father, Adam, and the Internet.

“My dad rode bareback horses,” Schill said. “Then I saw the ponies on YouTube when I was little and I said I want to do that! He said alright, so he took me to his friend’s house to practice and I loved it.”

The elder Schill competed professionally but retired before his son was born. Schill started at 10 years of age and competed in youth rodeos until recently.

“I went to youth rodeos, then junior high rodeo last year,” he said. Schill has competed at the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo, finishing eighth in the nation. “This year my dad told me to sit out high school rodeos. I’ve just been going to Branded for Christ (Cowboy Church in Huntsville) for practice.”

Schill has watched RFD-TV’s The American on television the last few years and would love a shot to compete inside the huge stadium.

“That would be awesome. I’ve watched it but not ever been there,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it there.”

Saddle Bronc Riding


Saddle bronc rider Deaglan Lundquist shares that sentiment.

“I’d be pretty starstruck being there,” laughed the 17-year-old from Powell Butte, Oregon. He has a great chance to check out that prediction after winning the opening go-round in his discipline on Friday afternoon.

Lundquist make a crowd-pleasing ride of 76 points aboard Bad Check, a ride that just lasted the required eight seconds and ended with Lundquist on the other side of the arena fence.

“It felt alright, I marked him out and he took a little bit of a scoot coming out of there,” replayed Lundquist of his winning ride. “I kept losing my feet and I could feel my binds getting real, real loose so I was trying to fight to keep my feet back.”

“I tried to stay safe tied up and make kind of a businessman ride so hopefully I could get at least one score down and come back for the short go,” he said of his recovery mid-ride. “Then he kind of set up kind of towards the end and got me real, real loose. He tipped me into my hand and I had to bail off on the fence.” In fact, Lundquist rolled over the top rail and into the holding pen area but was relieved when the judges confirmed he’d made a qualified ride.

“Kinda not like I wanted to do but ended up getting out there alright.”

Lundquist finished a point ahead of Mason Stuller, a fellow Oregonian who competed in both the bareback and saddle bronc riding on Friday. Stuller split sixth in the bareback riding and has a great chance to make the Finals in both events. A slim three points separates the top six saddle bronc riders going into the final preliminary round.

For Lundquist, rodeo has been a passion all of his life and no other event caught his eye more than saddle bronc riding.

“I just always thought the bronc riding looked a lot more classy, more cowboy, than the other events and my grandparents and uncles and everyone rode bucking horses. It’s not exactly tradition but just something I felt I ought to do,” he said.

“I watched 8 Seconds but bulls always scared me. I have some friends who bull ride and I’ll leave that to them.”

“And mom told me no way she was letting me ride bareback.”

Mom Kim and dad Bob Lundquist have been supportive of his dream, however, and with him every step.

“Dad is here,” noted Lundquist. “He usually comes back behind the chutes with me and when I was little he used to help me set my saddle. Now, he’s just kind of there for decoration,” he joked.

Lundquist has benefitted from attending numerous schools in his young career, including one taught by Buster and Deanne Bain in Redmond, Oregon which he now helps put on with his local rodeo club. He’s also learned from the likes of Ike Sankey and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowboys Heith DeMoss and Bradley Harter during a school hosted by Stace Smith.

“Bradley Harter and Heith DeMoss helped me the most; they helped me make some stuff click, and fix some stuff that I was doing wrong, picking up some bad habits and they helped me correct that.”

The junior at Crook Country High School in Prineville is hoping to parlay his talents into a rodeo scholarship before eventually turning pro. He’d love to one day to also raise both cows and bucking horses, and help the next generation of rodeo cowboys learn the sport.

In the meantime, he is focused on the second round of the Jr. NFR. Like Bunch and Schill, he’s in a great position to advance to the Finals with a solid score on Saturday.

“I’m really hoping to make a good ride, win a bit of money but just keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I hope everyone else has good rides tomorrow and makes it a real good short go and good finals going over to AT&T.”

The Jr. NFR rough stock preliminary rounds continue on Saturday, February 29 at Will Rogers Coliseum, beginning at noon with the bull riding. The top six in the average in each event will advance to the Finals on March 7 at 3:30 P.M. central time.

The Jr. NFR timed events begin on March 5, also on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


All photos are courtesy of Olie's Images. 


Another Generation of Steiners Ready to Ride at The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.

By JOLEE JORDAN

Colorado Springs, Colorado—The Steiner family has been famous in rodeo for generations, raising champions in the arena on both the human and animal sides of the sport.

It all began with a Wild West Show produced by Buck Steiner, which morphed into Steiner Rodeo Company. Run first by Buck’s son Tommy, then his grandson Bobby, the Rodeo Company turned out some of the top livestock in the country and earned a total of five, year-end awards for the top bucking horses and bulls. Meanwhile, Bobby also won the PRCA World title in bull riding in 1973.

Steiner Rodeo Company was sold in the early 1980’s but the rodeo world had not heard the last from this legendary family as the fourth generation, Sid Steiner—Bobby’s son—captured his own world championship in steer wrestling in a flamboyant style in 2002.

Nearly two decades later, Steely Steiner, Sid’s daughter and the fifth generation to enter the sport, is poised to make her own mark as she will compete in the inaugural Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR in Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas.

Born just under a year before her dad won the PRCA World Championship, Steely is a tough and fast competitor, not just aboard a horse but on her own two feet as well. A four-time qualifier to the Texas State Finals in Cross Country, she finished 10th last year. In the spring, she competes on her track & field team at Brock High School near Weatherford, where she specializes in the 400- and 800-meter races.

Inside the rodeo arena, Steely loves to run barrels and is amongst the leaders in her region of Texas High School Rodeo competition.

“We are a specialized family,” laughed her mom, Jamie, when asked if Steely competes in multiple events, joking that other events such as pole bending “usually ended in tears.”

With a couple of tough horses to run and given her family pedigree, it’s no wonder Steely is so focused. Though planning on enrolling in college next year, she dreams of being a professional barrel racer, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, Joleen (Hurst) Steiner, who have both competed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“Oh yes, she can’t wait to get to the pro rodeos,” said Jamie of the 18-year-old senior. “We’ll get through the next two weeks of rodeo, then track gets pretty heavy but once school is done, we’re going to hit the summer run and try to get her permit filled and get her qualified for the bigger stuff next year.”

Balancing rodeo, school and sports can get hectic for Steely, and for her family as little brother Rocker is an up-and-coming bareback rider who is also a champion wakeboarder, but she manages it all and excels in all her activities.

“She’s so organized, we don’t know where that comes from,” joked Jamie. “But she does it all; she’s a good student, she takes that very seriously. It’s hard to get it all done but she does.”

Steely is already familiar with the format of the Jr. NFR, having competed in the 2019 Junior American.

Riding her good mare Teena Turner, Steely was one of the two finalists in 2019 invited to compete at AT&T Stadium. In what was just the second rodeo performance for Teena, Steely ran second to champion Sydney Frey by just two one-thousandths of a second.

“She’s got a lot of room to make up time as Teena was checking things out last year,” Jamie said. “She always gets faster in an arena with multiple runs.”

Overall, just competing in such a huge venue with so much pressure was all positive for the Steiners.

“It was a great experience, especially for Steely,” notes Jamie, who adds that her daughter is about the opposite of her famous father and brother, personality-wise. “She’s much more like me, very reserved and quiet.”

The Steiners are excited for another chance in 2020 with a more experienced horse and rider this time around. Steely and Teena have already competed in the first round of the semi-finals of the 2020 RFD-TV’s The American, making the first cut in that competition. Steely is hoping to capitalize on two chances to make her way back to AT&T—through The American Semi-Finals as well as the Jr. NFR.

The Jr. NFR timed event competitions begin March 5 at Will Rogers Memorial Center but Steely has an exemption into the Semi-Finals round there on March 6. She may run Teena or Teena’s sister, Hillbilly Bombshell, for her runs there.

The top six competitors in the Jr. NFR Semi-Finals will move over to AT&T Stadium for the Jr. NFR Finals on March 7. In the timed events, the champion advances to The American later that evening.

The Jr. NFR rough stock preliminary rounds begin Friday, February 28 at the historic Will Rogers Complex in Fort Worth. All competitors will get on two head of livestock with the top 6 in the average moving on to the Finals.

The Jr. NFR field is stacked with talent including Steiner as well as 2019 National High School Rodeo Champions Kenna Hayes (bareback riding), Caden Bunch (bull riding), Kason Davis and Bryce Graves (team roping), and Macee McAllister (barrel racing). Davis is one of just more than a dozen contestants who have qualified to compete in more than one event.

The inaugural Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR begins on February 28, 2020 and continues March 5 at Will Rogers Memorial Center before crowning its champions in conjunction with RFD-TV’s The American at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on March 7, 2020. Champions in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading & heeling), barrel racing and breakaway roping will be awarded an outstanding prize line headlined by a guaranteed $10,000 payday.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Benny Proffitt Looks to Win at Both Ends of the Arena at the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR

By JOLEE JORDAN

Colorado Springs, Colorado—If there was such a thing as a Linderman Award in Jr. Rodeo, Benny Proffitt just might be a shoe in for the title.

One of the most difficult awards to win in all of professional rodeo, the Linderman is given to the cowboy who earns the most money in three or more events within Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association during the year. The kicker is that the cowboy must compete in one event from each side of the arena – timed event and riding event.

In today’s highly specialized competition, most contestants focus all their energy on one event, or at least on one end of the arena. At 15 years of age, Proffitt has not yet narrowed his focus down, and the Canadian, Texas teenager now competes in four different disciplines during his time in the Texas High School Rodeo Association.

While that represents a lot of work and time, it could actually be a step down for the ambitious cowboy: In junior high rodeos, he worked eight events and played basketball.

“I quit playing basketball as I’ve gotten more into rodeoing,” he said. “I just want to put my focus more on that.”

“I try to make time for everything,” laughed Proffitt when asked how he manages time for school and practicing for saddle bronc riding, team roping, tie down roping and steer wrestling. “I don’t know!”

“I just set goals and keep trying to meet them.”

Proffitt claimed the All-Around title for the state of Texas last year in his final season in National Junior High School Rodeo competition, qualifying to Nationals in five events. Once at the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo (NJHSFR), he won two National titles: one in Saddle Bronc Steer Riding and added the All Around after finishing fourth in the steer wrestling as well.

“I live on a ranch and I was always into cowboying,” said Proffitt. His dad, Jarrett, competed in ranch rodeos and team roped and the younger Proffitt followed into the sport.

Now a freshman at Canadian High School in the Texas Panhandle, Proffitt is looking forward to a jump up in competition as he qualified to compete in the saddle bronc riding at the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR set for Fort Worth, Texas and Arlington, Texas.

As saddle bronc riding is contested on steers in junior high school rodeo, Proffitt got on his first bucking horse this summer and has found no difficulty in making the transition now that he is competing in high school rodeos.

“I’ve been on a handful of them, eased into it,” he said. Just finishing up his first semester of high school rodeos, Proffitt is currently second in the saddle bronc riding as well as the All Around. “The fundamentals are the same, it’s just a step up.”

He’s in a tight battle in his region for both titles with Gus Gaillard, who actually claimed the same two titles at the NJHSRF the year prior to Proffitt and whose family is one of Proffitt’s mentors.

“My dad has helped me a lot and the Gaillards, who are good friends of ours,” he noted. “I’ve had lots of help, we’ve got some really good friends.”

The two can add the next chapter to their friendly rivalry with the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR, the biggest saddle bronc competition Proffitt has participated in his young career. Both will be competing in two preliminary rounds at the historic Will Rogers Complex on February 28-29. The top six in the two head average will move on to the Finals held in conjunction with RFD-TV’s The American at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on March 7.

“I haven’t been over there at all,” said Proffitt. “I’m for sure very excited and I hope I can make it back [to the Finals].”

The 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR begins February 28 and runs through March 7 and will pay out more than $200,000. The champions in each of the nine events—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), girls barrel racing and girls breakaway roping will walk away with $10,000 each and an impressive prize line. All the action will air on the Cowboy Channel.

Stay tuned to www.jrrodeo.org for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.


Jr. Rodeo heats up with Jr. NFR set for March

By JOLEE JORDAN


Colorado Springs, Colo. — Pairing young athletes alongside seasoned pros to learn the ropes is a rare opportunity in most sports, but not in ProRodeo thanks to the newly-formed Jr. Rodeo program.

Youth rodeo organizations have served as the sport’s introductory level for participants for many years — their start down the road toward a possible future ProRodeo career.

In the past, that road has often been windy, bumpy, and difficult to navigate but the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s (PRCA) new Jr. Rodeo initiative seeks to turn that road into a superhighway for those athletes who hope to one day turn pro.

Announced in December 2019 during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (Wrangler NFR), Jr. Rodeo will strive to better prepare young cowboys and cowgirls for an eventual career in the sport by focusing on three key pillars in their foundation: education, skill development and competition.

Designers of the Jr. Rodeo program hope it addresses recognized needs for the PRCA, namely a shrinking membership, and for its up-and-coming stars in their development into pro-caliber contestants.

“We asked, where is our feeder system in the sport of rodeo and how can we help figure out a way to get involved and start creating relationships with those future contestants and showing them that pathway to become a ProRodeo contestant,” said Anthony Bartkowski, PRCA Director of Athlete Development and Welfare.

“That’s the genesis of developing this youth initiative called Jr. Rodeo, which extends our athlete pipeline down to a very young age.”

Jr. Rodeo will serve competitors from 8-19 years of age, offering four levels of membership, all of which offer free attendance to Jr. Rodeo camps and schools, a unique chance for kids to learn from ProRodeo’s champions in a one-on-one environment.

Picture learning the proper technique involved in throwing a football from Patrick Mahomes. But Jr. Rodeo hopes to extend the education it’s offering beyond how to throw a proper heel loop or mark out a bareback horse and include more aspects of the business side of the sport.

“We’re going to be teaching these younger contestants what PRCA rodeos are like now, get them trained to understand what the process is — how you enter rodeos, what rules do you follow so that there’s a lot of mirroring of what we’re doing here so when they do decide to take that next step, they already are well informed.”

In the meantime, youth competitors can measure their skills against their peers in the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR to be held March 3-7 at historic Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, fulfilling the third pillar of the Jr. Rodeo platform: competition.

“We asked how do we distinguish ourselves and embrace the whole universe of youth rodeo,” Bartkowski said. “So, we developed the Jr. NFR concept and the Cowboy Channel has come on board as the title sponsor.”

“It was a way to unify all the youth associations that are out there and have a long, rich tradition and history behind them,” added Bartkowski. “We’ve identified it as a way to include their top performers and allow them to come to the Jr. NFR so we can showcase the best of the best that rodeo has to offer.”

Those invited contenders advance directly to the Jr. NFR semifinals where they will square off against the top 15 qualifiers from the preliminary rounds.

The top six competitors in the semifinals will advance to the Championship Round at AT&T Stadium. That round is held in conjunction with RFD-TV’s The American, giving Jr. NFR finalists the chance to compete alongside the best in ProRodeo in a one-of-a-kind competitive environment.

Jr. NFR contestants will be competing for a share of the more than a $200,000 purse. The winners in the nine disciplines —bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, girls barrel racing, and girls breakaway roping — will take home $10,000 along with some fancy prizes. Additionally, winners in the timed events will advance to the semifinals of The American and compete for a share of its $1 million payout.

All action will be aired on the Cowboy Channel making the Jr. NFR the only youth rodeo event on cable television in 2020.

For this year, the Jr. NFR is open to high school competitors, 14-19 years old, but future events will include younger participants.

“This is our first offering,” Bartkowski said. “We are focusing on the high school-aged contestant first. We want to make sure that we come out and present an event that is good and reaches our goals and our vision to showcase the top competitors who are going to be graduating next into the PRCA.”

Beyond the first Jr. NFR next month, Jr. Rodeo will work with major youth organizations as well as with PRCA rodeo committees for future Jr. NFR qualifying events in a year-long commitment to increased competitive opportunities.

“We conducted a survey with all the PRCA rodeos (after announcing the Jr. Rodeo initiative),” Bartkowski said. “And, 83% want to host a Jr. Rodeo event or do something for youth participation in the sport so that just opens up our universe that much larger.”

Memberships are available at www.jrrodeo.org and are required to participate in the Jr. NFR and other Jr. Rodeo events throughout the year.


Madison Outhier looks to win the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR and defend American title.

By JOLEE JORDEN

Photo of Madison Outhier winning the American Rodeo 2019


A year ago, Madison Outhier couldn’t decide whether she wanted to become a professional polo player or chase a career in ProRodeo.

But on March 3, 2019, the Fulshear (Texas) High School student beat a seasoned and talented final-four field to become the first breakaway roping champion at RFD-TV’s The American, earning $110,000.

“A year ago, it was a hard decision,” said Outhier, who got her passion for polo from her mother, Kristy, who played professionally until about a year ago. “But I’m definitely more involved, more focused on rodeo now.”

Rodeo is in the now-17-year-old cowgirl’s genes too: her father, Mike, is a veteran of four Wrangler National Finals Rodeos and a two-time PRCA Linderman Award winner.

She gives her dad credit for her rodeo career.

“It’s all my dad,” she said, adding that the pair practice daily. “He trains all my roping horses.”

In 2019, Outhier competed in both the junior and open divisions during the qualification rounds for The American.

“It was all one week last year (the semifinals and The American), and the entire week was the craziest and best of my whole life,” she laughed.

After roping in two preliminary rounds, Outhier competed in the first performance of the semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 27, and was sitting fifth with 16 set to advance. She then went to work during the junior portion of the competition.

“I was playing the waiting game on whether I’d advance (in the open), so I knew I needed to do well in the juniors and give myself another shot to make it,” she said.

Roping sharp on every pressure-packed run, Outhier battled through getting sick toward the end of the week to earn a spot at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of The American, where a 2.29-second run in the Shoot-Out Round clinched the title for both divisions.

“My dad rodeoed a long time and I’ve gone with him, so I’ve seen big rodeo stadiums …  but it was so unreal to walk in there and have the opportunity to compete,” she said. “I’m so fortunate. It was the best experience of my life.”

In 2020, the junior events during The American have been aligned with the PRCA’s new Jr. Rodeo initiative, including the debut of the Jr. National Finals Rodeo, title sponsored by The Cowboy Channel. As the reigning champion, Outhier has earned a bye into the semifinals.

“It’s so awesome that the PRCA is getting involved in junior rodeo,” said Outhier, who plans to study business in college after she graduates high school in 2021. “We all strive to grow up and go on to ProRodeo, and it’s great that they’re offering this platform for youth competitors.

“I would never have been able to win at The American without junior rodeo – being able to learn to work through the nerves. The Jr. Rodeo program is just going to make rodeo bigger and better.”


Photo of Mike Outhier at the 2002 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

PRCA Announces Launch of Jr. Rodeo Association and The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The PRCA is proud to announce today the introduction of the Jr. Rodeo Association to provide youth, ages 8-19, an opportunity to learn and participate in core rodeo events. The Jr. National Finals Rodeo, title sponsored by The Cowboy Channel, will make its debut March 3-7 in Texas at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth with the finals to be held on March 7 at AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas.

Jr. Rodeo, the new youth initiative for the PRCA, is created to identify the next generation of contestants through education, fundamental development and a one-of-a-kind competition series. The online membership portal opens today, and youth may join by visiting www.jrrodeo.org. The first 1,000 Jr. Rodeo members to join will receive a gift card from National Roper’s Supply.

“The Jr. Rodeo initiative is important for the future growth of rodeo, and it is important for us to develop the future stars properly,” PRCA CEO George Taylor said. “Our new association is fundamentally built to embrace and grow youth participation in rodeo events. All rodeo starts here, and Jr. Rodeo is responsible for providing opportunities for kids to learn, improve and compete alongside the best cowboys in the best arenas like AT&T Stadium.”

Members will be able to select a membership level that best suits their interest. Jr. Rodeo members will have a number of benefits available that include: membership card; competition opportunities; secondary accident insurance; free registration for Jr. Rodeo Camps; ProRodeo Sports News online subscription; and more.

“We are excited about the new venture the PRCA is launching to further grow and educate youth rodeo,” Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson said. “This new Jr. Rodeo initiative is another investment in the future of rodeo.”

The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR returns in 2020 and will feature the best-of-the-best contestants from the major youth rodeo events. Jr. Rodeo will feature the Junior American and Patriot events as one of the major qualification pathways. The Junior American and all of its qualifiers are being folded into The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR, effective immediately. Jr. Rodeo will continue to attract other youth rodeo events as potential qualifiers.

For 2020, The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR includes over 1,900 contestants eligible for a gold buckle. The top place winners from the events below also qualify in 2020 for The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR and must be Jr. Rodeo members.

  • 2019 National High School Rodeo Association Finals
  • 2019 Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals
  • 2019 International Youth Finals Rodeo
  • 2019 Junior World Finals
  • 2019 Junior American

“The National High School Rodeo Association has taken several initiatives to offer opportunities to our members,” NHSRA Executive Director James Higginbotham said. “Opportunities that not only build good citizens but also enable them to enhance and further their rodeo experience, if they choose to. This is another one of those opportunities offered by the PRCA, a long-time supporter of the NHSRA.”

The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR will guarantee at least $200,000 in added money. Jr. Rodeo’s focus is on core rodeo events and will feature bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (header/heeler), girl’s breakaway roping and girl’s barrel racing.

Jr. Rodeo’s focus is on core rodeo events and will feature bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (header/heeler), girl’s breakaway roping and girl’s barrel racing.

“The launch of Jr. Rodeo and the Jr. NFR is an excellent opportunity for all of youth rodeo to come together,” Little Britches Rodeo Association Executive Director Annie Walter said. “Anytime where we can include Little Britches contestants is a tremendous benefit to growing the sport of rodeo as a whole. We have to work together to increase participation in rodeo at all levels and there is no better place to start than with youth contestants.”

The Cowboy Channel will provide a year-long national television platform in support of Jr. Rodeo. The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR is the only youth rodeo event on cable TV in 2020 and will be telecast exclusively on The Cowboy Channel which reaches 42 million homes.

“We are so proud to join forces with the PRCA to expand and grow the opportunities and exposure for youth rodeo,” said Patrick Gottsch, Founder and President of The Cowboy Channel. “We are all in. Encouraging more young people and their families to participate and enjoy the sport of rodeo is a win for everyone. The Cowboy Chanel is here to promote, cover, and support the Jr. NFR all year long.”

“We are so proud to join forces with the PRCA to expand and grow the opportunities and exposure for youth rodeo,” said Patrick Gottsch, Founder and President of The Cowboy Channel. “We are all in. Encouraging more young people and their families to participate and enjoy the sport of rodeo is a win for everyone. The Cowboy Chanel is here to promote, cover, and support the Jr. NFR all year long.”

The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR is a tournament-style format rodeo where qualifiers will compete in the long go-round with the top 15 contestants advancing to the semifinals. The championship round will be held at AT&T Stadium with the top 6 place winners competing prior to RFD-TV’s The American. The winners in the timed events also advance to RFD-TV’s The American Semi-Finals for a chance to win $1 million. The Jr. NFR will feature contestants between the ages of 14-19 who must still be in high school.

“The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR is the showcase event for all of youth rodeo,” said Anthony Bartkowski, PRCA Director of Athlete Development and Welfare. “We are proud to partner with The Cowboy Channel in hosting The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR in one of the best sport stadiums. This participant experience and being able to compete alongside the best cowboys in the world is unrivaled.”

Jr. Rodeo will continue to provide the popular Jr. Rodeo Camps program to members who are interested in learning about rodeo and further advancing their rodeo event techniques. National Finals Rodeo qualifiers typically serve as instructors at Jr. Rodeo Camps. The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo will host the first 2020 Jr. Rodeo Camp on January 26.

“The future of the cowboy culture relies solely on our ability to teach our youth the ways of our cowboy heroes,” said Cal White, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Assistant Operations Manager. “With the assistance of the PRCA and their Jr. Rodeo Camps, our youth have the best opportunities in the history of our sport to learn how to be champions from champions. Now more than ever, we have to remain diligent in utilizing these avenues to attract and retain our future contestants.”

Throughout 2020, Jr. Rodeo will work with individual PRCA Rodeos to showcase the sport to future cowboys and have an impact in identifying the next world champions. PRCA Rodeos will be able to qualify contestants directly from its rodeos for the 2021 The Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo.


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