By Ted Hardin/for the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo committee
DODGE CITY, Kan. – Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton had a solid winter and were enjoying a nice spring.
As of the second week of May, they were both fifth in their respective team roping world standings, having earned $26,000. Things changed in a hurry.
Skelton, an eight-time world champion, suffered serious injuries May 15 when he was on the wrong end of a chain-reaction wreck near his Llano, Texas, home. A pickup pulling a livestock trailer slammed into a passenger vehicle, which crashed into the eight-time world champion’s tractor. Skelton and the driver of the passenger vehicle were airlifted to an Austin, Texas, hospital.
Skelton returned to rodeo action in late June. On July 31, he and Sartain stopped the clock in 5.3 seconds during the third performance of the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. Combined with their 5.5-second first-round run, they lead the two-run aggregate heading into the final two days of Kansas’ richest rodeo.
“When I got hurt, I’d only been to 12 rodeos,” said Skelton, who, with Sartain, has pocketed more than $16,000 in a few weeks to move back up into the top 20 in the world standings. “We get to go to 75, so we’re playing catch-up.”
They’re doing it quite well in western Kansas. They are placing in both go-rounds with one day remaining in the preliminary rounds and will return for Sunday’s championship round. Skelton has claimed the coveted Roundup buckle two other times with World Champion Ropers Tee Woolman and Speed Williams; he’d like to add a third with Sartain.
“It’s been a good partnership,” Skelton said of heeling behind Sartain, the 2009 heading world champ. “We’ve struggled the past couple of weeks.
“Everything’s good, but we’re hoping this will get us kick-started and get us rolling.”
Just two months remain in ProRodeo’s regular season. Only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify for the year-end championship, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which takes place each December in Las Vegas. Doing well in Dodge City will be a great momentum boost. He’d love to return to the Nevada desert for the 22nd time in his storied career.
“I’m pretty fortunate to rope with Nick,” said Skelton, who won all of his gold buckles roping with Williams from 1997-2004. “When I was roping with Speedy, Nick used to come down and practice with us. He knows how I like steers handled, and he’s worked at handling steers like Speed.
“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to rope together.”
It’s working in Dodge City.