In the second day of slack at the 107th Pendleton Round-Up, over 300 cowboys were signed up to compete for a spot in the rodeo, which begins on Wednesday for a four-day run, ending on Saturday with the finals for those who remain. On Tuesday only 148 were able to show a time in four timed events and of those, many fell too low to make it into the big show itself.
Slack is rodeo’s version of the playoffs. Like most major rodeos the Round-Up has more competitors seeking spots in the rodeo than will fit into the four days of the official rodeo, Wednesday-Saturday. So “slack” allows every hopeful an opportunity to try out, with the best times making it into the rodeo. Once the rodeo begins on Wednesday, the eliminations continue, with only the top competitors making it into Saturday’s finals.
Because the Round-Up is one of the last major rodeos in the annual season, and because Round-Up winnings can help project a competitor into the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, held in December in Las Vegas, this event becomes critical to those cowboys and cowgirls on the edge of making the cut.
Tuesday saw the first go-round for three events: tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling. For steer roping, which had its first go-round on Monday, the eliminations continued, with 47 steer ropers signed up for the Tuesday event and only 11 capturing a time. Like the other timed events steer roping comes down to how fast the cowboy can finish the event, in this case by roping his steer during a quick dash down the Round-Up’s unusual grass infield.
One cowboy who said he loves competing at Pendleton, even likes coming off the dirt track to hit the grass, was Cody Cabral, a Hilo, Hawaii cowboy who grew up cowboying on the Big Island, came to the region to compete at Walla Walla Community College and captured the steer wrestling top time Tuesday, in 5.3 seconds. Steer wrestling requires a controlled fall from a galloping horse onto an equally speedy steer, bringing the steer to an abrupt halt with the cowboy’s boot heels, then flipping a couple hundred pounds of beef. Many cowboys do not like the grass at Pendleton, which they say can cause the horse to slip.
Cabral was followed by Nick Guy, Sparta, WI, and Kody Dollery, Caldwell, TX, both with times of 5.7 seconds. All won several thousand dollars on Tuesday and will continue to compete in the Round-Up this week for a larger share of the steer wrestling event’s $63,000 purse.
Money is critical because it is the measurement by which cowboys gain entry into the world series of rodeo, the Wrangler National Finals.
Kimmie Wall, Roosevelt, UT, the 2015 barrel racing champion at the Round-Up, finished first in the barrel racing go-round on Monday but notes that she’s not quite there when it comes to qualifying for the NFR.
“We really appreciate the money that Pendleton offers us barrel racers because it will help put us into the top 15 and we need a little bit of cash right now. We’ve had a great year but I’m sitting just outside the top 15,” said Wall. The NFR accepts only the top 15 money winners from the rodeo season in each of the NFR’s events. Wall made it into last year’s NFR and according to the prorodeo website is currently ranked 15th in the world standings with nearly $52,000 in winnings this year.
Although nearly 100 women entered this year’s barrel racing event, only 12 will compete in Saturday’s finals.
The rodeo begins at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday in Pendleton.