Big Sky Rodeo Roundup Update

 

Cowboy worried about more than scores

 Scott Mansch, smansch@greatfallstribune.com 5:04 p.m. MDT August 5, 2016

George Gillespie IV was worried about more than his bareback ride Thursday night as the Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup continued.

Gillespie has a home in Hamilton, which has been under siege by wildfires this week.

“The last I heard it didn’t have any containment on it,” he said. “My wife’s been trying to keep me updated but we haven’t been home since it started.”

Gillespie failed to crack the leaderboard with a 74-point marking as the PRCA rodeo continued before a crowd of about 2,500 at Montana ExpoPark. But afterward, he was more concerned with the folks back home.

“With 1,000 people evacuated, maybe more, it’s definitely not a good thing,” Gillespie said. “I feel sorry for the people. There’s a lot of folks that have houses in the trees.”

Gillespie, a northern California native, is married to Ashley Lippert of Carter. They recently moved to Hamilton. And this summer they’ve been living on the rodeo road.

Gillespie rode Wednesday in Dodge City, Kansas, then he and his wife made the 18-hour drive to Great Falls. “We’ll be in Sand Point, Idaho (Friday) and then Idaho Falls,” Gillespie said.

He’s in the top 25 in the PRCA world standings.

“I’ve been fighting some injuries,” he said. “Groin injuries.”

And that affected his performance Thursday aboard Ike Sankey’s bucking horse “Gargamel.”

“That horse right there, that was a great opportunity,” Gillespie said. “I shoulda rode that horse better, but I didn’t get her started like I wanted to.”

Gillespie, 35, is in the Montana Circuit for the first time and is battling for the lead in the standings. He’s had much experience previously in the Columbia River Circuit. Though he’s been a contender for the National Finals Rodeo in recent years, the trip to Las Vegas has eluded him.

“I’ve been right there on the bubble since about 2013, right around 20th place,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was also a homecoming of sorts for the great Travis Tryan, the team roper from Billings who this season has declared the Montana Circuit his own for the first time in about 15 years.

Tryan, 35, winters in Texas and has had substantial circuit success in the Lone Star State.

But now he’s home.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been up here,” said Tryan, the nine-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “I like being up here. I always have. So I made a decision to stay. I love the Circuit Finals. I always have, so I decided I’d try to do it again this year.”

Tryan’s appearance evoked memories. It’s impossible to think of the Billings star without recalling his mount.

A year ago, Tryan’s great late team roping horse “Walt” was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. The four-time PRCA team roping head horse of the year died of an aneurysm in 2010 at age 20. Tryan still remembers.

“You never forget family,” he smiled.

It’s been a difficult summer for many veteran ropers, of course, since the news broke that famed roper Bill Parker died of cancer.

“Bill was very close to our family,” Tryan said. “It’s sad to lose an icon of the sport. He was a really good friend of my dad’s (Dennis) and the whole family. His attitude throughout the whole deal was inspiring to everyone.”

These days Tryan is riding “Don,” a 12-year-old bay. “He’s been doing good for me,” Tryan said.

But it’s a transition season for sure for the roping superstar, whose brother is Clay, the former world champion.

“You won’t see me in Las Vegas this year,” Travis said. And then he smiled. “Next year,” he said.

Few men ride both broncs and bulls. Gerald Eash of tiny Trego is the exception.

“They’re totally different,” he said. “In the bronc riding, you know, you’re trying to stay back and spur and in the bull riding you gotta get to the front. So it’s kinda backwards. But your body learns to switch gears, I guess.”

Eash, 27, did not earn a qualified score in either event Thursday night. Regardless, he’s on the comeback trail.

“I had a couple injuries and a few slow years there,” he said. “But now I’m back at it.”

Eash broke his riding (right) arm twice up high and also suffered a broken foot. But he’s feeling fine these days.

And where exactly is Trego?

“Up by Eureka, north of Whitefish,” he said.

Very big?

“We’ve got a post office, and that’s about it,” he smiled.

Eash works construction back home but for the past 11 years has been chasing his rodeo dreams. He’s qualified for the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in the bull riding and this year hopes to make it in saddle bronc.

“That,” he said, “would be great.”

Among Thursday’s highlights was the appearance of four-time world champion Sherry Cervi and her fantastic barrel racing horse “Sting Ray.”

Cervi took over the lead in the barrel racing with a swift 15.33-second clocking. Lisa Anderson of Bozeman also sped her way into the standings, which underwent a major change late Wednesday night as about 45 women competed in the slack.

Another highlight came in the team roping, where Dustin Bird and his partner Russell Cardova turned in another solid run to take over first place in the average. Aaron Tsinigine of Tuba City, Ariz., and Kinney Harrell of Marshall, Texas, won the first go-round with a 4.6-second effort.

Also winning the first go was Cole Robinson, with an 8.4-second effort in the tie-down roping.

The rodeo continues with a section of slack Friday morning at 9. Then Friday night at 7 the third performance of the PRCA event is scheduled. The Roundup concludes Saturday night at 7.

LEADERS

Bareback riding leaders: 1. Wyatt Denny, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' 9 moons; 2. J.R. Vezain, 83; 3. R.C. Landingham, 82.5; 4. Mason Clements, 82; 5. Pascal Isabelle, 79.5; 6. Wyatt Bloom, 77.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Clayton Moore, 3.6 seconds, $2,002; 2. (tie) Ty Erickson and Newt Novich, 3.9, $1,484 each; 4. Straws Milan, 4.0, $966; 5. (tie) Sterling Lambert and Jake Rinehart, 4.1, $483 each.

Team roping: First round: 1. Aaron Tsinigine/Kinney Harrell, 4.6 seconds, $1,254 each; 2. Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler, 4.7, $1,038; 3. (tie) Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, Tyler Waters/Chase Tryan and Casey Tew/Justin Viles, 4.8, $605 each; 6. Tee Luttrell/Clay Sieber, 5.0, $216. Second round leaders: 1. Brant Davis/Clayton Hass, 5.3 seconds; 2. Shawn Bessette/Zachary Schweigert, 5.4; 3. (tie) Jake Cooper/Tyler McKnight and Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, 5.8 each; 5. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 10.1; 6. Shawn Bird/Kory Mytty, 10.5. Average leaders: 1. Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, 10.6 seconds on two head; 2. Brant Davis/Clayton Hass, 21.8; 3. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 24.7; 4. Aaron Tsinigine/Kinney Harrell, 4.6 on one head; 5. Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler, 4.7; 6. Tyler Waters/Chase Tryan, 4.8.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Tyrell J Smith, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Con Man; 2. Rusty Wright, 82; 3. (tie) Ryan Mackenzie, Allen Boore and Jake Watson, 80.5 each; 6. Andy Clarys, 79.5.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Cole Robinson, 8.4 seconds, $1,651; 2. J.C. Malone, 8.6, $1,366; 3. (tie) Jake Hannum and Justin Brinkerhoff, 8.7, $939 each; 5. Stetson Vest, 8.9, $512; 6. Rhen Richard, 9.1, $285. Second round leaders: 1. Cole Robinson, 10.4 seconds; 2. (tie) Rhen Richard and Stetson Vest, 10.5 each; 4. Ty Baker, 10.6; 5. Treston Vermandel, 11.5; 6. E.J. Panetta, 15.7. Average leaders: 1. Cole Robinson, 18.8 seconds on two head; 2. Stetson Vest, 19.4; 3. Rhen Richard, 19.6; 4. Ty Baker, 20.9; 5. Treston Vermandel, 22.8; 6. E.J. Panetta, 29.1.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Sherry Cervi, 15.33 seconds; 2. Sarah Rose McDonald, 15.34; 3. Lisa Anderson, 15.43; 4. Becky Fuson, 15.44; 5. (tie) Cranna Roberts and Darby Fox, 15.49 each.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cole Wagner, 86 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Bottoms Up; 2. Luke Gee, 84.5; 3. Dalton Brooks, 78; 4. Broc Burns, 75; 5. Dakota Louis, 73.5; no other qualified rides.

Movie stars, real life ones mix at rodeo

 Scott Mansch, smansch@greatfallstribune.com 10:52 a.m. MDT August 6, 2016

On a movie-star kind of night at the Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup, it was Lisa Lockhart and her famous horse playing a starring role.

And that hasn’t happened for a long time in Great Falls.

Lockhart and her renowned buckskin “Louie,” back in the Montana Circuit for the first time in years, posted a swift time in the barrel racing to provide one of the top highlights Friday night as the rich PRCA rodeo continued before another large crowd at Montana ExpoPark.

Though Lockhart, who has finished second in the world standings after starring at the Wrangler National Finals the last two years, lives south of the Black Hills in South Dakota, she’s a Treasure State native. In fact, her famous gelding is also a made-in-Montana star.

“I don’t remember how many years since I’ve been here,” Lockhart said. “But I’ve joined your circuit this year. I know you’ve got a good rodeo and it’s been quite a few years, so it’s exciting.”

Lockhart, who was born in Wolf Point and graduated from high school in Circle, has earned nearly $2 million in a great rodeo career. The nine-time NFR qualifier also has had considerable success aboard “Chisum,” a chestnut gelding.

Both horses were acquired from Tim and Kelly Bagnell of Polson.

“I’ve ridden horses for Tim and Kelly for numerous years,” Lockhart said. “It’s always a pleasure to do that.”

Lockhart, who entered the week in the top five in the WPRA standings, figures to be back in Las Vegas this December. A world championship is still the goal.

“You know, I took a lot of time off this year. Just because of kids,” she said. “My daughter (Alyssa) is in high school and this was her last year (of high school rodeo), and basically I took off the whole month of June. So I have a lot of catching up to do.”

The second-place finishes in Vegas do not distress her.

“My ultimate goal was to make it to the National Finals, to get there and have a chance at the prize money that’s there,” she said. “It’s been an amazing career. I tried to make it a good career. When you have the horsepower to do so, and keep my travels to a minimum – just try to do the best I can do when we do – yes, it’s pretty much been a fairy-tale story.”

Lockhart, whose maiden name was Schillinger, graduated from Circle High in 1984. Her sister, Angie, is married to former NFR bronc rider Ed Lockwood. Their sons Jess and Jake are avid bull riders.

She laughed when it was suggested she should forget about that South Dakota life and move back to the Treasure State. She’s currently got a huge lead in the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit barrel racing standings and will be back in Great Falls for the Circuit Finals come January.

“Oh, I’m still a South Dakota girl,” she said. “But I’m a Montanan at heart and I’m thrilled to be back in this circuit and seeing old friends.”

Another South Dakota standout was in the rodeo arena Friday night at State Fair. And make no mistake, Cole Elshere is truly a movie star.

Elshere, 26, is portraying legendary rodeo star Casey Tibbs in a new film called “Floating Horses: The life of Casey Tibbs.”

“We’re done filming and done editing,” Elshere said. “Just some sound work left to do.”

Tibbs was the late great native of Fort Pierre, S.D., who won a record six world saddle bronc titles and in 1979 was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. Tibbs, who also won two world all-around crowns and one PRCA bareback title, once made the cover of Life Magazine and is considered one of the most famous rodeo stars ever. He died in 1990.

Elshere, who competed in both saddle bronc and bull riding Friday night, said the film will have a premiere showing in Fort Pierre, probably this fall. “Then they’ll take it film festivals and go from there,” he said.

Elshere had a 75-point ride Friday night in the bronc riding and wasn’t able to earn a score in the bull riding. But he’s a talented cowboy who has qualified for the NFR in the bronc riding three times.

He said playing Tibbs on the silver screen was a tremendous honor.

“It was a lot of fun filming and I can’t wait to watch it,” he said. “They used me as the main actor. He’s a legend in South Dakota and everywhere else.”

Elshere is from the northern South Dakota town of Faith (pop. 500).

Elshere’s brother JJ is also an accomplished rodeo roughstock star. There are several other famed South Dakota families of rodeo stars, including the Garretts and the Etbauers.

“Everybody back home grew up around cowboys,” Elshere. “Rodeo is the sport that we’re best at. That’s just what we do.”

Friday’s action did not change the top of the leaderboards in the roughstock, barrel racing and bull riding events. Among those leading the second go-rounds of their respective events include Cody Cabral (3.7 in steer wrestling), Pace Freed-Jade Anderson (5.2 in team roping) and Ryle Smith and Jake Hannum (8.6 each in tie-down roping).

Average leaders include Hannum, Sterling Lambert (steer wrestling) and Hammond brothers Britt and Brady Williams and Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza (team roping).

Friday’s rodeo festivities also included a fundraising effort for cancer victims, sponsored by the Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup committee. An event called Cowgirl U on Friday afternoon raised more than $11,000 for cancer victims to help defray travel expenses, according to organizer Sara Boadle Kulbeck.

“It was very successful,” she said. “We had 61 women participate. There’s a rodeo 101 and the girls can learn about bull riding, roping, and barrel racing. It was wonderful.”

The rodeo, which features nearly total prize money of nearly $130,000, concludes Saturday night at 7.

Bareback riding leaders: 1. Wyatt Denny, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' 9 moons; 2. J.R. Vezain, 83; 3. R.C. Landingham, 82.5; 4. Mason Clements, 82; 5. Pascal Isabelle, 79.5; 6. Kody Lamb, 78.5.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Clayton Moore, 3.6 seconds, $2,002; 2. (tie) Ty Erickson and Newt Novich, 3.9, $1,484 each; 4. Straws Milan, 4.0, $966; 5. (tie) Jake Rinehart and Sterling Lambert, 4.1, $483 each. Second round leaders: 1. Cody Cabral, 3.7 seconds; 2. Tanner Milan, 3.8; 3. Sterling Lambert, 3.9; 4. (tie) Collin Johnson and Tyler Waguespack, 4.0 each; 6. Ethen Thouvenell, 4.1. Average leaders: 1. Sterling Lambert, 8.0 seconds on two head; 2. Cody Cabral, 8.3; 3. Ty Erickson, 8.5; 4. Tyler Waguespack, 9.1; 5. (tie) Newt Novich and Clayton Moore, 9.2 each.

Team roping: First round: 1. Aaron Tsinigine/Kinney Harrell, 4.6 seconds, $1,254 each; 2. Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler, 4.7, $1,038; 3. (tie) Tyler Waters/Chase Tryan, Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza and Casey Tew/Justin Viles, 4.8, $605 each; 6. Tee Luttrell/Clay Sieber, 5.0, $216. Second round leaders: 1. Pace Freed/Jade Anderson, 5.2 seconds; 2. Brant Davis/Clayton Hass, 5.3; 3. Shawn Bessette/Zachary Schweigert, 5.4; 4. Brady Williams/Britt Williams, 5.5; 5. Shayne Bishop/Jimmy Cole, 5.7; 6. (tie) Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza and Jake Cooper/Tyler McKnight, 5.8 each. Average leaders: 1. (tie) Brady Williams/Britt Williams and Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, 10.6 seconds on two head each; 3. Matt Loose/Charlie Putnam , 15.9; 4. Brant Davis/Clayton Hass, 21.8; 5. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 24.7; 6. Travis Winters/Charlie Lenning, 32.4.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Tyrell J Smith, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Con Man; 2. Rusty Wright, 82; 3. (tie) Allen Boore, Ryan Mackenzie and Jake Watson, 80.5 each; 6. (tie) Andy Clarys and Chase Brooks, 79.5 each.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Cole Robinson, 8.4 seconds, $1,651; 2. J.C. Malone, 8.6, $1,366; 3. (tie) Jake Hannum and Justin Brinkerhoff, 8.7, $939 each; 5. Stetson Vest, 8.9, $512; 6. Rhen Richard, 9.1, $285. Second round leaders: 1. (tie) Jake Hannum and Ryle Smith, 8.6 seconds each; 3. J.C. Malone, 8.8; 4. Clint Robinson, 9.0; 5. Jake Pratt, 9.1; 6. Jayce Johnson, 9.6. Average leaders: 1. Jake Hannum, 17.3 seconds on two head; 2. J.C. Malone, 17.4; 3. Justin Brinkerhoff, 18.6; 4. Cole Robinson, 18.8; 5. Stetson Vest, 19.4; 6. Rhen Richard, 19.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Sherry Cervi, 15.33 seconds; 2. Sarah Rose McDonald, 15.34; 3. (tie) Lisa Anderson and Lisa Lockhart, 15.43 each; 5. Becky Fuson, 15.44; 6. (tie) Cranna Roberts and Darby Fox, 15.49 each.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cole Wagner, 86 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Bottoms Up; 2. Luke Gee, 84.5; 3. Hawk Whitt, 82; 4. Dalton Brooks, 78; 5. Mike Sparks, 77; 6. Broc Burns, 75.

Bird-Cardoza team displays roping prowess

 Scott Mansch, smansch@greatfallstribune.com 11:39 p.m. MDT August 3, 2016

Russell Cardoza said there’s a pretty good reason his roping relationship with Dustin Bird is flourishing.

“He knows how to win,” Cardoza said.

And how.

Bird, the Cut Bank header, and Cardoza, the Oregon heeler, turned in a typically swift effort Wednesday night as the Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup got off to a flying start before a crowd of about 3,000 at Montana ExpoPark.

The Bird-Cardoza pairing took over the lead in the team roping with a 4.8-second effort, then for good measure Bird set the pace in the tie-down roping with a sharp 10-second run. Both men are ranked among the leaders in the PRCA standings in the all-around, and the duo is among the best team roping tandems in the business.

Bird’s calf-roping effort was quicker than Cardoza’s this night. Is it ever personal for the two?

“No, we don’t ever have any bets,” Cardoza smiled. “Maybe we need to start doing that.”

Both figure to be in the spotlight come December as the Wrangler National Finals in Las Vegas captivates cowboy country.

“We need to win a few more thousand and we should be there in the team roping, for sure,” Cardoza said. “So we hope to keep placing away in the team roping, and try to keep doing well in the calf roping. And I’m going to start entering the bulldogging everywhere, too.

“I’ve been thinking about that all-around (world championship) here quite a bit. It’d be real nice to win that.”

Casey Tew of Billings and Justin Viles of Cody, Wyo., were also 4.8 seconds in the team roping.

The rodeo provided an abundance of excellent efforts in the bull riding. And that was truly unusual for often at this rodeo the cowboys come up empty against the bulls.

Stanford’s Luke Gee earned 84.5 points aboard a bucking bull named “Hoss.” Moments later, Cole Wagner of Valier earned 86 points with a superb ride on “Bottoms Up.”

The roughstock events also proved noteworthy, especially for two men with Great Falls connections.

Saddle bronc star Tyrell Smith, who graduated from high school in Geyser and now owns a small place near Sand Coulee, kept his hot streak alive with an 83.5-point ride aboard Ike Sankey’s “Con Man.”

And JR Vezain, whose birth father is from Great Falls and whose grandparents live near Vaughn, took advantage of a second re-ride to post an 83-point marking. Vezain, recently married to the former Shelby Newman of Melstone, whose brother Sage recently won the high school national championship in the bronc riding, is a Wyoming cowboy who hopes to return to the NFR.

So does Smith. And their efforts Wednesday night are bound to help.

“I’m moving up,” Vezain said. “But I actually quit looking (at the standings) a couple weeks ago. I told myself I was going to quit looking and start taking care of business. Quit worrying about it and just go win, and it’s starting to work out.”

Smith, meanwhile, has been riding a wave of success that has him right on the edge of the top 15 in the world bronc riding standings. He also got hot in 2012 when making a push for what so far is his only NFR appearance.

“This time is usually my time,” Smith said with a grin.

And why?

“Just because you’re getting on all the time,” he said. “The constant traveling and getting on just sharpens a guy’s skills.”

Few bronc riders have been hotter than Smith. His recent victories include rodeos in Glasgow, Lewistown, Preston, Idaho, and Nampa, Idaho.

“It’s been a good month,” he said.

On Thursday, Smith floated “Con Man” for a memorable eight seconds.

“I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen after them first four (jumps),” Smith said. “I was happy I handled my rein a little better this year.”

Smith considers this is hometown rodeo, but he hasn’t often earned big checks.

“No,” he laughed. “They like to buck me off and make me look silly here,” he said.

Other leaders who emerged Thursday included 20-year-old Wyatt Denny of Minden, Nev., who earned 83.5 points to edge Vezain, and steer wrestler Bridger Chambers of Stevensville, who registered a 4.6-second run.

In the barrel racing, Sarah Rose McDonald of Brunswick, Ga., set the pace.

The rodeo is a two-header in the team roping, tie-down roping and steer wrestling.

The rodeo continues Thursday night. There’s also a large section of slack to accommodate extra entries Thursday morning at 9. A breakfast for the public is slated Thursday morning at 8.

LEADERS AFTER WEDNESDAY'S PERFORMANCE

Bareback riding leaders: 1. Wyatt Denny, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' 9 moons; 2. J.R. Vezain, 83; 3. R.C. Landingham, 82.5; 4. Mason Clements, 82; 5. Grant Denny, 76.5; 6. Tristan Hansen, 76.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Bridger Chambers, 4.6 seconds; 2. Jordan Holland, 5.2; 3. Nolan Conway, 5.6; 4. Denver Roy, 9.7; 5. Shawn Dunagan, 10.4; 6. Jabe Anderson III, 14.7.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. (tie) Casey Tew/Justin Viles and Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, 4.8 seconds each; 3. Nolan Conway/Dylan Johnson, 5.7; 4. Jason Carlson/Sam Levine, 6.4; 5. Cody Tew/Matt Robertson, 6.7; 6. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 14.6.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Tyrell J Smith, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Con Man; 2. Rusty Wright, 82; 3. Ryan Mackenzie, 80.5; 4. Chuck Schmidt, 75.5; 5. Jade Blackwell, 65; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Dustin Bird, 10.0 seconds; 2. Ty Hedrick, 10.6; 3. Russell Cardoza, 12.3; 4. Sam Levine, 13.7; 5. Jade Gardner, 19.1; 6. Jade Lyon, 19.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Sarah Rose McDonald, 15.34 seconds; 2. Becky Fuson, 15.44; 3. (tie) Darby Fox and Cranna Roberts, 15.49 each; 5. Trula Churchill, 15.51; 6. Michele McLeod, 15.52.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cole Wagner, 86 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Bottoms Up; 2. Luke Gee, 84.5; no other qualified rides.

Bareback riding leaders: 1. Wyatt Denny, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' 9 moons; 2. J.R. Vezain, 83; 3. R.C. Landingham, 82.5; 4. Mason Clements, 82; 5. Grant Denny, 76.5; 6. Tristan Hansen, 76.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Bridger Chambers, 4.6 seconds; 2. Jordan Holland, 5.2; 3. Nolan Conway, 5.6; 4. Denver Roy, 9.7; 5. Shawn Dunagan, 10.4; 6. Jabe Anderson III, 14.7.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. (tie) Casey Tew/Justin Viles and Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, 4.8 seconds each; 3. Nolan Conway/Dylan Johnson, 5.7; 4. Jason Carlson/Sam Levine, 6.4; 5. Cody Tew/Matt Robertson, 6.7; 6. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 14.6.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Tyrell J Smith, 83.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Con Man; 2. Rusty Wright, 82; 3. Ryan Mackenzie, 80.5; 4. Chuck Schmidt, 75.5; 5. Jade Blackwell, 65; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Dustin Bird, 10.0 seconds; 2. Ty Hedrick, 10.6; 3. Russell Cardoza, 12.3; 4. Sam Levine, 13.7; 5. Jade Gardner, 19.1; 6. Jade Lyon, 19.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Sarah Rose McDonald, 15.34 seconds; 2. Becky Fuson, 15.44; 3. (tie) Darby Fox and Cranna Roberts, 15.49 each; 5. Trula Churchill, 15.51; 6. Michele McLeod, 15.52.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cole Wagner, 86 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls' Bottoms Up; 2. Luke Gee, 84.5; no other qualified rides.

 

Rodeo: Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup kicks off

 Scott Mansch, smansch@greatfallstribune.com 10:13 p.m. MDT August 2, 2016

Hometown hero Tyrell Smith is making a summer charge toward the top of the PRCA leaderboard in the bronc riding and Wednesday night christens the Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup aboard “Con Man.”

“Money or mud,” said Ike Sankey of his bucking bronc. “It’ll be one way or the other.”

Smith’s appearance in the saddle bronc competition figures to be among the highlights as the annual PRCA rodeo kicks off in front of the grandstand at Montana ExpoPark. Performances through Saturday are scheduled at 7 p.m. as longtime stock contractor Sankey returns to Great Falls.

The Joliet man and former NFR bronc rider has been bringing his bucking horses to town for more than two decades. His company includes his family – wife Roberta, daughter Ryan and son Wade – and a few years ago added partner Jeff Robinson and his bulls.

“I don’t travel to all the rodeos anymore,” said Ike. “Only the ones I like. And I’ve always really liked Great Falls.”

The rodeo, which has been shortened from five to four performances this summer, is one of the best in the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit. Last year the total payoff was $137,355 and this year entries have been strong.

“Our horse deal is as strong as it’s ever been,” Sankey said of his buckers.

“Outstanding set of bulls, too,” he added. “I hope some of them guys ride. We want them to do well, but it won’t be easy.”

Many of the top names in pro rodeo are slated to compete – more than a dozen bronc rides are scheduled in each performance – and the roster includes such Treasure State stars as Smith, Jessy Davis of Power (bareback), Ty Erickson of Helena (steer wrestling), Dustin Bird of Cut Bank (team roping, tie-down roping), Wolf Point-born Lisa Lockhart and Lindsay Kruse of Winston (barrel racing), Travis Tryan of Billings (team roping), Luke Gee of Stanford (steer wrestling, bull riding), and Parker Breding of Edgar and Sage Newman of Melstone (saddle bronc).

There are extensive sections of slack slated Wednesday night, and both Thursday and Friday mornings at 9. It’s a two-header for bulldoggers, tie-down and team ropers.

THOUGH THE EVENT has been cut down by a day to four performances, Lindsey Kunkel, who handles public relations for the Big Sky Pro Rodeo, said there’s as much – and even more – for fans to enjoy.

“We’re definitely trying to do more with less,” said Kunkel. “We actually brought back the Ranch Rodeo for Saturday and Cowgirl U is back, too. So we’ve added two of our old events.”

The Ranch Rodeo, with authentic cowboys competing in events representing traditional ranch work, is Saturday morning at 11. Cowgirl U, where women get a tutorial on all things rodeo in a fund-raising effort for the Sletten Cancer Institute’s Circle of Hope Survivor Program, is Friday afternoon.

Kunkel said serving on the committee is a rewarding experience.

“I really appreciate with this group of people,” Kunkel said. “They’re really passionate, not only for rodeo but for the city of Great Falls. We’re trying to bring good, quality events to town.”

THE SPECIALTY act for the Roundup is Rider Kiesner, a 24-year-old star who entertained big crowds here two years ago.

“A trick roper, whip-cracker, gun-spinner … He’s just an extremely talented individual,” Sankey said.

WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULED athletes include bronc-riding brothers Rusty and Ryder Wright of Milford, Utah, and team-roping siblings Riley and Brady Minor of Ellensburg, Wash.

On Friday night, NFR veteran Parker Breding will be out in the bull riding, and on Saturday Sage Newman, who recently won the national high school championship in the bronc riding, will be looking for eight.

FOLLOWING THURSDAY morning’s slack at the Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup, a memorial team roping in honor of the late Erv and May Carlson of Vaughn will take place at the Great Falls Saddle Club.

The roping, organized by Jeff Poncelet, Shane Bessette, Dick Lyman and Will Rambo, is an open roping (pick one, draw one) fundraising endeavor dedicated to providing college rodeo scholarships and honoring the memory of rodeo-minded people in the Great Falls area.

“Erv and May put on ropings in Vaughn for years and years and years,” Rambo said. “They were really nice folks.”

Last year, 60 teams competed in the memorial roping dedicated to the late Elmer Lattin. The Saddle Club is located at 410 34th St. NW.

More information is available by calling Poncelet at 590-0500.

DON’T FORGET about the upcoming free PRCA Roughstock and Steer Wrestling Camp Aug. 13 the Chestnut Valley Arena south of Cascade.

The camp, held in conjunction with the Cascade PRCA Rodeo, is Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those interested must register at prorodeo.com. More information is available by calling Debbi Hamann at 799-2123.

Scott Mansch is Tribune Sports Columnist and writes extensively about rodeo in the spring and summer. He can be reached at 791-1481, smansch@greatfallstribune.com or on Twitter @GFTrib_SMansch