The 109thPendleton Round-Up began its four-day run under beautiful sunny skies on Wednesday, as over 700 contestants gathered to test their cowboy and cowgirl skills in classic rodeo events. Outside of Oregon, with 110 of the state’s residents vying for a place in Saturday’s Round-Up finals, the biggest contingent came from the state nearly synonymous with rodeo, 109 Texans.
The Round-Up continues on Thursday for its second performance. The finals are scheduled on Saturday.
Results of the Wednesday events:
Tim O’Connell, Zwingle, IA, turned in the best score of the day, an 86, in this challenging event, where the cowboy rides a bucking horse without saddle or stirrups.
O’Connell, 27, who won this event at the 2016 Round-Up and earlier tied for the local title in 2014, has won the bareback national title for the past three years at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. He is currently ranked 9th in the national standings. In 2016 he set a bareback riding record while collecting $347,272 in winnings, the largest single-season total ever in a single rodeo event.
Regarding his horse Wednesday, Zastron Acres, O’Connell said “It was a horse I been wanting to ride for a long time, a Calgary horse. I’ve seen that horse a lot this year. She always gives a guy an opportunity. She went hard over to the left and she hit the grass and just got stronger.
Regarding his recent injuries, O’Connell noted that “I had to take six months of the year out. I had to have my shoulder fixed. They put in everything except the ball and socket. But I love riding bucking horses and I love rodeo. I love the Pendleton Round-Up. There’s nothing like it anywhere in the world. There’s nowhere else you can be out here buckin’ on the grass.”
O’Connell entered the professional rodeo ranks in 2013 and won the rookie of the year title.
In bareback riding, as in all the bucking events, a total theoretical score of 100 is shared between the animal and the rider, each getting 25 theoretical points from each of two judges, a total of 50 for the rider and 50 for his mount. The very best scores show up in the 90s.
Right behind O’Connell were Kash Wilson, 28, Gooding, ID, with 85.5 points, and in a tie for third place with 82.5, Logan Patterson, 25, from Kim, CO, and Joe Schlegel, 30, Burns, CO. The three range from 25th to 44th in the national standings in the bareback event. Wilson is a local favorite, since he competed for the Blue Mountain Community College rodeo team, based in Pendleton, and appeared in the College National Finals Rodeo.
Kolbey Elwyn Hughes time of 9.4 seconds was fast enough to take first in the tie down roping event on Wednesday at the Round-Up. In the roping events, the competitors attempt to rope a steer or calf in the fastest time. Hughes, from St. George, UT, is still in 4th place overall, behind three cowboys who posted faster times during the slack, the elimination rounds that take place earlier in the week to reduce the crowd of contestants to a manageable number for the four-day rodeo that begins on Wednesday.
In second place Wednesday was Kyle Sloan, Ellensburg, WA, with a time of 10.3, followed by a tie between Trevor Brazile, Decatur, TX, and Haven Meged, Miles City MT, both with times of 10.7 seconds. Meged is currently ranked second in the world standings, with winnings of $120,000 for the year, while Brazile doesn’t even show up in the standings.
Brazile has won more world titles and more money than any other competitor in rodeo history. Brazile won the All Around Cowboy title, the top award, at the Pendleton Round-Up six times, including a three-year run beginning in 2012 and as recently as last year. However, at the end of 2018 the 42-year-old Brazile announced he was cutting back on his rodeo schedule to spend more time with his family. He no longer competes enough to appear in the standings, nor to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, where he has won a record-setting 24 national titles. Instead, he said he would appear at a few of his favorite rodeos this year, one of which is the Pendleton Round-Up.
This is the iconic event for rodeo, the cowboy atop a saddled, bucking horse. To place, the competitor must remain on the horse for eight seconds, which some describe as the longest eight seconds in sports. (Eight seconds is the minimum time for a score in all of the bucking events in rodeo.)
On Wednesday a familiar rodeo competitor and bronc rider, Code Demoss of Heflin, LA, took first with a phenomenal score of 90, thanks in large part to a horse, Black Tie, that did its best to unhorse Demoss. Demoss won the event at the Round-Up in 2012 and tied for first place in 2006. Currently 24th in the event’s world standings with $57,000 in winnings this year, the 38-year-old Demoss has amassed nearly $2.5 million in winnings in his 20-year professional rodeo career. He has qualified for the WNFR 13 times and taken one world title there.
Demoss has had to compete through the pain, like many rodeo cowboys.
“My ankle’s twisted a little bit but I’m going to hang out here in Pendleton for the rest of the week. My season’s been injury plagued. I’ve been four months out of the good rodeo season. I’m about $30,000 out of the 15th position,” said Demoss.
Indicating he didn’t see this year’s WNFR in his future, he said, “I’m just going to chill out this one. I’ll probably start rodeoing again in October.” Regarding his horse, Black Tie, “He’s a good one. When he touched that grass it felt like he was straight up and down out there.”
Demoss was followed by Isaac Diaz, Desdemona, TX, with 86, and Bradley Harter, Loranger, LA, 85. Diaz is 17th in the world standings with $78,000 in 2019 winnings and Harter is 13th with $90,000. Diaz, who turns 33 this coming Sunday, finished 8th in last year’s world standings and has nearly $1.2 million in career winnings. Harter finished 19th last year and has won $1.4 million since beginning his career in 2002. While Harter has qualified for the WNFR 10 times, he has yet to win a national title.
Nobody gets as close to his prey as a steer wrestler, who has to slide from a galloping horse onto a running steer, then dig his heels into the dirt for a jerking stop and finally flip the steer onto its side, all while trying not to be under the steer when it hits the dirt. Of 12 competitors on Wednesday only seven managed a time that counted.
Stetson Jorgensen, did it fastest, with a time of 5.2 seconds. Jorgensen, 26, of Blackfoot, ID, is nearing the end of his fifth year in professional rodeo in 11th place in the national standings for this event, with $76,000 in winnings for the year, his best yet. The youngest of four siblings who competed in college rodeo, Jorgensen is the only one to turn pro.
He was followed on Wednesday by Bridger Chambers, Cochrane, AB, with a time of 5.4, and Dakota Eldridge, Elko, NV, at 6.9. Chambers, 30, with seven years in professional rodeo, finished second in the event’s world standings last year but is 17th currently. Eldridge is 8th in the world standings, almost guaranteeing a spot in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December. The 28-year-old has qualified for the WNFR five times, the latest in 2017.
Team roping is the only rodeo event involving more than one competitor for a single score. In the event, the header ropes the steer’s head and his partner, the heeler, then ropes the two hind feet. That is, if everything goes well. In Wednesday’s performance, of 10 competitors seven were unable to complete the task and two who did received penalties that left them out of the running.
Bubba Buckaloo, Kingston, OK, and heeler Cole Davison, Stephenville, TX, caught their steer perfectly in 5.4 seconds to take the day. Buckaloo, 31, finished 5th in the world standings for this event last year, the first time in his 11-year professional rodeo career that he qualified for the WNFR, where he finished 9th. Given that he’s 25th in the standings this year and the WNFR accepts only the top 15 finishers in each event, Buckaloo is unlikely to appear this year at rodeo’s super bowl. Davison, 30, also appeared at the WNFR last year for the first time after finishing 11th in the world standings. He is currently ranked 19th.
Bull riding is another tough event where a majority of competitors may end up without a score. In Wednesday’s performance, with 18 bull riders on the roster, 12 had no score because most could not stay on the bull for the full eight seconds.
Jeff Askey did it and scored 86 to take first. The Athens, TX native rode Last Cigarette to move his winnings for the year to just over $100,000 and better ensure that he will retain his current #15 spot in the national standings, the last spot that will earn qualification for the WNFR. The 31-year-old has competed twice in the WNFR, in 2016 and last year, after finishing in 5th place with over $225,000 in winnings. Askey won the College National Finals Rodeo bull riding championship in 2010, the year before he joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
“I haven’t been here since 2015,” said Askey, “but I love it. It’s definitely one of the prime rodeos. My winter rodeo season was awesome. Got in a lot of good rodeos close to home in Texas. In the winter I stayed on a lot of bulls and did real good.” Askey expressed optimism that he’ll be at the WNFR in December.
Behind Askey was J.T. Moore, Alvin, TX, with 80.5, and Trey Benton III, Rock Island, TX, with 80. Moore is currently 27th in the event’s world standings while Benton is at 7th, approaching $120,000 in winnings for the year and almost certain to appear in the WNFR for the 6th time with a shot at his first world title.
The third and final roping event at the Round-Up was won by the king of the cowboys, Trevor Brazile, who took the top spot by being the only one of 12 competitors to manage a time on Wednesday. As described under the tie down roping event, where Brazile placed, the legendary rodeo competitor has cut back on his schedule this year, after announcing in December, 2018, that he wanted to spend more time with his family and less on the road competing in rodeo. Brazile’s time, 13.4 seconds, would often be considered unremarkable except for the fact that he was the only one to catch his steer.
If Brazile can win enough events at this year’s Round-Up he could take the All Around Cowboy award for the 7th time, increasing his lead over the only cowboy to ever come close to that record, Yakima Canutt, who won the first of his five all-around titles in 1917, during World War I.
In the only sanctioned women’s event at the Round-Up Italy Sheehan, Shoshone, ID, captured first with a fastest time of 28.77 seconds in barrel racing. In second was Ahnna Peterson, Velva, ND, 29.47, followed by Mary Shae Hays, Hermiston, OR, 29.76.
Sheehan grew up in rodeo history, the granddaughter of PRCA World Champion Steer Wrestler and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Bob A. Robinson. Her folks, Ange and Vern Eames, competed in the sport, Vern in saddle bronc riding and Ange as a barrel racer. Sheehan was on a horse by the time she was two years old, eventually college rodeoing for both University of Nevada-Las Vegas and College of Southern Idaho where she won All Around and Barrel Racing regional titles. She also competed in the Round-Up in 2018.