The winner of the Pendleton Round-Up’s All-Around Champion award admitted to an emotional tie to the town Saturday, finally taking an award he had coveted for at least 15 years.
As the storied rodeo wrapped up its 106th year of the annual four-day performance in this Eastern Oregon town, Shane Erickson of Terrebonne, Oregon, accepted his award, calling it a “dream come true”.
“I’ve been wanting one of these buckles for a long time,” he said. At one time Erickson studied at the local Blue Mountain Community College, known, among other things, for its college rodeo team. Erickson competed in his first rodeo at the age of eight and won his first championship at nine. Asked how long he had competed at the Round-Up the 36-year-old Erickson guessed at least 15 years.
“I’ve had good chances a few times, just come up short with second or third. It’s a great feeling. This is one of the rodeos you always want to win and it’s so tough to win here because of the elements and I’m going to be proud wearing the buckle, I know that.”
The All-Around Champion award goes to the competitor who wins the most award money in multiple events. Erickson competed and placed in multiple roping events that gave him the top position among nearly 700 competitors at this year’s Round-Up, beating cowboys from throughout the country.
Winners by event:
In the first 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 event title with a score of 84 on Saturday, and an aggregate for the week of 172. Earlier in the week O’Connell scored 88, the highest score of the rodeo in bareback.
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.
RC Landingham, Hat Creek, CA, finished second in bareback with 85.5 on Saturday for a total of 169, followed by JR Vezain, Crowley, WY, 85/166.5.
Landingham has enough winnings at this point to ensure a spot in December’s National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. He said earlier in the week that he was feeling good about not having the pressure of prior years, when he wasn’t sure until the end of the season about making the NFR.
Like O’Connell, Landingham also spent time in Pendleton while attending Blue Mountain Community College. The 26-year-old competitor has done well in competition this year, winning eight rodeos and nearly $100,000 to take 5th place in the PRCA world standings.
Vezain, 24, a five-year veteran of the PRCA, ranks 12th in the PRCA standings in bareback.
Chase Williams, Stephenville, TX, won the title for tie-down roping with a time on Saturday of 9.4 for a total of 28.3. Right behind him at a total of 29, 9.5 seconds on Saturday, was a local favorite, Brad Goodrich of nearby Hermiston, OR, followed by Ty Holly, Mt. Vernon, OR, 10.5/30.2.
Williams, 25 and a three-year veteran of the PRCA, was 31st in the world standings for the event last year, moving up to 23rd currently, with over $50,000 in prize money this year. Almost destined to compete in the event, Williams and his brother Chad are the fifth generation of ropers in their family and he credits his grandfather, Phil Fifer for developing his talent.
Goodrich has been at this sport longer, with two tie-down titles at the Round-Up, in 2004 and 2008, both times with average times of 9.2 seconds. In 2004 he also took the All-Around Champion award. The 48-year-old has won over $1.2 million in a 29-year PRCA career, qualifying for the NFR six times. Holly, another regional favorite, recently qualified for the finals of the Northwest Professional Rodeo Association.
The Wright family of Milford, Utah is justifiably a force in the world of professional rodeo. In a story last year the Deseret News described them as Utah’s first family of rodeo, having among them claimed four PRCA world championships in the past seven years. Numerous Wrights compete every year at the Round-Up and this year, two of them, the twins in the family, placed in the top three spots in the saddle bronc event, with Jesse Wright winning the event title with a Saturday time of 85.5 and a total of 170.5.
Jesse was followed by another rodeo force, Cody DeMoss, Heflin, LA, with 82.5/170.0 and by his brother, Jake, 86/168.0.
Like all of his brothers—there are 13 Wright siblings—Jesse went to college on a rodeo team scholarship. The boys, fit and lean, not too tall, seem perfect for riding a bucking horse and staying on. Jesse won the world championship in 2012 after finishing second the prior year. Jake was sixth in 2012 and second in 2013, just $10,000 from a world title. In the PRCA standings Jake is 5, Jesse is 12. Other Wrights are ranked 3, 11, 16, 48 and 50.
DeMoss, ranked 6th, also has something of a family thing going, with his brother, Heith, ranked 7th in the saddle bronc world competition. They follow in the footsteps of dad, Mike, a two-time National High School Finals bareback riding champion. The 35-year-old Cody, a 16-year PRCA veteran, has earned over $2 million in professional rodeo. He won the average title at the 2012 NFR and almost took the #1 spot in the world standings, falling only $797 behind Jesse Wright with $226,090.
Some at the Round-Up this year seemed surprised at the success of a cowboy from Wisconsin, as in “does Wisconsin have cowboys?” (Well, they certainly have cows.) Nick Guy, Sparta, WI, won the steer wrestling title with a Saturday time of 5.4 seconds and a total of 15.9. Guy has spent 10 years as a PRCA competitor and amassed winnings of nearly $600,000. Enough said about Wisconsin. The 31-year-old has also qualified three times for the NFR, as recently as last year, and given his current position of #8 in the world standings, should be there again this year. Perhaps more in line with perceptions of Wisconsin, Guy also competed through high school in hockey.
Following Guy were Dakota Eldridge, Elko, NV, 5.5/17.5 and Timmy Sparing, Helena, MT, 5.5/18.7.
Eldridge, 25, with four years in the PRCA, has also won well over half a million dollars in professional competition and is 6th in the world standings after finishing second last year. Just last week he won the steer wrestling title at the Puyallup Washington State Fair and Rodeo with 13.5 seconds on three head. He was the PRCA Resistol All-Around and Steer Wrestling Rookie of the Year, 2012.
Sparing, 27, also has four years in the PRCA and won one rodeo this year, the Last Chance Stampede in his hometown of Helena. Unlike so many competitors at the Round-Up he was the first in his family to compete in rodeo and did not begin steer wrestling until he was 17. He is currently 45th in the world standings.
Ryan Reed, Wittman, AZ and Dalton Pearce, San Luis Obispo, CA, took the team roping title Saturday with a time of 6.8 for the day and a total of 19.5. Reed is currently 21 in the world standings for headers with $50,000 in prize money while Pearce is 27th for heelers with over $40,000.
Garrett Rogers, Baker City, OR and Jake Minor, Ellensburg, WA, finished behind Reed/Pearce with 7.2/20.9, followed by David Temple, New Plymouth, ID and Tee Jay Brown, Ontario, CA, 6.8/21.2.
Rogers and Minor are ranked 9/11 in the world standings, each with over $70,000. Rogers, 23, was born in Pendleton, so got the local boy welcome. He’s competed in the PRCA for the past four years, finishing 26th in the standings last year and competed as a heeler until switching two years ago. His father and mother were both team ropers, while his sister, Kylee, continues to team rope. His partner Minor, 24, finished 25th last year as a heeler and has partnered with Rogers for the past two years. He joined the PRCA in 2011, initially partnering with brother Jason. His sisters also compete in rodeo.
Sage Steele Kimzey, Strong City, OK, was one of only two competitors to remain aboard their bulls for the required eight seconds, scoring 86.5 Saturday and 169.5 total to win the bull riding title at the 2016 Round-Up. By doing so, the Oklahoma cowboy repeated his title win at the 2015 Round-Up and demonstrated why he is currently ranked #1 in the world bull riding standings, with over $170,000 in winnings this year. He finished last year at #1 with over $325,000.
The 22-year-old joined the PRCA only three years ago but has won dozens of rodeos in his short career, including 13 this year with his Round-Up win. He won his first NFR title in 2014, only a year after turning pro.
The other competitor to finish, of the 12 who competed on Saturday, offered a lesson in endurance.
Ednei Caminhas, Denton, TX, finished with 81.5/161.0. But to get there he had two re-rides, something that happens when the bull doesn’t provide a proper performance. Caminhas, a native of Brazil who has spent quite a few years competing in a sport that doesn’t lend to a long career, got a re-ride on Friday that kept him in the running. Then on Saturday, as soon as his bull left the bucking chute, it fell sideways on top of the cowboy. Visibly limping and helped from the field, he nonetheless returned for a re-ride on Saturday and unlike 10 other competitors, stuck to his bull long enough to be able to split the prize money with Kimzey. Caminhas, a longtime rider for the Professional Bull Rider circuit, is 23rd in the PRCA world standings for the event.
On Thursday only two of nine steer ropers caught their target and Ryan Rochlitz was one of them. Saturday went better, with six competitors catching steers. Rochlitz, Minatare, NE, was again among them and his best time, 12.8 for the day and 42.4 over the week on three head, gave him the steer roping title.
Rochlitz also has something of an endurance story to tell. He 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.
Rochlitz managed to best two highly ranked competitors, including Jess Tierney, ranked 7th in the PRCA standings, who took second on Saturday with 13.9 seconds for a three-head total of 47.6. Tierney, 34, Hermosa, SD, is down a bit from his 3rd place finish last year, but has still won three rodeos and over $50,000 this year in PRCA competition.
Third place finisher Troy Tillard, Douglas, WY, had a time of 19.6 Saturday and a total of 52.7. Tillard, ranked #10 in the standings currently, is up from his #14 2015 finish. Tillard, 38, travels the rodeo circuit with his wife, Heidi, a barrel racer. His dad, brothers and cousins also compete in PRCA events.
Three nationally ranked barrel racers captured the top three spots in the sport at the 2016 Round-Up, starting with Stevi Hillman, Weatherford, TX, with a Saturday time of 29.72 and a total for the week of 59.4. Both Hillman and second place finisher Kimmie Wall, Roosevelt, UT, 29.77/59.5 are virtually guaranteed a spot at the NFR in December with national ranks of #7 and #6 respectively for the two.
Kimmie Wall won the event in 2015 with a time of 28.66.
Pamela Capper, Cheney, WA, with a time of 29.69/59.7, and ranked #13 in the world standings, finished third. In the past two years Capper has done well at the Round-Up, capturing second and third, with the fastest single ride in 2015 and winning more than $14,000 over the two years.
All times were about a second or more longer this year after the Pendleton Round-Up Association lengthened what was already the longest barrel racing course in the sport. Sometimes referred to as “the green mile” by the competitors, the course runs across a grass infield—grass because the local high school football team also uses the arena—to a dirt track surrounding the field. To allow solid turns for barrel racers, the barrels are positioned on the dirt track, requiring the competitors to run across and down a football field to reach the dirt turns.