COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 2021) – Out of concern for the safety of our contestants, fans, and communities – and in line with recent COVID health restrictions – it is necessary to cancel the Jr. Rodeo 14-Under National Championships, originally slated for August 16-18 in Kansas City, Mo.
Jr. Rodeo is committed to making the inaugural 14-Under National Championships fun and safe for everyone participating and cannot under the current circumstances. Please know Jr. Rodeo remains committed to holding the Championships in 2022.
All entries will be refunded to the credit card used to enter for the American Royal Youth Rodeo. Please allow 5-10 business days for your bank account to reflect this. Questions can be directed to (816) 221-9800.
Jr. Rodeo members are encouraged to enter other sanctioned events by visiting jrrodeo.org/qualifiers.
John Crimber at the 2021 Jr. NFR. Photo by Texas Vision Photography
It’s been a busy few weeks for cowboy John Crimber. Three weeks ago, the 15-year-old claimed the 2021 Jr. NFR Bull Riding World Title. Saturday, July 24, he added the title of 2021 National High School Finals Champion.
“It feels really good (winning both,” Crimber said. “A lot of great bull riders were there and I got to turn out with the win.”
Walking into the high school finals in Lincoln, Nebraska, Crimber was in third place, with ground to make up if he wanted to take the lead. He said he didn’t worry about the competition and just focused on his eight seconds.
“I knew I had a good bull drawn, and I just had to be focused on him and do my job,” Crimber said.
Just a freshman, Crimber has three more years of Jr. Rodeo competition. He said he plans on just staying focused and wants to “keep doing his job” during that time.
Though a standout, Crimber wasn’t the only contestant who has been making waves in both Jr. Rodeo and the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA).
Going into Saturday’s NHSFR short go-round, 57 finalists are Jr. Rodeo members as well. Five of those finalists left NHSFR as champions: barrel racer Ava Grayce Sanders, tie-down roper Cole Clemons, saddle bronc rider TW Flowers, team ropers Clay Clayman and Cooper Freeman, and bull rider John Crimber.
The all-around cowboy, Sam Petersen, is not only a Jr. Rodeo member, but a bareback riding finalist at the 2021 Jr. NFR. At the high school finals, Peterson placed second in both bareback riding and steer wrestling.
Petersen was runner-up in bareback last year as well, so grabbing the all-around title this year was special.
“It’s one of those things you always dream about, being all-around world champion,” said Petersen. “And for it to happen this year, it was something pretty special.”
Starting his senior year this fall, Petersen will have one more year to defend his all-around title before completing his time in Jr. Rodeo competition.
Sam Petersen was a finalist in bareback at the 2021 Jr. NFR, and the all-around NHSFR champion. Photo by Texas Vision Photography.
Jr. Rodeo showed up strong in bareback and tie-down roping, where half of the finalist fields were made up of Jr. Rodeo members.
Barrels had six of twenty representing, including champion Ava Grayce Sanders, who ran 52.573 seconds on three runs.
Here’s a full list of Jr. Rodeo members who found success at the NHSFR, qualifying for the short go. All scores and times are scores and times on three.
2. (MT) Sam Petersen, Helena, Montana, 232.5 points
4. (OR) Mason Stuller, Veneta, Oregon, 224.5
5. (TX) Kade Berry, Poolville, Texas, 223
6. (AZ) Kooper Heimburg, San Tan Valley, Arizona, 221.5
8. (ID) Cooper Cooke, Victor, Idaho, 216
8. (TX) Kash Martin, Lufkin, Texas, 216
10. (TX) Bradlee Miller, Huntsville, Texas, 215.5
11. (CA) Jacek Frost, Browns Valley, California, 214
16. (MO) Quintonn Lunsford, McCune, Kansas, 204
17. (MS) Gavin Lee, Poplarville, Mississippi, 202
1. (FL) Ava Grayce Sanders, Vero Beach, Florida, 52.573 seconds
3. (MO) Merrin Frost, Baldwin City, Kansas, 52.772
5. (MT) Alexis McDonald, Gardiner, Montana, 52.788
11. (LA) Kylie Conner, Welsh, Louisiana, 53.787
12. (OK) Grace Gardiner, Whitesboro, Texas, 53.843
16. (TX) Alissa Flores, Laredo, Texas, 57.606
1. (FL) Cole Clemons, Okeechobee, Florida, 29.35 seconds
3. (TX) Tyler Calhoun, Anderson, Texas, 31.98
5. (OK) Levi Sechrist, Mountain View, Oklahoma, 34.65
7. (LA) Jayden Broussard, Broussard, Louisiana, 35.03
13. (TX) Koby Douch, Huntsville, Texas, 44.71
14. (NM) Dontae Pacheco, Bloomfield, New Mexico, 21.07
15. (WY) Will Albrecht, Sheridan, Wyoming, 23.61
16. (OK) Blake Tatham, Pryor, Oklahoma, 24.26
17. (TN) Lane Webb, Byrdstown, Tennessee, 25.26
18. (HI) Daniel Miranda, Kula, Hawaii, 25.65
Saddle Bronc Riding
1. (TX) TW Flowers, Old Glory, Texas, 227 points
3. (AZ) Slade Keith, Stanfield, Arizona, 224
4. (LA) Coy Hebert, Welsh, Louisiana, 212
6. (MT) Garrett Cunningham, Broadus, Montana, 193
15. (OK) Heston Harrison, Carnegie, Oklahoma, 123
16. (MN) Cody Owens, Truman, Minnesota, 113
18. (TX) Gus Gaillard, Morse, Texas, 78
1. (MO) Clay Clayman, Highlandville, Missouri, Cooper Freeman, Carthage, Missouri, 19.2 seconds
2. Luis Mendiaz, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 22.34 (heeler)
6. (AZ) Kenzie Kelton, Mayer, Arizona (header), 27.0
13. (LA) Luke Dubois, Church Point, Louisiana, Corey Reid, Liberty, Mississippi, 48.24
15. (LA) Bray Aymond, Pine Prairie, Louisiana, Ty Aymond, Pine Prairie, Louisiana, 14.28
20. (FL) Courtney Carbajal, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (header), 22.74 on two
Steer Wrestling2. (MT) Sam Petersen, Helena, Montana, 15.93 seconds
4. (TX) Tylie McDonald, Bryan, Texas, 8.04 seconds
5. (MS) Molli Rae Kinchen, Tickfaw, Louisiana, 8.49
12. (NC) Emme Colvard, Crumpler, North Carolina, 5.19 on two
13. (TX) Emilee Charlesworth, Marathon, Texas, 5.21 on two
14. (FL) Leyton Watford, Okeechobee, Florida, 5.55 on two
1. (TX) John Crimber, Decatur, Texas, 173.5 points
5. (OK) Ty Parnell, Edmond, Okla., 154.5
7. (OK) Wacey Schalla, Arapaho, Okla., 151
10. (AZ) Brady Turgeon, New River, Ariz., 80
10. (CA) Andy Guzman, Oakdale, Calif., 80
20. (LA) Trevor Hebert, Prairieville, La., 74
The 93rd Texas FFA State Convention was held July 5-9 at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Jr Rodeo was a partner of the Texas FFA Rodeo and had a strong presence at the convention was apparent, with many members in attendance. Cooper Lane, a member of Jr. Rodeo and the first endorsee of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, was invited to speak about the importance of rodeo to aspiring agricultural leaders.
“Rodeo has given me so many opportunities in my life,” said Lane. “…Rodeo is like a family to me, and a family to many of y’all too.”
Lane is already one of the best in youth rodeo at just 15 years old. Accolades earned include 2021 Jr. NFR Saddle Bronc Finalist, 2021 Senior Saddle Bronc Junior Patriot Champion and 2020 Junior World Finals Senior Saddle Bronc World Champion. He is also a two-time Little Britches Rodeo champion.
A collection of belt buckles accompanies success like Lane’s, and so do endorsements. He is the first athlete to be endorsed by the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, professional or otherwise.
Lane didn’t compete at the Texas FFA Convention, but many of his peers did, with the event having over 200 entries. A total of 52 contestants qualified for the 2022 Jr. NFR.
Champions include barrel racer Kuna Hudman (47.259 seconds on three runs); breakaway roper Madison Murray (8.53 seconds on three head); goat tyer Brooklyn Balch (20.21 seconds on three head); tie-down roper John Suehs (32.85 seconds on three head); steer wrestler Quinten Freeman (23.8 seconds on three head); team ropers Levi DeLuna and Gavin Walsh (36.54 on three head); bareback rider Brayze Schill (116 points on two rides); and bull rider Tucker Aaron (133 points on two rides).
Jr. Rodeo is providing Texas FFA Chapters an opportunity to have local events serve as qualifiers and introduce new program opportunities to chapters without any rodeo events.
The Texas FFA Association provides leadership and management for active, junior, and alumni FFA members. The state is divided into twelve administrative areas which operate as semi-autonomous associations.
These twelve areas are divided into districts. The number of districts per area ranges from four to seven and there are 66 total districts in the state.
“Ride high, shoot low.”
That’s what team roper Rustin Baldwin would always say.
But, at the 2021 Jr. NFR, Rustin wasn’t riding high in his saddle alongside his header.
Just over a month prior, 17-year-old Rustin was going to prom with friends and preparing for a summer of rodeo when he was involved in a car crash. Unfortunately, Rustin passed away.
The first thing any cowboy or cowgirl will say about rodeo is that it means family. Contestants endure early mornings, late nights, the highs and lows of competition, and even injuries, all side by side. They celebrate together, they lift each other up. The bonds formed in the arena truly last.
This is what makes it so hard to lose a cowboy, especially one who lived like Rustin.
“He was just a ball of joy,” Jacob Derrer, one of Rustin’s team roping partners, said.
As tragedy left heartbreak in its wake, members of Rustin’s rodeo family gathered at Jr. NFR in Fort Worth, Texas, to remember him in a place where he felt most at home – the arena.
Between performances, in a quiet practice arena, those who knew him best came together. The stagnant July air hung heavy in everyone’s lungs, symbolic of the weight of the loss. Friends held each other close, tears in their eyes and hats in hand.
Jessi Everett, a close friend of Rustin’s, led her peers in prayer.
“We thank you for Rustin, and for the love we got to share with him,” she prayed. “We ask that you be with the family, as we know how consumed they are with grief during this time. Please help us live our lives as freely as he did and be as obedient as your will asks.”
Though grieving, Rustin’s mom, Stephanie, said she still wants to talk about Rustin, and hear others share their memories, too. So many of those memories stem from time spent in rodeo.
Rodeo was embedded in Rustin’s heart and soul, and it showed when he roped.
“(Rodeo) was his life,” Stephanie said. “Rustin was one of those who was really talented, but he wanted everybody else to be as good as him.
“He just loved the sport so much.”
A goofy teenager remembered for being a jokester, Rustin made certain to put a smile on everyone’s face, whether it be his younger cousin, high school teacher or anyone else he met along the way.
“There was a teacher at school,” Stephanie said. “And he was always picking on her, and she would chase him through the hallways.
“And that was just him. He wanted to make everybody happy and feel good about themselves.”
When it came to competing, Rustin’s spunk and playfulness remained intact. He still carried the same smirk on his face, the one everyone came to know and love. Good run or bad, he was one to lift others up in the arena.
“He’s always make you laugh if you were sad,” Jacob said. “He would always cheer you up. He would always have a smile on his face.
“That was one thing about him, you would never see him with a frown on his face. It’s one reminder, if you come out of the arena and you miss or whatever – always remember, ‘Hey, life is short.’”
Had he been able to watch Bryce Derrer, Rustin’s voice would have been heard cheering throughout the arena. Bryce is Rustin’s team roping partner’s older brother, and a close family friend. He qualified for the short go at Jr. NFR, placing in the top six.
Bryce said being able to compete with Rustin in mind made the successful runs even more impactful.
“It’s the world (to compete for him),” said Bryce. “It sucks what happened, but he would be right out there cheering us on. And if it was him out there, I’d be doing the same.”
Throughout Jr. NFR and other rodeos, the Derrer brothers, Everett, and others don “Roping for Rustin” hat patches and black ribbons on their shirts. One of those wearing a patch at Jr. NFR was Hadley White, a 16-year-old team roper.
After a run that advanced White and his header, Colton Walters, to the Top 50, White was overcome with emotion as he recalled rodeo memories with Rustin.
One memory of Rustin remains poignant in Stephanie’s mind. During a rodeo, Rustin was taking some time to warm up his horse. As he looked over and waved to his family across the arena with a smile, his uncle snapped a photo. That photo has become a staple in representing Rustin’s time as a free-spirited cowboy.
After the accident, the Baldwin family wanted to remember Rustin and help other cowboys and cowgirls like him. So, they created the Rustin Baldwin Memorial Scholarship, which will provide a high school graduate interested in agriculture or rodeo with $5,000.
Those who want to remember Rustin and support the Rustin Baldwin Memorial Scholarship can purchase a t-shirt or a sticker at https://www.slashg.net/shop/34452452/rope-for-rustin.
Luggage tags, carried by Rustin’s friends and family, inspire with the words that always flowed from Rustin’s mouth: “Ride high, shoot low.”
Rustin is survived by his parents, Coby and Stephanie, and his siblings, Makylee and Garrett. Memories of his fun-loving spirit remain with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and entire rodeo community.
Rustin may not be riding high in his saddle, but he’s still riding high and inspiring others to live as he did.
Eleven Jr. World Champions were crowned at the conclusion of Jr. NFR Saturday, July 3 at the historic Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. Saturday’s performance was electric, as the opening two events provided the Jr. National Finals Rodeo’s co-champions.
The championship performance ended with bull riding, where every contestant fell to the dirt before hearing the eight-second buzzer. Every contestant except John Crimber. It came down to him, eight seconds and the last bull. The stars aligned for Crimber. He rode Cavender’s Cowboy Christmas for the top podium finish.
That ride earned Crimber 90.5 points, skyrocketing him to a $10,000 check before a raucous crowd.
Crimber’s fiends in bareback made fans hold their breath as well. Bradlee Miller and Gavin French both scored 79. Then, in what would have been the last run of the event, Kade Berry took a re-ride… twice. While most competitors might be on edge in such a situation, Miller and French both had a smile on their faces and were even cheering Berry on.
“We had a really great day today, and I got to split (the title) with a really good buddy of mine,” said Miller. “We got to share the glory, I gues you could say. And it was awesome.”
Miller and French have been riding together since they were young.
“It’s cool to come out on top together,” said Miller.
After Berry’s second re-ride, he scored a 72, making Miller and French co-champions.
Saddle bronc only named one champion, Garrett Cunningham, with 80 points. Cunningham was the last spot making it into the finals, and then claiming the world title his largest payday.
The most dominant athlete of the competition was barrel racer Devin Young, atop her horse Tequila. Young and Tequila won every round, taking home over $14,000 total. In the finals, a 13.57 took the prize. Her slowest run of the week was 13.67.
Young said she just put her trust in Tequila throughout the week and just kept pushing her horse hard.
Steer wrestling made for quite the show, with the last two runs being 3.74. Hawaiian Trisyn Kalawaia and Rhett Witt split the title upon the tie, a very uncommon occurrence in steer wrestling, especially for a Jr. NFR title.
“I have never seen that happen before,” Witt said to Kalawaia upon tying for the win.
Cowgirl Josie Conner became the Jr. NFR queen of breakaway, after running a 1.89 to qualify for the finals and a 2.11 Saturday. Taking home the title, Conner said the winnings will end up going into more rodeos in the future. She also expressed gratitude toward those who make it possible to compete—her family, her friends and her sponsors.
“They are a part of this commitment and I’m very thankful for them,” said Conner in her interview with Cowboy Channel shortly after the run that won it all.
Tie-down hot hand Riley Webb proved worthy of his exemption spot, taking the top prize on two runs. He, along with other champions of age, received their PRCA Permit certificates, meaning Webb will begin competing with ProRodeo contestants next month, upon his 18th birthday.
Just moments earlier, Lane Webb, with no relation to Riley, ran just 9 hundreths of a second slower, indicating just how much work these athletes put in to put themselves in the running.
Team ropers Chase Webster and Zachery Lewis, who started the day as the fourth seed, connected well and made it happen. Their run, 4.7, was a huge improvement on Friday’s 7.9 to take home the big check.
As the Jr. NFR came to a close, over 550 athletes packed up and prepared to travel home, whether that meant 15 minutes down the road or over 3,000 miles of flying. Almost all of them return with eligibility in the junior ranks, meaning some will likely come back next year to chase that final life-changing payday.
Friday’s semifinal performances in the historic Cowtown Coliseum proved that any athlete in the top 20 can break through into the Jr. National Finals Rodeo championship round. Underdogs and exemptions alike will come together Saturday to compete for $10,000 in added.
Barrel racing sensation Devin Young continued to prove that she is a force to reckon with in the arena. Scoring 13.61, she ended the day on top. She has yet to trail in the competition and looks to hold onto that trend one more time.
The barrel racing sixth finalist will be determined Saturday morning as there was a two-way split between Patton Ann Lynch and Rylee Hardin, who clocked 13.94. Due to Lynch’s exemption spot, a run-off is necessary.
Roughstock athletes came to ride today, and all three event leaders scored in the 80s as they head into the final day of the Jr. NFR.
John Crimber, son of bull rider Paulo Crimber, conquered his bull for an 86 to sit at the top of the standings for the final day.
“It feels really good,” Crimber said in an interview with Cowboy Channel after the ride. “That bull’s bucked me off three times, so that felt really good.”
In saddle bronc riding, multi-event cowboy Benny Proffitt took the top spot with an 81. Of the three events he competed in this week -- saddle bronc, steer wrestling and tie-down roping – Proffitt will return in saddle bronc for a shot at $10,000.
Kade Berry made waves in bareback riding, where he scored 80 points.
To get on in an added event like this with the added money, the crowd—it’s going wild, it’s loud, it’s action-packed,” said Berry. “That’s what bareback riders live for and the support we all show and give each other, that’s what fuels us to go.”
For the timed event cowboys, Friday meant putting it all on the line and taking chances to not just get a time, but to bring that time down.
For some, taking a chance paid off big.
Underdog tie-down roper Bryce Derrer walked into the eighth hole, with two exemptions in his field. One of which was Riley Webb, who has been hot since winning Texas High School State Finals. Fans will see Webb in the finals, sitting in second place, with a 8.69. Derrer came out on top today with an 8.63 second run.
Another athlete rising in the ranks headed into Saturday’s final is steer wrestler Rhett Witt. With a 3.12, Witt secures not only the top spot of the day, but of the week. Steer wrestlers came ready to work, with the first five times all falling under four seconds.
Team ropers Jace Thorstenson and Cashton Weidenbener improved their quick time from 7.31 to 6.21 to earn that coveted #1 placement into the finals. Final timed event runs will go in reverse order of rank, meaning Thorstenson and Weidenbener will be the last to back into the box.
In the shortest run of not only her event, but any event in the Coliseum, Josie Conner proved herself worthy of her exemption by running a sizzling 1.89 seconds.
Full results can be found at jrrodeo.org/jr-nfr.
The Jr. NFR will payout over $300,000 during the six-day world-championship event. The Jr. NFR is Jr. Rodeo’s premier event for contestants 19 years old and younger. Fans can watch the newest Jr. World Champions be crowned starting at 11 a.m. Central time by purchasing tickets at www.cowtowncoliseum.com or watching the Cowboy Channel.
After two full performances showcasing the best in youth rodeo, the Jr. NFR field has dwindled to 20 contestants per event. The coveted Jr. World Championship title will be awarded, including a $10,000 check.
Barrel racing continues bring the fans to their feet from the historic Cowtown Coliseum. Closing out the evening top-50 performance 11 of the 13 fastest times were run under 14 seconds. Devin Young of Rosanky, Texas, closed out the day with a 13.49, claiming her second round victory. Young had the fastest run in the first round with a 13.46.
The number of barrel racers has already been cut to a fifth of the size. Among those still alive in the competition is Tristan Bowles, who has only been competing barrels for about a year.
“This is my first ever year rodeoing,” said Bowles. “It’s mmind-blowing, I’ve never had an opportunity like this.”
She said it is exciting to be finding such success at a national rodeo, but something that makes it even better is competing on her mom’s mare, Allie. Her mom, Kylie Bowles, is her rodeo idol, and they run barrels together.
Currently sitting third in today’s performances, Bowles is looking to take home a check. With her winnings, she said she will save up to fulfill her dream of becoming a veterinarian who specializes in horses.
Fellow cowgirl Riley Arrington didn’t have as much luck in her breakaway run today, catching the front leg of her calf, resulting in a no time. But she isn’t letting it discourage her. In fact, making the top 50 was a confidence booster for Arrington as she goes into the Texas FFA Convention and Rodeo next week.
“(Jr. NFR) is great and I wish there was more things like it,” said Arrington. “Where people were dedicated to it and aired it more on the Cowboy Channel like (Jr. NFR) did.”
Among the leaders in breakaway are two cowgirls to sneak under the two-second mark; Addie Weil with 1.89 and KC Gail Churchill with 1.99.
Thursday also welcomed 24 steer wrestlers back into the arena as they looked to bulldog their way to the big bucks. Tayelen Seabrook found a way, becoming one of 15 athletes to earn two clean runs.
“It’s a great experience,” said Seabrook. “It’s my first time here. I really like it and this is a big opportunity here, and I really enjoy it.”
Seabrook’s family, including four nieces, traveled 20 hours in the car from Florida. He said their support means the world to him, and having them here would make winning some prize money even more valuable.
Joining him in the top 20 Friday is Cayden Harmon of Stephenville, Texas, who clocked a 10.94 total to earn his sixth-place spot.
“I definitely think this is a good opportunity, with 28 guys and we’re gonna have the chance to win $10,00. This is our chance,” said Harmon. “It is a great prize, and very few rodeos have that.”
Tie-down athlete Cole Clemons leads the event after both of Thursday’s performance, but he’ll have company at the top. Starting tomorrow, exemptions enter the competition. Contestants who won last year’s Jr. NFR, National High School Finals, National Little Britches, Junior World Finals, International Youth Finals Rodeo earned an exemption spot, meaning they automatically advance to the semifinals. One of the most notable youth contestants joining the field is Riley Webb, in tie-down.
The fifth timed event of the day was team roping, where Jayse Tettenhorst and Denton Dunning shined. They are one of the few teams where they rope on both ends of the team.
Clocking two times combination, Tettenhorst and Dunning’s times are good for first and sixth, 12.68 and 19.44, respectively.
All three roughstock events saw a second round today, and a lot of the same names secured a leaderboard position.
Bradlee Miller and Wayce Schalla return for both bareback riding and bull riding tomorrow, with the potential to take home $20,000. In bareback, they sit behind Kade Berry, and John Crimber leads the bull riding.
Another bull rider to watch is Travis Wimberley, the 17-year-old out of New Mexico. Wimberley conquered his bulls both Wednesday and Thursday. Having been in rodeo for over a decade, Wimberley attests to how much of a family roughstock is.
“The rodeo family is the best family ever. Everyone’s there cheering me on, and I hope they do the best too,” said Wimberley. “It’s man against animal, not man against man.”
In saddle bronc, Mason Stuller is making a name for himself in the Jr. Rodeo world. His combined score is 157, good enough to sit at the top of the heap for another day.
To see which competitors return to Cowtown Coliseum tomorrow for the semifinals, as well as which exempted athletes will join them, visit jrrodeo.org/jr-nfr.All semifinal and final performances will be available live on Cowboy Channel, as well as available via the Cowboy Channel+ ap
By Ally Gallagher
With another full day of rodeo, Jr. NFR cowboys and cowgirls vied for their spots in Thursday’s top 50. Among the events with top 50 qualifiers during the day session are barrels and tie-down.
In barrels, Devin Young and Spring Pennington still lead the pack. Charlie Sohrt, who is seven years old, also joined them in the 27-second club, sitting in third.
After two runs, here’s how the leaderboard stacks up
Also competing Wednesday morning were the second half of team ropers and the first go-round of steer wrestlers, which included all entered contestants.Also competing Wednesday morning were the second half of team ropers and the first go-round of steer wrestlers, which included all entered contestants.
With all team roping duos having one of two attempts complete, Tristan Sullivan and Will Farris are the ones to watch.
All steer wrestlers had their first-go Wednesday, and are guaranteed one more tomorrow. The top five times thus far all fall under five seconds.
Many cowboys and cowgirls compete in multiple events, but rarely do they compete in multiple per day at a rodeo like Jr. NFR. Benny Proffitt is the only contestant entered in three events this week. He competed in all three today. He started with tie-down roping and steer wrestling in the morning, and then finished up with a scoring run in saddle bronc riding.Many cowboys and cowgirls compete in multiple events, but rarely do they compete in multiple per day at a rodeo like Jr. NFR. Benny Proffitt is the only contestant entered in three events this week. He competed in all three today. He started with tie-down roping and steer wrestling in the morning, and then finished up with a scoring run in saddle bronc riding.
Even though steer wrestling didn’t go his way, Proffitt will still compete in both steer wrestling and saddle bronc Thursday, as he looks for a spot in Friday’s top 20.
“I’m just really thankful for the opportunity with the Jr. Rodeo,” said Proffitt. “Coming out for kids and stuff, trying to get us prepared for when we get older.”
Proffitt, only 16, said he looks to get his PRCA permit upon eligibility.
Wednesday evening’s roughstock ride earned Proffitt a 66, good for eight in the first-go. He said his horse performed alright, but he looks to improve his form next run.
Leading the evening’s saddle bronc performance was Cooper Lane, with a 78.5 to edge out Mason Stuller’s 78.
In bareback riding, Kade Berry swiped the lead from Bradlee Miller and Brayze Schill with his 79.5.
For bull riding, Wayce Schalla still holds onto his Tuesday night’s lead with an 81. But, Riley Calvert took a stab at the lead with an 80, landing himself in second at the end of the evening.
Full results can be found at jrrodeo.org/jr-nfr. Throughout the week, updates on draws and results will be posted at the top of the stairs above the bucking chutes, on the American flag side of the Coliseum.
After the first night of roughstock, Wacey Schalla leads the bareback field. Photo: Texas Vision Photography
Tuesday night brought much more than rodeo to Cowtown Coliseum and the Jr. NFR. Whether fans were cheering for their athletes or walking in off the Stockyard streets, there was something for everyone. They were all there to watch bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding.
A little girl in a purple Willie Nelson t-shirt danced and giggled between runs. Roughstock competitors cheered each other on, embracing friends after they completed an eight-second ride. A mother wiped away a tear of joy after her son cleared his first run.
Rodeo is said to be one big family, and that surely showed in the arena Tuesday evening.
In bull riding, half of the athletes competed in their first of two go-rounds. After night one, Wacey Schalla of Oklahoma scored 81 points to take the lead. Following closely behind were Ty Parnell and Bradlee Miller, with 77 and 75.5, respectively.
Schalla stunned the crowd as a rookie competitor who was too young to ride last year. He is battling bulls, and winning, at 15 years old.
Miller, third in bulls, had a quick turnaround for his third-place score in bulls. Nearly 20 minutes prior, he was putting up a leading ride in bareback riding. During that run, Mighty Mouse fought back hard, but Miller held on for a 76, tying him with Brayze Schill, on After Show.
Sitting in third after the evening is Jacoby Campbell, who conquered Gangster for a 72. This was a special run for him, after returning from a broken jaw, which caused him to lose over 50 pounds and a year of competing. Campbell was on the chutes in 2020 cheering on his riding partners.
As for Miller, he is looking to make this week a memorable one after falling just short of the title last year.
“At last year’s Jr. NFR, I placed third in the bareback riding and it went pretty good but I didn’t have quite the year I wanted,” said Miller. “I rode both of my bulls in the rounds to qualify for the short round, but there weren’t quite as many points as I needed there to be.”
The third event of the night was saddle bronc riding, where hometown hero Cooper Lane started off right, with a half-point lead on Mason Stuller. Lane is the first athlete to be endorsed by the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, professional or otherwise.
And it’s no surprise, either. Lane is making waves in the rodeo world at just 15 years old. He is the 2020 Saddle Bronc Steer Riding champion at the Little Britches Rodeo Association finals rodeo, and the 2020 Junior World Finals Senior Saddle Bronc Champion.
Now, he’s chasing that shiny Jr. NFR Montana Silversmiths belt buckle and $10,000 in added money.
Cooper Lane scored 78.5 in his first saddle bronc run. Photo: Texas Vision Photography
“(Being here at Jr. NFR) is awesome," said Lane. "I didn’t ride broncs until I was in sixth grade, because they didn’t have broncs to get on really when you’re young. So it’s awesome having the ponies now for kids to get on.”
With athletes like Miller and Lane, the quality of competition was evident. Miller said he is grateful for the opportunity to compete at Jr. NFR, and even pushed off applying for his PRCA permit for a shot at the $10,000 bonus.
“It is awesome how the PRCA and Jr. Rodeo has put together these awesome events in these great coliseums and venues,” said Miller. “It allows us to get to go see the world and to compete in the same stadiums and places that we will be in the next few years to come.
“The Jr. Rodeo and the Jr. NFR has really stepped up and added so much money, which makes it awesome because we’re getting to save that for when we are 18. And when we are allowed to compete in the PRCA, we’ll be able to go and rodeo hard.”
Tonight’s action only included half of the rough stock athletes, and just the first of a two-ride average, so there’s plenty of action left to experience. The other contestants will ride at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and every athlete will ride again Thursday.
With only eight-second rides, fans won’t want to miss a thing. Download the Cowboy Channel+ app if you can’t join us in Fort Worth, or pick up tickets in the box office before the show.
It is a jam-packed day of rodeo here at the Cowtown Coliseum, with seven of eight events of the 2021 Jr. NFR competing in at least half of their fields today. The Jr. NFR is a tournament-style rodeo with contestants competing for the coveted Jr. NFR world champion title and a share of over $300,000 in payout. The Jr. NFR will conclude on Saturday, July 3 with champions earning at least $10,000 each.
In the day rounds, fans watched breakaway, tie-down roping team roping, and barrel racing.
The second half of breakaway contestants competed in their first go, establishing the top 50 class. The leader from Monday’s half, KC Gail Churchill, held onto her lead spot by sticking to her gut.
“Just figure out what you’re gonna see and don’t think, just act. Hopefully it works,” said Churchill. “Hopefully I can finish on top of this one and keep on roping and keep winning some money.”
Churchill takes home $1,205.54 for today’s long-go victory.
The qualifying 50 contestants will compete Thursday at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. Here’s the top 10 going into semi-finals:
The final qualifying slot goes to Sammi Hubert with a 12.46.
After breakaway roping, the young men took to the arena for tie-down roping. A clear leader of the round was distinguished. Whit Gutierrez of Brackettville, Texas, led the morning with an 8.17, almost two-seconds ahead faster than Blake Tatham who stopped the clock at 10.11 seconds. He said he just takes it as it comes and tries not to think too much.
“I don’t really tell myself anything (right before a run),” said Gutierrez. “I just focus on seeing my start and getting out there, roping the calf and finishing it up there on the ground.”
The second half of tie-down ropers will run 7 a.m. Wednesday and look for a top 50 mark to advance.
Team ropers made their way to the arena to start the afternoon, hoping for a pair of catches to put them on the board. Eleven teams found what they were looking for, but half the teams will run tomorrow morning. Every team will have another opportunity, regardless of the first go, thanks to a two-head average.
After Tuesday’s runs, Louisiana and Mississippi cowboys, Luke Dubois and Corey Reid, respectively, lead the pack.
The final event of the daytime schedule was barrel racing, where half of the field earned their second marks, fulfilling the two-head aggregate.
For some, this ride was a “redemption ride” of sorts, if they tipped a barrel in Monday’s run. Among those who came back for a clean run was Jalee Wilcox, who took a non-qualifying run and turned it into a top 10 combined score. Her 33.66 aggregate is good for seventh place heading into Thursday.
Two athletes sit in a strong lead on their half of the second go, with nearly five seconds on the rest of the field. Those girls are Devin Young, the first-go leader, and Canyon Pennington. Young leads with a 27.10 total, and Pennington trails by just half of a second.
Young’s first-round win is good for over $1,200.
The remaining runs will begin 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, which will determine who proceeds to Thursday’s competition.
Tuesday evening’s performance kicks off the rough stock events, with two sections of bull riding and one section of both bareback and saddle bronc.
The 2021 Jr. NFR kicked off Monday, June 28 with a full round of barrel racing in the morning, followed by half of the breakaway field in the afternoon. The age cutoff might be 19 years old, but there was no shortage of talent in the arena.
Devin Young, 14, is one to watch in barrels. She took an early lead Monday morning, clocking 13.62. Young and her horse, Tequila, hail from Rosanky, Texas.
“(Tequila) had a really tight first. So I just figured, I’ll just push him to the rest,” said Young. “He had a good second; his third was very tight. Then I just pushed him as hard as I could home.”
Going into the second go-round, Young is putting her trust in Tequila to bring it home again.
“I know Tequila’s going to run hard. So I just want to keep him up.”
The top 50 is still far from set, though. Each barrel racing contestant will have another shot, thanks to a two-head average. The field will be split, with half running Tuesday and Wednesday, both at 2 p.m. From there, the top 50 will advance to Thursday competition.
After the first go-round, here’s the top five:
1. Devin Young, 13.62
2. Makenzie Mayes, 13.82
3. Katherine Harris, 13.86
4. Charlie Sohrt, 13.88
5. Canyon Pennington, 13.93
Talia Jaeger, of Loomis, California, also had a promising run, sitting in 36th with a 14.50. She said her first run felt strong, and looks to make adjustments to secure that top 50 spot.
“It felt really good, but I’m just gonna have to ride her hard because I know she’ll be a little bit shorter,” said Jaeger.
Sheridan Shumpert rounds out the top 50 with a 14.68. The full results list can be found here.
Taking the Monday afternoon time slot was the first half of breakaway roping. As the largest field at Jr. NFR, with 125 entries, breakaway is split into two rounds, competing Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. With only one go-round before cutting down to the top 50, the stakes are high in the arena. To find out if they advance to Thursday’s top 50, Monday’s breakaway ropers will have to wait for Tuesday’s field to finish competition.
Of the 59 runs Monday night, 29 had marks, with 21 of them being clean. Results from those runs can be found here.
Bailey Mudd may not be top 10 right now, but she is sitting comfortably with a 2.76, putting her in 12th place. She said breakaway isn’t much thinking when the chute opens, because it’s such a short run.
“Breakaway roping is a lot of muscle memory,” said Mudd. “A lot can happen in under three seconds, not necessarily giving you much room for thinking. With the hours put in the practice pen, you just have to let loose and do what you know!”
Consistency is key when it comes to muscle memory, making it Mudd’s goal to stay consistent this season.
“This year at the Jr. NFR, in order to advance you have to be consistent and making great runs,” said Mudd. “My goal is to be able to take the title home this year and build off this momentum the rest of my season.”
If Mudd can stay consistent like she plans, she’ll have a chance to take home the prize.
Follow along tomorrow to see the second half of breakaway and more by purchasing tickets or downloading the Cowboy Channel+ app.
"Rad" Rori races around barrels in her glitzy rodeo-day garb. Photo: Ann-Marie Fenner
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Michael “Air” Jordan. Simone “The G.O.A.T.” Biles. In sports, greatness is often accompanied by a nickname, no matter what age.
Rori Fenner might not be as famous as Biles, but her nickname still precedes her. Once she enters the arena, she is “Rad Rori.”
Though she can’t show off any national or world titles—at least not yet—Rad Rori is a standout in her field. At just six years old, Rori was no longer allowed to run in the Peewee class in her area, so she began competing in open events.
Three years later, Rori has qualified for three consecutive Junior World Finals in barrel racing. Now, she is ready to take on Jr. NFR as one of the youngest competitors in the field. And she’s ready to do so in style.
Rori’s mom, Ann-Marie, makes all of Rori’s rodeo-day outfits to make sure her daughter catches eyes in and out of the arena.
“People notice Rori when we go places, in and out of the arena,” said Ann-Marie, commenting on the elaborate rodeo-wear she creates for her daughter.
Rori isn’t the only one with special competition day attire. Mr. Star Bogie, Rori’s horse, gets some sparkle too.
“I have to have glitter on my horse,” said Rori.
Getting ready for the rodeo might be fun and games, but once it’s competition time, Rad Rori and her family are dialed in. Ann-Marie said everyone has their designated posts. Rori’s dad, Chad, stays with Rori through warmups, talking her through her run over and over again. Ann-Marie waits in the stands, where she’ll soon be cheering loudly for her daughter.
“(Chad) is way more stoic and calm. And then I am the one that is videoing and just screaming at them, basically.
“I always tell the girls, ‘if you want me to stop yelling at you, tell me,’” said Ann-Marie.
But they never do. And so, their biggest cheerleader is always heard.
When the timer starts and her mom’s voice echoes through the arena, Rori is transformed into a speed demon.
“The faster she goes, the bigger the smile on her face,” said Ann-Marie. “She doesn’t care, she just wants to go fast.
“She’s just so fierce; she has been fearless since day one.”
That fearlessness caught the eye of an announcer at a rodeo in California about three years ago, and her nickname echoed through an arena for the first time. “Rad Rori” he called her. And it stuck.
The Fenners logged over 50,000 miles across 16 states last year to take Rori and her siblings — an older sister, 11; a younger brother, 7; and a younger sister, 3 — to rodeos. It has become a lifestyle, rather than an extracurricular.
Whether it’s a local rodeo or a national one, Ann-Marie said Rori always rises to the occasion
“It’s super cool to watch her go out there and just be wicked,” said Ann-Marie. “The bigger the stakes, the bigger the race, the more that’s on the line, the more she steps up. She doesn’t crumble under the pressure, it excites her.
To prepare for that pressure, her family sometimes watches videos about professional athletes — like the Michael “Air” Jordan’s of the world.
“Top athletes, when we watch things about them, they get in the zone and nothing else matters,” said Ann Marie. “And when the pressure is on, they rise to that pressure. And that’s absolutely what Rori does.”
With a mindset like that, it’s no wonder the nickname “Rad Rori” stuck.
This year’s Jr. NFR will see representation from so many ages, places and backgrounds. In recognition of the growth of the sport and the diversity of this year’s athletes, here are some quick facts about this year’s class of Jr. NFR youth:
Just nine of these talented contestants will take home the coveted title of 2021 Jr. NFR Champion, along with a Carroll Leathers champion’s jacket and Montana Silversmiths belt buckle.
Don’t miss out on seeing this field of contestants. Every run will be streamed and available on-demand with the PRCA on Cowboy Channel+ app, which starts at $9.99/month for coverage on everything Jr. NFR and PRCA.
By Neal Reid
Backing into the box at a big-time event like the Jr. National Finals Rodeo can be a daunting task, but for a handful of this year’s team ropers, they will be able to rely on a family member to help calm their nerves.
Whether it’s a brother, sister or cousin, several teams heading to the Cowtown Coliseum June 28 through July 3 will be family partnerships, further exemplifying rodeo’s legacy as the ultimate family sport. Familiarity, insider knowledge of their partners’ strengths and tendencies, as well as hundreds of past practice runs should help the tight-knit teams excel in Fort Worth.
Florida’s Cole Clemons will be heading for his 16-year-old brother, Owen, and is excited about showcasing their skills at the event, as the teenagers have spent countless hours roping together.
“We know what each other is going to do,” said Cole, 17, who also qualified for the Jr. NFR as a heeler with partner Lacy Nail. “We rope together every day, so it’s easier to read the situations and tell what’s going to happen before it happens. We can talk to each other before and get a game plan, because we know each other well enough to get a game plan before our run.”
Rodeo was a natural thing for the Clemons brothers, whose great-grandfather and great uncle competed in the sport. Their father, Sam, is friends with Jason Hanchey – the brother of 2013 PRCA World Champion Tie-Down Roper Shane Hanchey – and the boys grew up learning to rope and ride.
“When you have a guy, who loves rodeo so much, their kids are born into it like us,” said Cole, who wants to rodeo at Weatherford (Texas) College after high school. “It’s all we know, and we don’t do anything else. It’s born into you, and it’s what you grew up doing.
“I really like rodeo, because there’s a lot of great people who rodeo and you get to meet a lot of people. It’s different than, like, baseball because it takes up all your time and you have to really love it.”
Texas cousins Cayden and Cort McFadden know all about loving rodeo, having grown up immersed in the sport as well. Cort’s father, Corey, is a retired pro bull rider, and the cousins have worked hard to evolve into a top-flight roping tandem.
“It’s a blast,” Cayden, 16, said of heading for the 17-year-old Cort. “It’s cool getting to rope with your cousin, and he catches quite often. When he misses, he’s part of the family, so he can’t cut me.”
Cort, who qualified for the high school national finals in bull riding this year, knows how special it is to compete with his cousin as they try to add to their family’s legacy in the sport.
“I’ve never made it to the Jr. NFR, so I was excited to make it with him,” Cort said. “I think rodeo has a lot to do with family, and your support system around you is a very big factor. I think that’s something that rodeo has that really makes it special. Having family generations behind you that have done it forever really helps you.”
Lane and Dax Reed of Clint, Texas, are another set of brothers itching to test their skills against the country’s best at the Jr. NFR. Their parents, Judi, and Kevin, competed in rodeo, and they followed along in the sport that has consumed their lives.
“It’s a lot more special than qualifying with anyone else,” Dax, 15, said of making the Jr. NFR with his 17-year-old brother. “I imagine it’s going to be pretty tough. It’s going to be pretty nerve-racking, but I think we’ll be ready for it.”
Dax said the trust level between the brothers is a big factor influencing their success and feels his elder sibling routinely sets him up to excel.
“He always takes the right shot and makes sure I’ve got a good throw at them,” said Dax, who wants to compete in college and ProRodeo in the future. “We’ve roped with each other all our lives, and in the team roping, you’ve got to trust your partner a lot.”
Baylee and Blaine Burleson make up a sister-brother tandem that could be in the mix when the dust settles at the Cowtown Coliseum. Their parents, Heather, and Scott, rodeoed, and their grandfather, Randy Burleson, is in the South Central Texas Rodeo Ring of Honor, so the sport was entrenched in their lives from the start.
For 18-year-old Baylee, roping is a somewhat new endeavor she picked up as a cure for pandemic boredom last year, and she’s had plenty of help getting acclimated to team roping.
“I finally gave up and caved in during lockdown from COVID last year,” said Baylee, who also qualified for the Jr. NFR in barrel racing and breakaway roping. “The boredom hit, and I finally gave in. My dad helps both of us, and we’ve learned to compromise on a lot of things.
“Blaine is very patient with me, because sometimes it’s not always the best. He helps me and gives me pointers and is really helpful.”
For the Burlesons, competing in rodeo means endless shared experiences for the family.
“I really think the best thing is the time you spend together,” said Baylee, who plans to rodeo at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. “Yes, they drive you crazy when you’re cooped up together, but getting to go to rodeos and practice together and all the awesome people you meet is what makes it special.”
By Ally Gallagher
The 2021 Jr. NFR has attracted some of the best contract personnel in the rodeo game and features some of the rising performers as well. The Jr. NFR will also show off the talent of the next generation with contract personnel working alongside their PRCA counterparts over the six-day event at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.
Garrison Panzer: Production Manager and Music
Garrison Panzer was born into rodeo. He went to his first rodeo at just three months old, and grew up competing, announcing, and helping his dad and grandad judge. Now, Panzer also aids in music and production designed to take rodeos to the next level.
“Being able to show up to play music and be a part of this event to help make a memory for these kids is just a small way of feeding the roots of where I got my start,” Panzer said.
Kory Keeth: Rodeo Announcer
From an early age, Kory Keeth knew he wanted to be a rodeo announcer. He got his start at 19 years old, when he began announcing at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M University. Now, Keeth announces for a wide array of PRCA events, including RFDTV’s The American, Las Vegas Days Rodeo, Ellensburg Rodeo, Catfish Stampede, Jr. NFR and more.
This year at Jr. NFR, Keeth said he is excited to share his trade with youth rodeo announcer, Creek Williams. He said getting involved in youth rodeo excites him because it helps grow the sport he loves.
“We need more than just youth riders, but personnel too,” said Keeth. “You look at most of us announcers, and we’re getting older.”
As he prepares to both announce and mentor a new voice in rodeo, Keeth recalls the advice that was given to him when he began his career. He said he’ll remind himself and Williams to “say what you see” and know the contestants.
Greg Simas: Rodeo Announcer
Greg Simas has been announcing for 20 years now and has established quite the resume. Simas announced at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) back number ceremony and welcome reception and hosted the 2014 PRCA Hall of Fame induction ceremony, among other accolades.
Back in 2013, Keeth, a young and aspiring rodeo announcer at the time, sat next to Simas at an Oklahoma rodeo. Simas mentored him back then, and now the duo will have the chance to announce alongside each other while mentoring the next generation of announcers.
His advice for Williams and other aspiring announcers is simple: just be yourself.
“Don’t change who you are when you have a microphone in your hand. The crowd can sense when you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes,” said Simas. “Don’t change your voice, don’t change who you are, don’t change your tactics.”
Though most of his experience is in professional rodeo, Simas said he likes youth rodeo because of the quality of competition continues to increase.
“The work ethic that these kids have, you didn’t see that 20 years ago,” said Simas. “The absolute progression of youth rodeo has just gone through the roof.
Creek Williams: Youth Announcer
Though Creek Williams may not have the experience of his two partners, he is just as revved up for Jr. NFR. At 15 years old, Williams will be announcing alongside veterans Keeth and Simas.
“(I’m most excited to) just gain experience on a big stage,” said Williams.
Williams also partakes in team roping but will be sticking to the announcer’s stand for Jr. NFR this year.
Madison Schalla, Shyla Navarre and Layna Navarre: Trick Riders
Madison, Shyla and Layna will be the 2021 Jr. NFR trick riders. The trio will perform at the top 20 performance rounds and the finals, taking place July 1-3.
Shyla and Layna, known as the Flying Arena Stars in the arena, are the third generation of their family to trick ride. Shyla and her mother also performed at NFR in 2013 and are the only mother/daughter team to do so.
This will be Shyla, Layna and Madison’s first times performing at Jr. NFR.
Brenda Crowder: Rodeo Secretary
The Crowder family is a third-generation rodeo family. Brenda Crowder was born to be a part of the sport. All that time spent at the arena certainly paid off, as Crowder was named 2019 PRCA Secretary of the Year and 2020 Timer of the Year. In 2020, she was also named a finalist for Secretary of the Year.
The saying, “Rodeo is one great big family,” is quite literal for Crowder, as she isn’t the only one in her family who will be joining us at the Jr. NFR. Her daughter Shawna Ray will be timing, as will her sister Judy Crowder Jackson.
“We get to travel all over the country working rodeos together,” said Crowder. “This is the best life that I can imagine living! We have so much fun together and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.”
Shawna Ray: Timer
Rodeo is in Shawna Ray’s blood. Crowder is her mom, so she grew up around all things rodeo. Now, she works as a timer, and is one of the best. Every year that the PRCA has named a Timer of the Year, Ray has been selected as a top five finalist. She was named PRCA Timer of the Year in 2019, the same year her mom was named PRCA Secretary of the Year.
Judy Jackson: Timer
Judy Crowder Jackson, Brenda’s sister and Shawna’s aunt, is the third member of the Crowder family trio. Jackson has been timing PRCA and Jr. Rodeo events for over 25 years, and was selected to time in the Texas Circuit Finals in 2020. She said she is looking forward to seeing the best in youth rodeo become champions at the Jr. NFR this year.
“It’s always such a joy to watch the youth of junior rodeos become future champions,” said Jackson.
Delia Walls: Timer
Delia Walls, of Stephenville, TX, has been a rodeo secretary for nearly 50 years, as well as a timer.
Walls was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, which was founded by PRCA bull rider Johnny Boren, and became a PRCA Gold Card member in 1998.
This will be her first Jr. NFR.
Josh Edwards: Pick-up Man
Josh Edwards is not only a pick-up man, and one of the best, but also serves as the contract personnel representative on the PRCA Board of Directors. In 2018 and 2020, he was named finalist for PRCA Pickup Man of the Year, among many other accolades.
Though this is one of Edwards’ first times working as a pick-up man in youth, rather than professional, rodeo, he said he is excited to see what these young competitors can do.
“(The Jr. Rodeo) division is the foundation, that’s where it all starts,” said Edwards. “Without a solid foundation, and without us cultivating young athletes to bring up to the professional level, we don’t have a sport.”
Jeremy Willis: Pick-up Man
Jeremy Willis, of Elkhart, Texas, is a professional bareback rider turned pick-up man. In his years in the arena, Willis has become one of the most trusted pick-up men in the sport, and was a 2015 PRCA Pickup Man of the Year finalist.
Willis and Edwards have worked together before, including at the Nacogdoches Pro Rodeo & Steer Show.
Coming into Jr. NFR, Willis is eager to provide a regulated and safe environment to learn in. He said the PRCA’s involvement is a huge advantage of the event.
“I love my sport and my event. I’ve always done my best to volunteer and help the next generation get a start,” said Willis. “I feel like by giving my time back to the youth I can help them learn in a safer environment than has traditionally been available for rodeo schools and clinics.”
The PRCA judges for the 2021 Jr. NFR are Bobby Flores, Jay Shaw and Royd Doyal.
By Neal Reid
There will be several last names on this year’s Jr. National Finals Rodeo contestant list that die-hard rodeo fans will recognize June 28-July 3 at the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.
A number of the country’s top junior cowboys and cowgirls are carrying on their family’s legacies and will be ones to watch when the $328,000 rodeo begins in the Lone Star State. Virtually every event is represented by talented juniors who are working hard to make a name for themselves while adding to the achievements of family members who have come before them.
In the bull riding, John Crimber – the son of 2004 National Finals Rodeo bull riding average champion Paulo Crimber – will be looking to add some accolades to the family résumé. The 15-year-old from Decatur, Texas, is following in some large footsteps.
The younger Crimber grew up watching his father compete at the highest levels. John Crimber already has several career highlights, from setting the Jr. NFR arena record of 91.5 points in 2019 to qualifying for the Texas high school state finals and winning several junior titles along the way.
He is excited to return to the Jr. NFR for another shot at a championship.
“It’s going to be a good summer,” said John Crimber, who plans on competing in the PRCA he turns 18 in a few years. “There’s a lot of good kids who go there, and it’s a drawing contest. Whoever gets the better bulls is going to get the better score.”
Crimber has looked up to his father for years, studying footage of his rides to learn some tips he can use in his own riding.
“I watched my dad ride, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” John Crimber said. “(He taught me) to just stay focused and keep looking forward and not let a buck-off mess with your head. The way he could stay square, keep his chin down and not get off his rope is what I noticed most.
“I try to do my best to make our name proud because he was a good bull rider.”
For Jr. NFR breakaway roper Harley Meged, her family may not have the deepest roots in rodeo, but her older brother, Haven, won the 2019 tie-down roping world title and she has begun to turn heads in the arena as well. The 17-year-old cowgirl from Miles City, Montana, honed her skills roping with her brother daily after their parents and family friends, PRCA ropers Brett and Derick Fleming, helped get them started in roping. Now she is making waves on the back of a horse.
“Haven and I share a very special bond when it comes to the arena,” said Harley, who plans to rodeo at Weatherford (Texas) College this fall. “Ever since we were little, we were either riding calves or walking around with ropes in our hands. He made me love the sport, and for the 18 years he lived at the house, we roped every single day.
“He taught me how to win, what it was like to win and what it took to win.”
She will never forget watching her big brother win a gold buckle in Las Vegas in 2019.
“I’m not going to lie, I cried,” said Harley, who turns 18 in July. “It was the best thing in the world to see your hero accomplish something so big. It was breathtaking, and that’s all we’d wanted. It was a time of happiness, and it was so awesome to see all his hard work pay off.”
Now, she’ll have a chance to win a Jr. NFR title, and Harley is excited about the opportunity.
“It’s just so awesome that people put events like this out there for us kids, and going to a big show like that makes all the difference in the world,” she said. “It’s a whole new experience that puts you out there in the reality of rodeo and away from all the junior high and high school events that have built you. It’s a big deal, and the word junior out front doesn’t mean anything. It’s your next step to the NFR.
“It’s the next level, and it’s an awesome thing.”
Rainey Skelton – who has qualified for the Jr. NFR in both barrel racing and breakaway roping – has a world-famous father in the form of eight-time World Champion Team Roper and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Rich Skelton, and she is doing him and her mother, Rhonda, proud.
Ranked in the top 10 in the WPRA Junior program standings through mid-June, the 17-year-old Skelton grew up immersed in rodeo and surrounded by plenty of people willing to help her along the way.
“There’s not much to not love about the sport,” said Rainey, of Llano, Texas. “It’s a family atmosphere, everybody tries to help everyone else, and I’ve never seen very many people who are just mean or anything like that.
“At a high school rodeo, my calf horse got crippled one morning, and three or four people came up and offered me their calf horse. That’s just how this rodeo world works. I love it, and I can’t ask for a better life and better support system than I have with my rodeo family.”
And there’s no doubt the rodeo family is proud of all the talented Jr. NFR contestants as they continue to grow and succeed in the sport they all love so dearly.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Cowboy Channel and Jr. Rodeo are excited to announce that the 2021 Jr. National Finals Rodeo will carry all action from the first barrel run on June 28 until the last ride on Saturday, July 3 via the PRCA on Cowboy Channel+ app. In addition, the Jr. NFR semifinals and finals will be telecast on Cowboy Channel, which will bring fans all of the action across your favorite viewing screen.
Fans can live stream events via the PRCA on Cowboy Channel+ app or watch the live Cowboy Channel telecast, depending on the round. Semifinals and finals will be available on both platforms, while all other rounds will be available live and on-demand via the app.
The Jr. NFR is being held at the historic Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 28-July 3. The Jr. NFR features the best-of-the-best contestants in all of youth rodeo in a tournament-style rodeo competition. More than 500 contestants will compete for a Jr. World Championship in the core rodeo events. The Jr. NFR gives fans an opportunity to see the next generation of ProRodeo contestants.
The finals will run in a made-for-television format to provide fans with the best viewing experience. Upon the conclusion of the finals, the 2021 World Champions will be crowned.
A subscription to the PRCA on Cowboy Channel+ app is required. Fans can download the app by visiting www.cowboychannelplus.com or visiting your device’s app store. New subscribers can sign up for the $99 special right now, which gives subscribers The 100 days of rodeo, Jr. NFR and the Wrangler NFR in December.
How to watch the Jr. NFR:
Monday, June 28 - Thursday, July 1:
Stream all-day coverage via the PRCA on Cowboy Channel+ app and CowboyChannelPlus.com
Available on Android, Apple, Roku and Fire TV
Live and on-demand viewing ($)
Friday, July 2 - Saturday, July 3:
Watch all-day coverage on the Cowboy Channel
Click here to find your provider and corresponding channel OR
Stream via the Cowboy Channel+ app for live on on-demand viewing
About Jr. Rodeo:
Jr. Rodeo, the PRCA’s official youth program, launched in 2019. In 2020, there were more than 70 sanctioned events with more than 1,200 contestants earning a slot at the 2021 Jr. NFR. Jr. Rodeo provides contestants the opportunity to compete in the core rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping. To join or to host a Jr. Rodeo-sanctioned event, please visit www.jrrodeo.org or call 719-528-4723.
About Rural Media Group, Inc. (RMG):
Rural Media Group, Inc. is the world’s leading provider of multimedia content dedicated to the rural and Western lifestyle. With a mission of reconnecting “city with country,” RMG is the parent company of RFD-TV, The Cowboy Channel, RURAL RADIO Channel 147 on SiriusXM radio, and RFD-TV The Magazine. RMG networks are distributed to more than 100 million homes worldwide by DBS, telco and cable systems including DISH, DIRECTV®, AT&T U-Verse, Mediacom, Charter Spectrum, Suddenlink, Cox, and more than 600 independent rural cable systems. Corporate headquarters and broadcast operations for RFD-TV are in Nashville, Tennessee. Corporate headquarters and broadcast operations for The Cowboy Channel are in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
By Ally Gallagher
Basin Junior Rodeo, based in northeastern Utah, has joined Jr. Rodeo with a new series of six more 2022 Jr. NFR qualifiers throughout the rest of the year. All Jr. Rodeo members have an opportunity to compete and qualify throughout the summer, with the last events set for Labor Day weekend in Neola, Utah.
Here is the schedule:
10 a.m. June 19 @ Duchesne, UT
10 a.m. July 2 @ Neola, UT
8 a.m. July 10 @ Vernal, UT (Dinosaur Roundup)
10 a.m. July 24 @ Duchesne, UT
10 a.m. August 7 @ Duchesne, UT
1 p.m. September 5 @ Neola, UT
The most recent Jr. NFR qualifier hosted by the Basin Junior Rodeo Association was the Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo in Vernal, Utah, June 5. At the Roundup, 16 contestants punched their tickets to the 2022 Jr. NFR, with three competitors qualifying in multiple events.
Ryann Becker and her horse Fly, or “Fly Money,” won the barrel racing and breakaway roping at the Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo.
Becker said Fly gives her all every time she runs. They make quite the duo, and Becker said she feels lucky every time she swings her leg over. With the win, Becker and Fly will be headed to 2022 Jr. NFR. Hopefully that luck follows them there.
“I’ve never competed in the Jr. NFR, but I’m sure excited to give it a go,” she said. “It’s been a goal of mine. And I’m just so very grateful for the chance to go and compete with all these great athletes.”
Ridge Olsen and EJay Duke claimed the team roping title, also joining the qualifier list. While they have yet to compete at Jr. NFR, Duke said he looks forward to setting goals and working toward them as he prepares to compete there.
“(I love) the adrenaline rush, competing with friends, and being able to support them and them supporting you,” he said. “I also love the Western way of life that rodeo brings.”
Here is the complete list of qualifiers from the Vernal Dinosaur Roundup:
Barrel Racing: Ryann Becker, Sage Cooley, Hadley Henderson
Saddle Bronc Riding: Dawson Vantassell
Jr Bull Riding: Hesston McArthur, Braxton Farnsworth, Ryland Farnsworth
Team Roping: Ridge Olsen/EJay Duke, Quade Lawson/Carson Lawson, Baylee Jackson/Howdy Jackson
Girls Breakaway: Ryann Becker, Rylee Knight, Addysyn Cooley
Boys Breakaway: Braxton Farnsworth, Dutton Daybell, Ridge Olsen
Before the qualifier, Jr. Rodeo hosted a camp focused on providing kids a fun, positive and educational rodeo experience. Instructors Joe Frost, Galen Wilson, James Sursa, Jesse Nash and Josh Hunter taught safety and fundamentals for bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, team roping and breakaway roping.
Frost recently retired from professional bull riding, where he won more than $1.2 million in ProRodeo and qualified for five NFRs during his tenure. Frost has been coaching since college at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, where he ran his own bull riding school in 2015. He said giving back to the sport through teaching youth is how he was raised.
“My dad coached,” Frost said. “So my mentor was a mentor. I can’t say it came naturally to me, but I just thought it’s what you did when you got good enough to teach somebody something.
“I’ve always pictured myself getting to that point to help others.”
Joe Frost and other camp instructors taught attendees about rodeo safety and fundamentals.
Photo by Janet Wilson. More photos from the camp are available here.
Having placed in the top six in the world standings five consecutive years, Frost has proven that he is “good enough to teach somebody something.” Now, being a role model for young bull riders comes with the territory.
“That’s what I enjoy, when I have kids that I know are excited to learn, but they’re also excited to learn from me,” Frost said. “And you know they’re going to go home and put this stuff into practice.”
Frost started rodeo at a young age and said it makes a difference when kids start young because they can learn safely on proper equipment and smaller animals that aren’t bred to buck as hard.
“You need to learn how to handle your body weight and learn how to ride and protect yourself,” Frost said. “And it’s really hard to do that when you basically have to get on adult-sized bulls.
“I think it is crucial (to start from a young age).”
Camps are geared toward providing learning opportunities for both newcomers to the sport and those who have been competing. PRCA champions instruct all camps, providing youth with encouragement in both rodeo careers and scholastic endeavors. Those interested in learning more about Jr. Rodeo camps and how to register can visit https://jrrodeo.org/camps.
Jr. Rodeo now boasts over 20 youth rodeo associations. To learn more about affiliating your youth rodeo program with Jr. Rodeo, contact us at 719-528-4729 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Immediate Release: JUNE 15, 2021
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 2021) – Jr. Rodeo announced today the inaugural 14-Under Jr. Rodeo National Championships hosted by the American Royal Association will be held August 16-18 in Kansas City, Missouri, at the American Royal Complex.
Jr. Rodeo is partnering with the American Royal Association to feature the 14-Under Jr. Rodeo National Championships in conjunction with the American Royal Youth Rodeo, which will showcase a growing base of children under 18 years old. Events hosted at the championships include bareback riding, bull riding, barrel racing, tie-down roping, team roping and breakaway roping. These events will have a minimum of $21,000 in added money. The winners will earn a Montana Silversmiths National Championship buckle.
“When we launched Jr. Rodeo, we have always envisioned a 14-Under age division to provide a championship caliber event for these athletes to show off their grit and determination,” said Anthony Bartkowski, Jr. Rodeo Director of Athlete Development & Welfare. “When selecting the host for the 14-Under National Championships, it was a priority to identify a great PRCA Rodeo who is focused on youth development. The American Royal provides a great venue and integration with their ProRodeo.”
The 14-Under Jr. Rodeo National Championships is open to all Jr. Rodeo members who meet the age requirements. Join today by visiting jrrodeo.org/join-us.
“The American Royal has a long-standing mission of competition and education for young people in agriculture,” said Glen Alan Phillips, American Royal President & CEO. “By continuing our partnership with the PRCA, we are excited to expand opportunities for young rodeo contestants around the nation and provide them an arena to compete in for a national championship.”
In addition, the 2021 American Royal Youth Rodeo will serve as a major qualifier for the top 10 place winners for the 2022 Jr. NFR. The event will continue to include the traditional American Royal Youth Rodeo events.
Entries Open on June 17 at https://www.americanroyal.com/rodeo/youth-rodeo/contestant-information/.
About the Jr. Rodeo
Jr. Rodeo, the PRCA’s official youth program, launched in 2019. In 2020, there were more than 70 sanctioned events with more than 1,200 contestants earning a slot at the 2021 Jr. NFR. Jr. Rodeo provides contestants the opportunity to compete in the core rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping. To join or to host a Jr. Rodeo-sanctioned event, please visit www.jrrodeo.org or call 719-528-4723.
About the American Royal Association
Woven through the history of Kansas City since 1899, the American Royal is where champions are crowned. We provide opportunities for youth and adults from around the country to compete in our Livestock Show, Youth and Pro Rodeo, Horse Shows, and the World Series of Barbecue®. These events allow the American Royal, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization, to give over $1 million annually for youth scholarships and support agriculture education programs. To learn more about the American Royal visit AmericanRoyal.com.
By Neal Reid
Riley Webb, 17, has become one of the most well-known names in Jr. Rodeo and beyond.
Chances are good rodeo fans have heard the name Riley Webb.
The 17-year-old tie-down roper from Denton, Texas, has been a regular at the top of the rankings and leaderboards in recent years, winning the 2020 National High School Finals Rodeo and advancing to the top five of RFD-TV’s The American last year. The 2020 Texas state reserve tie-down roping champ can light up a scoreboard, breaking the 7-second mark more than once recently.
He’ll be one of the favorites when the Jr. National Finals Rodeo makes its run June 28 to July 3 at the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. For Webb – who has been roping on horseback since he was 6 – competing at the highest level has become the norm, and being battle-tested has helped him develop as a roper.
“That’s awesome to get to go to (The American) twice,” said Webb, who also competed in this year’s event at AT&T Stadium. “The big rodeos with the guys from ProRodeo that I get to compete against next year when I buy my card are great. Every run you make that’s a good run gives you confidence, and when you do well at the big events, it gives you a lot more confidence to compete on the biggest stages.”
Webb plans to buy his PRCA card after turning 18 in August, fill his permit and make a full run in ProRodeo in 2022. But first, he’ll have a busy summer competing in high school and junior rodeo, with the Jr. NFR as a highlight on his schedule.
“I’m really excited about all the opportunities I’ll get this summer, and (the Jr. NFR) will be one of the big stops,” Webb said. “Everybody qualified to get there and earned the opportunity to be there, so no one was just given anything.”
High school and junior rodeo have been important for Webb’s development as a roper, and he’ll never forget winning the high school championship last summer at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “It was a big deal to go to all the junior rodeos, get exposure, get out there, enter up and rope against good competition. Now, at my stage, where these junior rodeos and ropings pay so good, it’s awesome to be able to go to them.”
Webb – who has clocked runs of 6.20, 6.97 and 7.03 in recent years – also has learned from watching ProRodeo’s best. He has looked up to 26-time World Champion Trevor Brazile, received guidance during his early junior rodeo days from five-time Wrangler NFR qualifier Clint Cooper and learned from his father, Dirk, who serves as director of The American.
Riley Webb said he is a visual learner, and loves to learn by watching the best.
Soaking up knowledge like a sponge, Webb has taken what he’s observed and learned and worked to hone his skills in the arena with countless practice runs. One of the tie-down ropers he tries to emulate is 2019 World Champion Haven Meged, whose sister, Harley, has qualified for this year’s Jr. NFR in breakaway roping.
“Haven Meged is great and is one of my friends,” Webb said. “Just watching him rope, he does everything right. I’m a visual learner, so just watching ropers, I learn a lot.”
Learning how to accept defeat and gain knowledge from mistakes is something the self-critical Webb is getting better at.
“I don’t like losing, but at the same time, you’ve got to lose to learn,” he said. “I am hard on myself, but after I figure out what I did wrong or what happened, I’m going to move on to the next one and forget the past.”
Like many successful tie-down ropers, horsepower has been key for Webb. His 14-year-old gelding, Titus, is rock-solid, giving Webb a chance to win almost every time he backs in the box.
“It feels like he can run any calf and you’re going to get the same feel,” Webb said. “He gives you the same go every time, and he’s so athletic. He feels great, and I’m going to ride him everywhere we go this summer.”
For Webb, rodeo isn’t just something he does, it’s a part of who he is.“We do it every day and go (compete) as much as possible,” Webb said. “It’s a lifestyle. Since I was a little kid, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Written by: Ally Gallagher
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Jr. Rodeo will host a 2022 Jr. NFR qualifier in partnership with the Cody (Wyo.) Nite Rodeo at 8 p.m., July 31. The top five place winners in each event will qualify for the 2022 Jr. NFR.
The champions in Cody also will receive a new American Hat.
The Cody Nite Rodeo has hosted the PRCA Development Program school for the last four years. The Cody Nite School is a week-long program open to contestants to improve their rodeo skill in riding and timed events. The school is led by notable PRCA contestants annually.
“The thing about these camps and rodeos — it is unbelievable the improvement you see in these kids when they have good coaching for longer periods of time,” said Maury Tate, Mo Betta Rodeo Company owner and PRCA stock contractor.
The Cody Nite Rodeo, which started in 1938, hangs it hat on producing 100 days of rodeo annually, typically from June-August. The PRCA Cody Nite Independence Rodeo on July 4 is a fan favorite. The Cody Nite Rodeo has hosted more than 300 NFR competitors and 54 world champions.
Jr. Rodeo is proud to partner with the Cody Nite Rodeo and the community in hosting a 2022 Jr. NFR qualifier. The core rodeo events for contestants 19 and under will be held on the rodeo grounds.
Contestants can enter the Cody Nite Jr. Rodeo starting June 15, and camp registration is already open. Entry fees are $70 for each event, which includes stock charges and insurance. Contestants may enter at https://jrrodeo.org/event-4346591. Entries close at noon (MST), July 21. A day of slack may run on July 30, dependent upon entry numbers.
“It is great to partner the Cody, Wyoming, community and the Cody Nite Rodeo Committee in such an iconic rodeo arena and atmosphere for the next generation of rodeo contestants,” said Anthony Bartkowski, Director of Athlete Development & Welfare for the PRCA. “Our vision in providing competition and skill development opportunities for our members continues to evolve. This is an exciting time to be a member of Jr. Rodeo to get a taste of competing at the highest level.”
Jr. Rodeo is focused on attracting contestants, 8 to 19 years of age, to the sport. Jr. Rodeo provides contestants the opportunity to compete in the core rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping. Jr. Rodeo is built on three pillars for success: education, skill development and competition. For more information, visit www.jrrodeo.org.
Written By: Ally Gallagher
Jacek Frost isn’t much of a talker.
As a cowboy competing in nearly every event rodeo offers, while focusing on bareback riding, Jacek has bigger things to do than talk. Instead, he listens. Maybe that’s why he’s only been bucked off twice.
When it comes time to compete, Jacek is engrossed in what he does. In those eight seconds, the horse is bucking, the crowd is roaring — it might feel like utter chaos to a spectator. But Jacek is laser focused. He’ll even listen for advice mid-ride.
“He listens to all the advice that’s given to him … and it shows,” said Judy Frost, Jacek’s mom. “You can be talking to him, even in the middle of a ride. As he’s riding, he can still hear you. He doesn’t just go blank. He focuses.”
Being a cowboy comes with a lot of support. Jacek and his brother, Jasper, have been homeschooled since seventh grade, and their parents intently watch every rodeo. Jason, their dad, and Judy are quite the tag team; while his dad “holds his breath” and can hardly stand to watch, his mom films every ride.
“I’m that mom,” Judy said. “I video every ride, and we analyze it after he rides so he can see what he’s done and what he needs to improve.”
Growing up on a ranch in Browns Valley, CA with a father who steer wrestled for 13 years, Jacek and Jasper were born for rodeo. More specifically, Jacek was born for bareback riding.
When Jacek was a year old and “barely walking,” his dad would put the rodeo on TV and tell Jason to watch it with him. Jason wanted Jacek to watch steer wrestling with him, but Jacek was only interested in one event.
“He would stand a foot away from the TV and watch every single bareback ride,” Jason said. “And he would just look back and giggle. Every time.”
As he grew out of diapers and into cowboy boots, Jacek continued to show that he had a future in rodeo. When entered in mutton busting at 5 years old, it was no surprise that he held on the longest.
“It took the bullfighters to get to Jacek and say, ‘Hey, let go,’” Judy said. “He never got knocked off, he just held on until the bullfighters told him, ‘It’s OK, you’re done!’”
During his tenure in the junior ranks, holding on the longest has worked out pretty well, too.
Jacek is the 2021 Junior American Rodeo Novice Bareback Champion. He also took home a multitude of state titles. In 2020, he placed fifth at the National High School Rodeo Finals and was a Jr. NFR finalist.
But riding bareback doesn’t always go as planned. Wrecks are to be expected.
“You know it’s not if, it’s when and how bad will it be when (your kids) get in those wrecks,” Jason said. “It’s hard on you.”
In 2020, the Red Bluff Round-Up hosted two Jr. Rodeo qualifying events. Jacek claimed the top prize of qualifying for the 2021 Jr. NFR and getting to ride in the PRCA performance at Red Bluff. Last year, a horse sent Jacek airborne, and he got hung up.
This year, he drew the same horse at Red Bluff for the Jr. Rodeo exhibition. Now dubbed a “redemption ride,” Jacek didn’t let the horse get the best of him. He went on to post a 74-point ride. The exhibition ride would have placed fifth in the go-round.
“It was just kind of cool that I could get on again and do how I did,” Jacek said.
That ride has Jacek fired up for the upcoming Jr. NFR, set for June 28-July 3 at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, where he said he’ll see the best competition junior rodeo has to offer.
Just 17, Jacek has one more year in the junior ranks after this season.
For now, his focus stays within the junior ranks, with goals to take home the title at Jr. NFR and “be at the national finals multiple times.” As a former finalist at both Jr. NFR and the National High School Rodeo Finals, Jacek is nearing his goals.
Jacek Frost may not be much of a talker, but he sure is quite the cowboy.
By: Ally Gallagher
In less than a month the 2021 Jr. NFR will converge upon the historic Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, featuring more than 500 cowboys and cowgirls.
Each year, the Jr. NFR showcases the best youth rodeo talent, meaning that returning finalists are sure to see some solid competition. The Jr. NFR qualifies contestants through a variety of pathways from Jr. Rodeo-sanctioned events and invites the top place winners from other major youth rodeos.
The Jr. NFR starts on Monday, June 28 with the long-go performances for all events. The 2021 Jr. NFR will pay out $200,000 during the finals, set for 11 a.m. CT on July 3.
Below is a look at some of the top returning qualifiers.
photo provided by Riley Webb
Riley Webb will certainly be one to watch. Webb has been hot this season, competing and winning against all ages. He is the 2020 National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) tie-down roping champion and has won two WRCA majors this year.
“It’s going good this year, but it’s setting me up for a big summer, too,” Webb said.
In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Webb walked away from Jr. NFR as a titleholder. He said he’s excited to return to Jr. NFR at the end of the month and to get another opportunity to rope on the big stage.
“(Jr. NFR) has the best kids in the world,” Webb said. “And it’s great to get to rope for that kind of money, especially when I do it for a living.”
This is Webb’s last year in the junior ranks before joining the PRCA.
“I’m ready,” Webb said. “From what I’ve done last year and the start of this year, I’m ready for next year.”
As Webb continues to earn the accolades in this final year of junior competition, he is sure to turn heads at Jr. NFR.
photo credit: Nick Achille
Now a junior, Nick Achille is the 2020 Junior American Rodeo and Junior World Finals 19-Under Tie-Down champion. Achille also holds the arena record in Prescott, Arizona of 6.9 seconds from the 2019 Tuf Cooper Qualifier, making him a worthy opponent coming into this year’s Jr. NFR.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Coy Hebert is heading west from Louisiana to compete. Hebert is a two-time Louisiana bronc riding champion, earning back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. Those same years, Hebert placed third at the NHSRA finals.
Hebert is looking to improve upon his top six finish at last year’s Jr. NFR. He is 18, making this his last season eligible to compete at Jr. NFR.
Photo taken at 2020 Jr. NFR
In 2021, Brayze Schill has already become the Texas HSRA Region 5 Reserve champion and the San Antonio Stock Show Youth Rodeo Bareback Riding champion for the second year in a row. Schill has competed at Junior World Finals for five consecutive years, improving his placement annually.
As a rising sophomore, Schill is looking to return to the Jr. NFR finals.
photo credit: Shelby Caitlin Photography
Bradlee Miller is headed into Jr. NFR zeroed in on the title — or titles, to be exact.
“For this year, when it comes to the Jr. NFR, I plan on winning the bareback riding and the bull riding,” Miller said.
After splitting the Jr. NFR bareback title in 2016 and securing it in 2017, Miller is ready for more. As this season’s Texas Circuit Finals Youth Rodeo Champion, Miller is feeling as strong as ever and has his sights set on joining the PRCA after this season.
“I just turned 18 at the end of April,” Miller said. “So, after the year is over, I’m buying my PRCA permit and hopefully (will) win enough to make the permit challenge at the end of the year.”
As Miller bids adieu to the junior ranks, the Jr. NFR will serve as a great place for him to show both junior and ProRodeo what he has.
photo credit: National High School Rodeo Association Website
Mason Stuller is in his third year of high school rodeo, and based on the last two years, he’s a cowboy to keep an eye on at Jr. NFR.
A few of his accolades include: 2019 NHSRA Rookie of the Year, 2019 Junior World Finals Novice All-Around Champion, 2020 NHSRA Bareback and All-Around Champion, and 2020 Junior World Finals All-Around Champion.
Stuller, a two-event cowboy, is entered in bareback and saddle bronc riding. He qualified for the Jr. NFR in both events and is a returning bareback riding finalist.
photo provided by Acey Pinkston
Acey Pinkston, a 17-year-old hailing from Stephenville, Texas, is the only female returning finalist for this year’s Jr. NFR. After healing from a broken hand and a sprained ankle, some may sit out to rest. But not Pinkston. She intends to saddle up and run come Jr. NFR.
“I’m just happy that they’re able to have it, because I know it’s been such a mess with COVID and stuff,” Pinkston said. “So many things seem to be pushed off or moved, and so I’m just happy I’ll be there.”
Come competition day, Pinkston has one small requirement: the dry cleaner’s tag on her clothing has to come off before the outfit even comes off the hanger. “It’s kind of crazy. But hey, that’s what you get from barrel racers,” Pinktson said.
Tristan Sullivan and Will Farris
photo taken by Shelby Caitlin Photography at 2020 Jr. NFR
Tristan Sullivan and Will Farris make up the only top six returning duo from last year.
Farris is the heeler and will make the short trip from Madisonville, Texas. He is also the 2020 Texas High School Rodeo Association (THSRA) Region 9 Champion. Sullivan, the header, hails from nearby Centerville, Texas, where he was his region’s champion in two of the last three years.
photo credit: Jake Link Photography
Thirteen-year-old Denton Parish is returning to Jr. NFR this year, but this time with a new partner: Nicky Northcott. Northcott won the 2019 Junior World Finals at Cowtown Coliseum and claimed the Year-End Champion Heeler and Jr. World Average titles in December.
Parish’s previous partner, Clayton Moore, is now a PRCA permit holder. Parish returns to the Jr. NFR with his new partner after making it to the finals with Moore at the 2020 Jr. NFR.
The record books are open for a newly crowned class of finalists in breakaway roping, bull riding and steer wrestling.
BY NEAL REID
Ty Fleming grew up on her family's ranch in Bessemer, Alabama, and has evolved into a talented barrel racer and roper. She takes great care of the family's horses, including her 23-year-old sorrel barrel racing horse, Rooster, right.
The bond between a barrel racer and her horse is a special one, and perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than with Alabama’s Ty Fleming and her prized equine, Rooster.
Every time the 16-year-old cowgirl from the Birmingham hamlet of Bessemer leads her spunky, 23-year-old sorrel down an alleyway and into the arena, the dynamic duo is carrying on the memory of Fleming’s late grandfather, Donnie Hughes. Hughes bought the horse for Fleming shortly before he was murdered in a March 2018 mass shooting in his restaurant, City Grill, in Hurtsboro, Ala.
The tragedy rocked the family and the rural community.
“Our world was flipped upside down on that day,” said Fleming’s mother, Angel Hughes, who took over operation of the restaurant before selling it in 2019.
As the family reeled to recover, they leaned on each other, hunkered down at their ranch and looked to their horses for healing. Rooster did his part, carrying Fleming to success and serving as a reminder of Donnie’s legacy.
“My granddad was always proud of him and would show people pictures of him in his restaurant,” Ty said. “Rooster is super special and is definitely something that reminds me of him.”
Angel saw firsthand how her daughter and the horse bonded more deeply after her father’s untimely passing.
“When my dad got killed, Rooster to Ty became a special kind of special,” Angel said. “He is a true reminder, and every time she succeeds, it’s almost like my dad’s living on through Rooster.”
The horse wasn’t even supposed to be part of the family’s stable. They toted him home as a loaner half of a packaged deal with a mare they’d bought from Troy University rodeo team member Camile Cox, but when the mare developed an abscess, Ty began riding Rooster instead.
The pair clicked from the start and quickly made waves with big wins in the Southeast. They won the Southeastern Showdown in Perry, Ga., in their first event together when Ty was a sixth-grader. They’ve never looked back.
“The only way I could say it is Ty was unstoppable,” said Angel, a former barrel racer who now works in the dentistry field.
The only downside of their success was Rooster became a hot commodity in the area, and Cox began to receive offers to sell the talented mount.
“It was a lot more than I could afford, so I told (Camile) we would just have to bring him back,” Angel said. “My dad went and paid for him without us knowing.”
That cemented Donnie’s bond with the beloved horse, and the family shared Ty’s success proudly.
“My dad was so proud of him, and anytime Ty would win, he’d share it with everyone at the café,” Angel said. “He was proud to say he’d bought Rooster, and every time she’d win, he would say, ‘Yeah, her granddaddy bought that horse for her.’”
Turns out, it was all a matter of fate.
“Our ranch is called Triple H, and when we bought him, we noticed he had a 3H brand on him, so it was just meant to be,” Ty said.
Rodeo roots lead to success
Rodeo is a family affair for Ty Fleming, left, and her mother, Angel Hughes. The 16-year-old Fleming and her beloved horse, Rooster, have turned heads in the Southeast in recent years, and Hughes--a former barrel racer herself--is her daughter's biggest fan.
Ty grew up on the back of a horse at the family’s 70-acre ranch, learning to rope and ride from her mother, Angel, father, Carlton Fleming, who competed as a team roper, and her grandparents – grandmother, Clydette, was Miss Rodeo Alabama in 1969. The Hughes family ran some of the biggest horse shows in the state in the 1960s, according to Ty, and she began competing in rodeo at age 5.
She progressed with her skills from there, with Donnie buying Ty her first pony. She would go on to win numerous junior rodeos and earned Miss Alabama Jr. High and Miss Alabama Jr. Rodeo honors as a queen contestant.
Ty and Rooster arrived at the 2020 National Little Britches Rodeo Association’s National Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Okla., last July flying under the radar. But they would go on to kick up dust and turn heads at the Lazy E Arena, finishing sixth in the Sr. Girls Barrel Racing to punch their ticket to the Jr. National Finals Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, June 28-July 3.
“I was in the top 10, and the top 20 get to go,” Ty said of the Jr. NFR qualification. “I found out at the awards ceremony when they gave me a certificate. It was kind of crazy because it was my main goal, and he just did really good at nationals and got us a spot for the Jr. NFR.”
It was an accomplishment of epic proportions for the whole family.
“When we found out she made it, it was just overwhelming to us,” Angel said. “It’s a true blessing to us, and we are so thankful and grateful.”
Alabama's Ty Fleming and her prized sorrel barrel horse Rooster arrived at the 2020 National Little Britches Rodeo Association's National Finals flying under the radar, but finished sixth in the Sr. Girls Barrels event to punch their ticket to the 2021 Jr. National Finals Rodeo. (Photo by Rodeo Bum)
One of a kind
To say Rooster – whose registered name is Go Dash For Cash – is unique might not do him justice. Ty and her mother certainly don’t think so.
“Rooster is 23 and is still running and firing and is sound as sound can be. I can’t explain it,” Angel said. “We tear up when they run, and people who know our story tear up when they watch them together. I just feel that God blessed us tremendously with this animal in more ways than just barrel racing.”
Reliability, Ty says, is the horse’s biggest strength.
Consistency, Ty Fleming says, is the strength of her 23-year-old barrel racing horse Rooster, a gift from her late grandfather, Donnie Hughes. (Photo by Rodeo Bum)
“He’s just super consistent, and I know what he’s going to do, which helps me plan out my run,” said Ty, who recently won the Sr. Alabama Little Britches barrel racing title on Rooster. “He’s real ‘turn-y’ and is great all around. It’s the same trip with him every time.”
Personality-wise, the horse can be a ham.
“He’s easygoing around the house, but when we get to the arena, he definitely gets to feeling (full) of himself,” Ty said. “He’s always calm for me though, and he knows I’m his person. We get each other, I guess.
“He just prances and throws his head around so everybody can look at him because he’s Rooster.”
Poised for great things
An A student who is part of the state’s honors home-schooling program, Ty sets high standards for herself and knows she has the support of her family along the way.
“They just want me to be the best I can be and take advantage of everything,” said Ty, who has dreams of competing in college rodeo in Texas and becoming a dermatologist. “I’ve got a good chance to rodeo, and Rooster has really set me up for a good future. I just know the next step in rodeo will be a good college experience.”
But first, with Rooster under her saddle and buoyed by the support of American Hat Company covering her fees, Ty is primed and ready to challenge for the $10,000 winner’s share at the Jr. NFR this summer. If Ty can win the 2021 Jr. NFR, she would qualify for the 2022 RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo Semi-Finals, giving her a chance to advance to the Finals and a shot at $1 million. (Please make sure that reads well and is accurate -- SK)
“It’s exciting, and I think about it almost every day when I look at Rooster,” Ty said. “I’m so ready.”
For Immediate Release
MAY 10, 2021
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Jr. Rodeo announced today a partnership with the American Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA). All AJRA rodeos now will be sanctioned by Jr. Rodeo and qualify contestants to the Jr. National Finals Rodeo. The AJRA, headquartered in Bronte, Texas, will have its 2021-22 rodeos serve as qualifiers to the 2022 Jr. NFR.
The AJRA, founded in 1952 by Alvin G. Davis, provides the youth of central Texas opportunities to start in the sport and compete for annual recognition and scholarships. Many greats of ProRodeo got their start in the AJRA, including George Paul, Terry Walls, Roy Cooper, Jim Sharp, Trevor Brazile and Tuff Hedeman.
“We are excited to partner with the AJRA to continue to expand Jr. Rodeo’s reach and impact,” said Anthony Bartkowski, Director, Athlete Development & Welfare. “The rich history of the AJRA and its leadership is vital to our continued growth initiatives of attracting youth to try the sport of rodeo and become further involved.”
Cowboys and cowgirls accumulate points from the approved AJRA rodeos to participate in the AJRA National Finals annually. The 2021 AJRA finals rodeo set for Nolan County Coliseum in Sweetwater, Texas, July 27-Aug. 1, will advance the top five place winners in the core rodeo events to the 2022 Jr. NFR. At each of the 14 AJRA rodeos, the top place winners will also qualify for the 2022 Jr. NFR.
"The AJRA is super excited to be presented the opportunity to partner with the PRCA and Jr. Rodeo,” said Wesley White, AJRA President. “Since 1952, being modeled after the PRCA, the AJRA is proud to be a huge contributor to the future of the sport, and this opportunity guarantees growth and a huge step for our cowboys and cowgirls to make their rodeo dreams come true."
Jr. Rodeo, the PRCA’s official youth program, launched in 2019 with the first Jr. NFR held in March 2020. Throughout the 2020 season, Jr. Rodeo held more than 70 sanctioned events with more than 1,200 contestants qualifying for the 2021 Jr. NFR at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 27-July 3.
Jr. Rodeo is focused on attracting contestants, 8-19 years of age, to the sport. Jr. Rodeo provides contestants the opportunity to compete in the core rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping. Jr. Rodeo is built on three pillars for success: education, skill development, and competition. For more information, visit www.jrrodeo.org.
For Immediate Release
APRIL 12, 2021
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Jr. National Finals Rodeo, originally scheduled for March, will now be held at the famous Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 28-July 3. The Jr. NFR will guarantee at least $200,000 in added money, with champions winning a minimum of $10,000 per event. Entries are scheduled to open April 15 at 9 a.m. (MT) at www.jrrodeo.org.
The Jr. NFR, which will crown the 2021 World Champions, attracts the best youth contestants who have qualified through a variety of pathways, including the top place winners from all major youth rodeo associations. More than 1,200 contestants are eligible to enter. The list of qualified contestants is available at jrrodeo.org/qualifiers.
The world champions in the timed events also earn a semifinal position at the 2022 RFD-TV’s The American at AT&T Stadium for a run at a share of $1 million in prize money. The PRCA rodeo is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 6.
“We will provide our contestants a one-of-a-kind opportunity and showcase the best of the best in all of youth rodeo,” said Anthony Bartkowski, Director, Athlete Development & Welfare. “Jr. Rodeo’s vision is to provide contestants the ability to perform on the biggest stage and jump-start their PRCA careers.”
The Jr. NFR is a tournament-style rodeo with competition starting on June 28. The final qualifying rounds on July 1 feature the top 50 in timed events and the final performances in the riding events. The semifinals on July 2 will have two performances, featuring the five exemptions and qualifiers from the prior evening.
The Jr. NFR finals presents the top six semifinals place winners in a made-for-TV round. The world champion belt buckle is earned by the contestants with the fastest time or highest score on July 3. Each of the individual champions will receive at least a $10,000 payout, and the six timed-event contestants will earn a slot at the 2022 RFD-TV’s The American Semi-Finals in Arlington, Texas.
Fort Worth is the 13th largest city in the U.S. and home to a world-class cultural district, the No. 1 Zoo in the nation and the Stockyards National Historic District. Attendees can enjoy more than 200 open-air patio restaurants, more than 70 miles of connected walking and biking trails, the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive, and shopping and dining in downtown Fort Worth.
Jr. Rodeo, the PRCA’s official youth program, launched in 2019. In 2020, there were more than 70 sanctioned events with more than 1,200 contestants earning a slot at the 2021 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR. Jr. Rodeo provides contestants the opportunity to compete in the core rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and breakaway roping. To join or to host a Jr. Rodeo-sanctioned event, please visit www.jrrodeo.org or call 719-528-4723.
By Jolee Jordan
TYLER, Texas—Imagine you’re a teenager. You compete in your favorite sport regularly. One weekend, you have the chance to be coached by your athletic idols, world champions and top professionals.
At the same time, you can mingle with decision makers from companies that can offer sponsorship dollars that can advance your career. You also get to spend several days among peers from across the country in a fun-filled weekend of team building.
That’s exactly the opportunity presented to Team Cavender’s members through their 2020 Youth Summit, held Aug. 5-7, 2020, in Tyler, Texas, home of the company’s headquarters.
While most rodeo athletes of any age understand that a successful competitive career is directly tied to the hours spent in the practice pen, riding their horses, on the spur board, roping the dummy, a much smaller percentage consider the time needed to develop the skills away from the arena that can be play a big role in how far a contestant goes in the sport.
Things like interview skills, social media acuity and fulfilling sponsor commitments are nearly as vital as your riding technique or swing mechanics for competitors looking to advance into the ProRodeo ranks, an education that the Cavender’s summit was designed to address.
A Jr. Rodeo foundation partner since the program’s inception, Cavender’s sponsorship program focuses on building the complete rodeo athlete.
“Whether these athletes go pro in rodeo or start a career outside of rodeo we wanted to provide them with the tools to really excel as people,” said Jenna Morr, Social Media, Content and Athlete Relations for Cavender’s. “We know they can excel on the dirt but there are so many other facets of being a professional.”
Team Cavender’s Rodeo Program began in 2019 and boasts 23 rodeo athletes ranging in age from 9 to 20 and representing 10 states. Youth rodeo team members go through an extensive selection and vetting process based on academics, athletics, references and social media interaction.
All of Team Cavender’s youth rodeo members attended the summit and were given the opportunity to interact with Cavender’s Pro Team members, two-time WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer Hailey Kinsel and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Daylon Swearingen. Athletes received training in interviewing and social media and had the chance to hear from various vendors and brands such as Wrangler, The Cowboy Channel and Ariat.
“Our goal was to create a three-day summit that encompassed educational seminars including media training, sponsorship and endorsement education and product education as well as give insight into the Cavender's brand including history, sharing our mission, vision and values, hearing directly from our owners, our involvement in events, and how we give back in our communities,” said Morr. Parents were invited to participate in some activities, and there was plenty of food and fun.
“It was just awesome,” said Sam Gallagher, a timed-event specialist from Colorado who participated in his first athlete summit as a new member of the Cavender’s team. “It was a great experience.”
Gallagher is the reigning champion steer wrestler in the Colorado High School Rodeo Association and a first-generation rodeo competitor.
“I got started about the second grade,” he said, noting that his father Paul always had horses around.
Older brother David got interested in the sport and entered, and Sam soon followed.
“My brother was entering first, and then I got to compete,” Sam said. “I didn’t do half bad at my first rodeo, and I liked it. It’s a fun sport.”
The Gallagher boys work together to improve.
“We pushed ourselves to be better and better each day.”
While aspiring to continue into college rodeo (Sam wants to attend the University of Wyoming) and the pros, Gallagher recognized the value of what he learned while in Tyler.
“Probably the biggest lesson was about interviews,” said the sophomore who attends Holy Family High School in Broomfield. “They taught us, don’t do the minimum. Open up and be yourself. …. That was one thing I could definitely work on. They told us it’s much easier for us to open up than for the interviewer to have to dig it out of us.”
Kylie Conner, a cowgirl from Welsh, La., was equally impressed with the summit.
“It was awesome,” said the homeschooled senior. “We had guest speakers, and Hailey Kinsel was one of them. She talked about how to handle going pro and gave us insight on what it’s like. We got to ask her questions, too.”
Conner is the reigning National High School Rodeo Association All-Around Cowgirl and entering her second year as a member of Team Cavender’s. Unlike Gallagher, she followed her family into the sport -- parents Kyle and Andree competed, as did her older sister.
“It just kinda stuck,” she laughed of the rodeo life.
Conner plans to attend McNeese State next year and be part of its illustrious rodeo team. She is hoping to go pro in barrel racing and breakaway roping.
For Conner, the lessons on social media hit home.
“I knew social media was a big part of sponsorships and I had an idea about what I needed to do,” she said. “But I’m not big on it, I don’t post a lot, and they really helped on how to post and what to post.
“My parents have always preached to me that someone is always watching, so you have to behave correctly. At the summit, they let us know that sponsors are watching our behavior, too.”
Both competitors appreciated hearing from representatives of various companies and gaining perspective on what those companies are looking for from potential endorsees.
“They told us what we have to do in order to get and fulfill those sponsorships, what we need to do,” said Conner. “They told us how to talk to sponsors . . . it helped me to know how to reach out to them,” Gallagher said. “That was pretty sweet information to know.”
Both athletes counted the visit to Cavender’s headquarters as a highlight of the week.
“My favorite part was the tour of the home office,” Conner said. “We got to meet the brothers (Joe, Mike and Clay, sons of founders James and Pat Cavender, who still run the business). That was pretty cool.”
“Meeting the Cavender’s people, the family, that was a pretty cool experience,” Gallagher said. “I enjoyed meeting the other team members and building relationships with them.”
Every piece of the summit was designed with purpose.
“Bringing together the team also provided an opportunity to really focus on some of the things that make us different as sponsors and as a team and that we truly believe in, and that is culture, family and success,” Morr said. “We are a family-owned and operated company, and therefore we want the members of our team and our team culture to resemble a family and show unwavering support of each other.
“As teammates, we want them to know each other, support each other and truly feel part of the family. The pillars behind that culture is the values of our company that we take pride in: hard work, integrity, respect, passion, authenticity and dedication.”
Both Gallagher and Conner had advice for other young athletes seeking sponsorships or hoping to one day be a member of Team Cavender’s.
“Open up to everyone,” said Gallagher, a past recipient of Colorado HSRA’s Courage Award, given for best manners inside and outside the arena. “Post (on social media) about yourself, not just rodeo. Talk about your family, friends, school . . . that may help you get more sponsors.”
“Keep your head down, work hard and remember that someone is always watching so be on your best behavior always,” Conner said. “And be careful what you post on social media because everyone sees that.”
Conner also noted the importance placed on networking.
“They told us to keep our friendships (developed through this program and elsewhere),” she said. “The friendships may help you get a job down the road.”
For more information on Cavender’s, visit www.cavenders.com, and for more information on Jr. Rodeo, visit www.jrrodeo.org.
By Jolee Jordan | Written July 20 | Posted July 24
Guthrie, Okla. – When the draw came out for the opening rounds of the 2020 National High School Finals Rodeo, the horses listed next to bareback rider Sam Petersen’s name were not ones the Montana cowboy knew.
That suited the 2020 Montana High School Rodeo Champion just fine.
“I’d rather get on something I don’t know,” Petersen said. “That way, I just ride them jump for jump. There is no point in planning because anything can go any way once the ride starts."
“I actually like, for example, getting on colts. I like the unpredictable ones, the ones guys don’t want to get on. I love being able to make a good ride on those kinds.”
It’s a winning attitude from the 16-year-old, incoming junior at Capitol High School in Helena. Born into a rodeo family, Petersen’s father, Pete, was diagnosed with leukemia when Sam was 8 years old.
The elder Petersen was also a rodeo athlete, competing in steer wrestling and qualifying for the then-Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, the pinnacle for circuit cowboys. He often donated his time to teaching up-and-comers the finer points of steer wrestling.
While the uncertainty related to his father’s illness could have had a detrimental impact on Sam and older brother, Jaxsen, the Petersen family forged ahead.
“In every walk of life, you have to stay strong and positive,” Petersen said. “There will be a better outcome in the end if you do.”
He credits his outlook to his family, ironically populated mostly with steer wrestlers. His grandfather Gordon Clark also competed in the event and his uncle is Rod Lyman, a 16-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo competitor. Oh, and cousin Ty Erickson happens to be the reigning PRCA steer wresteling world champion.
“Everyone (in the family) is so positive,” Petersen said. “They’re just gritty and tough.”
Staying with the family theme, Petersen does compete in steer wrestling as well as team roping and bareback riding. He started out riding mini-bulls at age 7 before attempting his first bareback horse.
“When I moved up to the big bulls, I got tired of getting hurt,” he said. “There was a group producing the mini-buckers there in Montana, and I started getting on horses there when I was 12.
“It just blossomed from there.”
So far, Petersen has competed at Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days as part of its novice bareback competition and the Jr. World Finals in Las Vegas during the Wrangler NFR. Petersen finished fourth at the Jr. World Finals.
“Cheyenne was the coolest thing,” he said.
As his riding career progressed, fate intervened when Petersen’s mom, Tara, a real estate agent by profession who is also a former reserve National Intercollegiate Champion in goat tying, sold a house to Heath Ford. Ford is a veteran of three NFRs, serves on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board of Directors and is one of the teachers for Jr. Rodeo’s many rodeo camps.
“He is my mentor, he has helped me a bunch,” said Petersen, who has attended several of Ford’s schools and is always looking to learn. . “I go to what he has going on, and it’s good to learn from someone else too, you can always learn something new.”
While he enjoys watching top guys like three-time PRCA Bareback Riding World Champion Tim O’Connell, Peterson isn’t looking to copy anyone.
“I’m working at the little things, watching what they’re doing, but I want to have my own style,” he said.
With Ford’s tutelage, Petersen finished second in Montana a year ago, making his first appearance at the National High School Finals Rodeo, where he won the second go-round and finished 11th in the nation.
Adversity reared its head again for Petersen in the fall of 2019 when he broke six bones in his hand and wrist in a hang-up while riding. The injury kept him from competing as part of his high school wrestling team, but the teen kept great perspective on that setback.
“I couldn’t compete, but I still got to condition with the team, which helped a lot,” Petersen said, praising the benefits of wrestling to a rodeo career. “Wrestling is the best sport for any roughstock event.”
A fully rehabbed Petersen captured the year-end title in Montana to earn another chance at a national title at the 2020 NHSRF which is happening now, July 17-23, at the famed Lazy E Arena in Guthrie.
Following the Montana High School Finals Rodeo, Petersen prepped for the big event by working out, working on a ranch and competing at the Cody (Wyo.) Nite Rodeo.
“I’ve won quite a few there,” he said of the nightly event, a proving ground for young talent. “It’s awesome. The fees are cheap, and you can win enough to afford to stay around there.”
His grandfather was there as support in Cody, and the whole family made the trip to Oklahoma including his father, who has been cancer free for several years.
Petersen competed in his preliminary rounds on Monday, July 20, posting a 76.5-point ride on his first horse, good enough for seventh in the round. He is leading round two with a score of 78.5 points.
His two-head average score of 155 points has him in second place, 2.5 points behind Cooper Cooke and in great position to qualify for the championship round.
Though just halfway through his high school rodeo career, and planning to attend college, Petersen already has his eyes on a pro career.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “… I’m ready to go chase a world title.
“Greatness is what motivates me.”
By Brett Hoffman | Article from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal
For Gus Gaillard, saddle bronc riding is a family heritage.
His grandfather, Mark McCloy, is a retired stock contractor from Tatum, New Mexico, in the Hobbs area. McCloy rode for Texas Tech in the 1970s and competed in saddle bronc riding at the College National Finals Rodeo a couple of times.
His father, Lance, rode saddle broncs in high school, college, in the amateur ranks and some on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
Gus Gaillard, 17, who is from Morse, is taking the same type of paths that his father and grandfather took during their younger days and he’s having remarkable success.
Gaillard, a Gruver High School sophomore, won the Texas High School Rodeo Association saddle bronc riding title at the THSRA Finals on June 13 in Abilene. He has advanced to the National High School Finals Rodeo, which is scheduled for July 17-23 at the Lazy E Arena at Guthrie, Oklahoma, in the Oklahoma City area.
Last year, Gaillard finished third at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Gaillard also finished No. 1 in the Cowboy Channel Jr. National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc riding title race on March 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
As he competes, Gaillard is mindful of his family heritage.
“It’s in my blood,” he said. “It’s family traditions.”
McCloy said his grandson is focused.
“He’s got talent, he works at it and he’s gotten a lot of good coaching over the years,” McCloy said.
Lance Gaillard said his son excels because he’s goal-oriented.
“He really puts in the work,” Lance Gaillard said. “He loves it. He just started correctly and just does things right.”
Gus Gaillard began riding steers in the fifth grade and took on his first saddle bronc at 15. He said riding a bronc feels great when he’s in rhythm with the bucking horse and riding with correct form.
“It feels like a rocking chair,” he said. “It’s smooth. When it’s not smooth, it doesn’t feel very good. But when you’re making a good ride and doing things right, it’s real smooth.”
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mike White was a high-profile competitor on both the Professional Bull Riders and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuits. He won the PRCA’s bull riding title in 1999. He earned more than $1.2 million in the PBR and is in the PBR Ring Of Honor.
Today, White, 43, who is from De Kalb in East Texas, competes in amateur team-roping competitions. On June 22, he and his wife, Hannah, lassoed the biggest tandem win of their 21-year marriage.
The duo roped four steers in 34.09 seconds to split the $100,000 first-place paycheck in the #12.5 Showdown of the Wrangler Bob Feist Invitational Week, a high-profile team-roping competition that was conducted at the Oklahoma-based Lazy E Arena.
The 2020 BFI Week was conducted for the first time in the Lazy E Arena due to a pandemic-forced closure of its usual venue in Reno, Nevada.
For the Whites, it was their first team-roping win on a big stage.
“We’ve never won anything big together,” Mike White told veteran rodeo journalist Julie Mankin during the Wrangler BFI Week. “We struggle at it.”
But Hannah White said she and her husband are competitive people.
“We rope so much at home, it’s exciting for a plan to come together,” Hannah White said. “Our only fights have come in the roping pen. We work so hard at it, and we’re both very competitive. I don’t care if we’re going to the concession stand, Mike will say, ‘I’ll beat you over there.’ ”
Jill Wilson of Snyder won the barrel-racing title at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo on Saturday in Mesquite with a 15.11. Wilson also came in fourth at last week’s Crossett Riding Club 72nd Annual PRCA Rodeo in Crossett, Arkansas, with an 18.20. Wilson is ranked No. 4 in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association 2020 barrel-racing world standings and is on pace to earn her first National Finals Rodeo berth.
Garrett Hale, a 2019 National Finals Steer Roping qualifier from Snyder, won the steer-roping title at the World’s Oldest Rodeo, an Independence Day week PRCA show in Prescott, Arizona. Hale, a Texas Tech graduate, produced a three-run time of 41.6. J. Tom Fisher, a Texas Tech graduate from Andrews who has qualified for the NFSR seven times, won the third round with a 10.7.
Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos and horse shows for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than 35 years. Email him at email@example.com.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.