The Pendleton Round-Up, one of America’s premier rodeos, continued the 106th staging of the four-day celebration on Thursday, Sept. 15 in Pendleton, Oregon. Winners of the events Thursday came from Iowa, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon. The rodeo wraps up with its final program on Saturday, when the championship for each of eight events will be awarded, as well as the title of All Around Champion.
In the kickoff event for each day of the Round-Up, bareback riding--which unlike the roping events is judged rather than timed—Tim O’Connell, Zwingle, IA, captured the best score of this year’s rodeo so far, 88. He finished 2015 in 4th place with $218,000 for the year and is currently number one in the PRCA’s world rankings, with over $160,000 for this year. He tied for the event title at the Round-Up in 2014, only his second year in professional rodeo.
In the rough stock (bucking) events, the rider gets 50 points and the mount gets 50, for a potential, but never reached, 100 points. Exceptional bucking horses can make a huge difference, as O’Connell found aboard Sozo Thursday. O’Connell was followed by Richmond Champion, The Woodlands, TX, 83, riding Soap Bubbles, and Jessy Davis, Power, MT, bucking on Twisted Cinches for 79.5 points.
O’Connell, 24, qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for the first time in 2014 after joining the PRCA only the prior year, but has already won $400,000 in prize money, going on to qualify again last year for the NFR. He entered the 2014 competition in fourth place but finished in eighth after ten nights of riding bucking barebacks with an injured clavicle. He nonetheless won $28,350 in Las Vegas that year. Last year he suffered another serious injury at the Calgary Stampede, missing four weeks of the season.
O’Connell was still excited following his big win last weekend at the Ram National Circuit Finals in Florida, where he won a national title and about $25,000 in prize money. Commenting on his horse he said he’d been on her before.
“So I was really excited because I knew how good of a horse she was. They opened the gate on me and I was really, really lucky to get her marked out. It wasn’t as crisp as I usually like but as soon as I finally got a hold of her she did her thing and started bailing like four feet in the air and jumping backward, exactly what a bareback rider likes to get on. She gave me a great opportunity and the good lord had it going my way that day.”
O’Connell went on to say that 2016 has been the best year he’s ever had in rodeo, “by about double. I’ve gotten to get on great horses and I’ve stayed healthy.”
He began life following his dad to rodeos, as dad worked as a pickup man for several, then followed his brother Will into riding rough stock, including bulls and horses. He also managed to qualify all four years for the National High School Finals Rodeo, winning the Wisconsin High School Bull Riding Championship in 2010, the same year he began riding bareback.
Local favorite Brad Goodrich, Hermiston, OR, took top honors in tie-down roping at the second day of the Pendleton Round-Up, Thursday, with a best time of 9.4 seconds to rope his calf, giving him second place in the tie-down average at the 106th staging of this legendary rodeo. He was followed by Tyler Prcin, Alvord, TX, 10.4 seconds and Lane Karney, Creston, CA, 12.8.
Competitors at the Round-Up compete multiple times in each event, winning prize money for each attempt, plus for winning the average of their multiple contests. They can also win the championship money for the four-days in each event as well as an All Around title for the cowboy or cowgirl who wins the most money in multiple events.
Goodrich, now with a total of 19.5 seconds for two performances, pushed into a space between Chase Williams,18.9, from Stephenville, TX, and Ty Holly, 19.7, Mt. Vernon, OR, who earned their finishes in the slack earlier in the week. The 48-year-old Goodrich, who has earned over $1.2 million in his 29-year PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn.) career, won the Round-Up title in the event in 2004 and 2008. His wife, Jodi, also competes at the Round-Up in barrel racing.
Saddle bronc riding
In bareback’s sister event, this time with a seat and stirrups, the leader on Thursday in saddle bronc was Clay Stremler, Fallon, NV, with 82 points on Saturn Rocket. Not far behind was Jacobs Crawley, Boerne, TX, reigning world champ in the event, with 81.5 points shared with Pack Train. In third was Layton Green, Meeting Creek, AB, sharing his 79.5 points with Robin Hood.
Crawley, 28, and a 10-year PRCA veteran, has earned nearly $1 million in lifetime prize money, winning over a quarter of that money and his first world title in this event last year, while qualifying for the NFR for the past five years. He has won 18 rodeos already this year, putting him in first place for a second straight year, with over $160,000 to push him into another NFR opportunity. Layton Green is at 16 in the world standings with $61,000 for winning nine rodeos, nearly all of the 22-year-old’s nearly $70,000 in lifetime winnings. He finished last year in 24th place.
Team roping takes two to win, a header roping a steer’s head and his heeler, who then ropes the hind heels. It can be tough enough to rope a running steer once, let alone twice and in order, so it’s not surprising that only four of Thursday’s 12 teams made the scoreboard. Leading the way were local favorites Jake Stanley, Hermiston, OR, and Bucky Campbell of Benton City, WA, who managed the feat in 5.5 seconds. Right behind them and only one-tenth of a second separated, were the teams of Tavis Stockdale, Portland, OR,/Justin Simon, Florence, AZ, 8.1 seconds and David Temple, New Plymouth, ID/Tee Jay Brown, Ontario, OR at 8.2.
Stanley, 33, and a 13-year PRCA veteran, has nearly $400,000 in lifetime winnings but saw little action last year, after tying for the win in the event at the Round-Up in 2014 with Bucky Campbell. He also tied for the event title here in 2006 with heeler Russell Cardoza. Stanley announced he cut back on traveling to rodeos so he could spend more time at home in Hermiston, training and selling roping horses.
Steer wrestling resembles steer roping except that instead of throwing a rope to stop the steer the cowboy throws his body, then slams his heels into the ground while attempting to twist the steer into a reclining position. It generally attracts the taller, stouter cowboys.
The steer wrestler has a key partner, the hazer, who rides on the opposite side of the steer to keep it from veering off and away from the steer wrestler or bulldogger. Nonetheless, steers do veer away, despite the hazer’s best effort and four of today’s 12 competitors had no score. The man with the winning score was Justin Simon, Florence, AZ, who caught his target in 6.7 seconds. Riley Krassin, Lander, WY, came in second with 7.5, followed by Hank Filippini, Battle Mountain, NV, 8.8, and, only one-tenth second behind, Sean Santucci, Prineville, OR, at 8.9.
Santucci, the regional local, placed 37th in world standings last year with $30,000 in winnings but has won only a couple of rodeos each year since turning pro eight years ago. He was co-champion at one this year. At 6’6” he’s perfect for steer wrestling although the ranch raised cowboy spent his early years learning to rope, then moved to saddle bronc riding and finally steer wrestling where he has remained in recent years. He now helps train others in both roping and steer wrestling.
In the bull riding event Dakota Louis, in a re-ride on Broken Spoke, and Roscoe Jarboe, riding Big Tex Rocks, tied at 84.5, followed by Clayton Savage at 82 on Speculation.
Louis, Browning, MT, 24, won the Indian National Finals Rodeo, attaining the 2012-2013 bull riding title at the age of 21. A member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, Louis has qualified for the INFR five times and won three world titles in that event. Louis names as his favorite rodeos the Cheyenne Frontier Days and Pendleton Round-Up. In the Professional Bull Riders tour Louis ranks 57 and competed earlier this week in the PBR event that kicked off Round-Up week in Pendleton. He finished 2015 ranked 63 in the PBR.
Jarboe, 20, New Plymouth, ID, joined the PRCA last year and has earned nearly $100,000 this year winning more than six rodeo titles in bull riding and currently number eight in the world standings. He won the Oregon high school bull riding championship his junior year and qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo as a sophomore and junior, finishing 11 in the nation as a junior.
Savage, 30 and a 10-year PRCA veteran with over $600,000 in lifetime winnings, finished 2015 in 37th in world standings and is 41st so far in 2016 with $33,000. The Yoder, WY, native was the National High School Finals bull riding champ in 2005. He followed in the footsteps of his late dad, Vaun, a bareback rider. He qualified for the NFR in 2009 and again in 2011-12.
It’s hard to rope a steer. Just ask the seven of nine ropers who didn’t accomplish the catch on Thursday at the Round-Up. Only Ryan Rochlitz, Minatare, NE, at 13.6 seconds, and J.D. Yates, Pueblo, CO, at 14.9 caught theirs. (Jim Ward, Pendleton, OR, caught his in 20.5 but it pulled free and got up, negating the time.)
Rochlitz won the Wyoming State High School Rodeo Finals in team roping in 1996 just before discovering a serious heart disease that required a heart transplant while he was at college. After six months of recovery he continued with his college rodeo career. In 2002 he received his degree in ag business and joined the PRCA, but spent the following year in Europe participating in EuroDisney’s Wild West Show. Since then the 37-year-old has continued to pursue his career as a professional roper.
J.D. Yates, 56, and a 42-year veteran of the PRCA with over $1.5 million in lifetime winnings, was steer roping champ at the Round-Up in 1991, 1994 and 2001, testimony to the longevity possible for rodeo ropers. He was 77th in the world standings last year with $14,230 in winnings and is again out of the top 50 this year, although, as he demonstrated today, he’s still a quality professional roper who can catch his steer when others can’t. Yates began his long career at the age of 14, roping heels in a team with his dad. He and his dad, Dick, qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for 13 straight years as a twosome. J.D. became the youngest to ever qualify for the NFR at 15 in 1975. Now he ropes rodeos with his son, Trey.
Of Thursday’s 12 barrel racers only one was able to run the course in under 30 seconds, which is unlikely to win the title this year, since no one in 16 years has won with an average time over 29 seconds. The Round-Up course is viewed as especially challenging since it is twice the length of most barrel racing courses and much of it is run on grass, not a horse’s favorite running surface.
Teri Bangart, Olympia, WA, was fastest today, with a time of 29.85 followed by Pamela Capper, Cheney, WA, 30.02, and Carmel Wright, Roy, MT, 30.31. Of the three Capper is currently ranked 13th in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, while Wright is ranked 51. To make it into the final event on Saturday they need to pass a regular jam up of nationally ranked contestants: Kimmie Wall, ranked 6, Stevi Hillman, 7, Cayla Melby, 10, Jana Bean, 14, Sydni Blanchard, 24, Darby Fox, 49, and Paige Willis, 63, all of whom are among the top 12 finishers in the Round-Up so far.
Wall, currently second at the Round-Up at 29.77, has competed in the WPRA for the past two years and finished 19th last year, one place ahead of her 2014 finish. More importantly, the 36-year-old won the Round-Up last year with a time of 28.66, a time she’ll need to approach to win again this year.