Ellensburg Rodeo News Roundup

Average takes shape on Day 2 of Ellensburg Rodeo

  • By JON GUDDAT Rodeo correspondent

Another day in the books, another change to roughstock’s long go and the rodeo’s average.

As the Ellensburg Rodeo arena basked in the Saturday afternoon sun, a few cowboys and cowgirls were blistering the clock and upping the ante on the scores.

Darby Fox came out of nowhere to set the pace on the entire weekend. The King Hill, Idaho, cowgirl opened Saturday’s barrel racing with a17.20-second time, some three-tenths of a second faster than Tillar Murray’s 17.50. It was also a blink of an eye faster than Nellie Miller’s 17.23 which won the first round during Thursday’s slack. With less than $19,000 won on the season, Fox is out of the running for the National Finals Rodeo, but the smart money is on the lady to pick up some good go-round money, even if she doesn’t win the round. Yet, a 17.20 will be tough to beat.

So will Sterling Lambert’s 4.3-second steer in the big man’s event. Lambert turfed his steer in 4.3 seconds, which is good enough to split the lead with Riley Duvall in the second round. Unfortunately for the Nevada cowboy, round one wasn’t as good for him, but he’ll take any paycheck.

“I broke the barrier in the first round,” the 22nd ranked steer wrestler said. “But it’s that time of year when if you win any money, you’re happy.”

Lambert should pick up go-round money here, as well as a little money for placing in Plains, Mont.

“I’ll win a little bit there, hopefully. Win some here,” he said. “I’ll take what I can get. I was about $10,000 out of the top 15 so I need to win a lot more. Every little bit helps.”

Baylor Roche leads the average with a 9.5-second two-head time. Ryan Bothum – who finished with a 4.9 on Saturday – is second with a 9.6.

One cowboy not in second in bull rider Tyler Smith. However, his 77.5-point ride on Big Bend’s Undertaker will most likely get him back for Monday’s short go, but probably won’t win him much long go money.

“It felt good,” Smith said. “He wasn’t a bull to get a whole lot of points on, but it felt good to get him rode. I was just glad to get by him.”

Jordan Spears conquered Corey and Lange’s Two Dogs for 84 points, which supplanted Rorey Maier as the long go lead. Spears is in the top 15, but isn’t comfortable as the California bull rider is 13th in this week’s standings, with less than a $3,000 cushion over Dalan Duncan. Duncan didn’t help his case when he was bucked off Big Bend’s Igor before the eight-second whistle.

One cowboy who has been in pro rodeo for what seems like eight seconds is Cooper Martin. The 19-year old was the national champion at the high school level last year and is splitting third in the second go-round with three other cowboys with an 8.5-second calf. Martin isn’t a threat in the average, however.

There weren’t very many threats in bareback riding either, yet saddle bronc’s leaderboard changed. Bareback riders JR Vezain and RC Landingham continue to split the lead in the bareback (80.5), as Wyatt Denny’s 79.5 was tops on the afternoon. Yet in saddle bronc, Wyoming’s Andy Clary’s 87 on Korkow’s Instant Noodle bested Dusty Hausauer’s Friday night score of 82.5.

Erich Rogers and Cory Petska’s 11.5-second aggregate on two currently leads the team roping.

It was a rough go for local roper Jason Minor as the Ellensburg cowboy had a difficult calf in tie-down roping and his partner Taylor White broke the barrier in team roping.

Today’s performance begins at 12:45.

Average takes shape on Day 2 of Ellensburg Rodeo

  • By JON GUDDAT Rodeo correspondent 

Another day in the books, another change to roughstock’s long go and the rodeo’s average.

As the Ellensburg Rodeo arena basked in the Saturday afternoon sun, a few cowboys and cowgirls were blistering the clock and upping the ante on the scores.

Darby Fox came out of nowhere to set the pace on the entire weekend. The King Hill, Idaho, cowgirl opened Saturday’s barrel racing with a17.20-second time, some three-tenths of a second faster than Tillar Murray’s 17.50. It was also a blink of an eye faster than Nellie Miller’s 17.23 which won the first round during Thursday’s slack. With less than $19,000 won on the season, Fox is out of the running for the National Finals Rodeo, but the smart money is on the lady to pick up some good go-round money, even if she doesn’t win the round. Yet, a 17.20 will be tough to beat.

So will Sterling Lambert’s 4.3-second steer in the big man’s event. Lambert turfed his steer in 4.3 seconds, which is good enough to split the lead with Riley Duvall in the second round. Unfortunately for the Nevada cowboy, round one wasn’t as good for him, but he’ll take any paycheck.

“I broke the barrier in the first round,” the 22nd ranked steer wrestler said. “But it’s that time of year when if you win any money, you’re happy.”

Lambert should pick up go-round money here, as well as a little money for placing in Plains, Mont.

“I’ll win a little bit there, hopefully. Win some here,” he said. “I’ll take what I can get. I was about $10,000 out of the top 15 so I need to win a lot more. Every little bit helps.”

Baylor Roche leads the average with a 9.5-second two-head time. Ryan Bothum – who finished with a 4.9 on Saturday – is second with a 9.6.

One cowboy not in second in bull rider Tyler Smith. However, his 77.5-point ride on Big Bend’s Undertaker will most likely get him back for Monday’s short go, but probably won’t win him much long go money.

“It felt good,” Smith said. “He wasn’t a bull to get a whole lot of points on, but it felt good to get him rode. I was just glad to get by him.”

Jordan Spears conquered Corey and Lange’s Two Dogs for 84 points, which supplanted Rorey Maier as the long go lead. Spears is in the top 15, but isn’t comfortable as the California bull rider is 13th in this week’s standings, with less than a $3,000 cushion over Dalan Duncan. Duncan didn’t help his case when he was bucked off Big Bend’s Igor before the eight-second whistle.

One cowboy who has been in pro rodeo for what seems like eight seconds is Cooper Martin. The 19-year old was the national champion at the high school level last year and is splitting third in the second go-round with three other cowboys with an 8.5-second calf. Martin isn’t a threat in the average, however.

There weren’t very many threats in bareback riding either, yet saddle bronc’s leaderboard changed. Bareback riders JR Vezain and RC Landingham continue to split the lead in the bareback (80.5), as Wyatt Denny’s 79.5 was tops on the afternoon. Yet in saddle bronc, Wyoming’s Andy Clary’s 87 on Korkow’s Instant Noodle bested Dusty Hausauer’s Friday night score of 82.5.

Erich Rogers and Cory Petska’s 11.5-second aggregate on two currently leads the team roping.

It was a rough go for local roper Jason Minor as the Ellensburg cowboy had a difficult calf in tie-down roping and his partner Taylor White broke the barrier in team roping.

Today’s performance begins at 12:45.

John Bland wins steer tripping to start Ellensburg Rodeo

  • By JON GUDDAT Rodeo correspondent 

Texas steer roper John Bland picked up the win in Ellensburg’s steer roping with a 27-second average on two head Thursday morning.

Bland bested the field by more than a second as second-place Troy Tillard finished with a 28.3-second aggregate.

Bland opened his day with a first round steer of 11.8 seconds, good for second place and $1,080, behind go-round winner Shay Good. Bland’s 15.2-second steer in round two was out of the top six and came up short for a paycheck, but it was still good enough to keep him tops in the average for another $1,957 and a total day worth $3,037.

Bland is well on the outside looking in when it comes to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s steer roping world standings as the Texas roper is 36th in this week’s update.

World leader and three-time world champion Rocky Patterson picked up $1,080 when his 11.1-second steer placed second in the second go-round. Patterson finished seven-tenths behind go-round winner Jason Evans. Patterson holds a $21,000 lead over J. Tom Fisher in the steer roping world standings.

Miller wins first round

Nellie Miller started the weekend very well when the California barrel racer finished Ellensburg’s cloverleaf pattern in 17.23 seconds Thursday afternoon. Miller — ranked 22nd in this week’s Women’s Professional Rodeo Association standings — earned $2,350 for her work in the first round of the event.

While the paycheck will be appreciated, Miller is looking at an uphill battle at best to make the National Finals Rodeo this year as she’s some $21,000 behind Jana Bean, who sits in the 15th and final spot to make it to Las Vegas when the regular season ends Sept. 30.

Speaking of Bean, the Texas barrel racer strengthened her chances of making the NFR cut when she finished just behind Miller with a 17.30 during Thursday’s first round. Bean earned $2,015.

Four-time world champion Sherry Cervi (who won Ellensburg’s average last year) split fourth (17.55) with Kim Schulze for $1,287 each. Former Ellensburg winners Christine Laughlin (split eighth) and Sydni Blanchard (split ninth) also picked up checks.

Barrel racing’s second round begins with tonight’s first performance.

The rodeo is upon us

  • By JON GUDDAT rodeo correspondent

The Ellensburg Rodeo is exciting for countless reasons, one of which is the fact that in one month, the regular rodeo season ends. So Ellensburg’s place on the calendar is a real indicator of what some cowboys and cowgirls will be doing for the next 30 days.

Some — like team ropers Luke Brown and Jake Long — have the National Finals Rodeo made and might ease up on the schedule a bit once they start heading home in a couple of weeks. Others — bareback rider Richie Champion or calf roper Tyson Durfey — are hanging to the top 15 by a thread and will need a couple of strong paydays or a string of checks to make another trip to Vegas.

Locally speaking, we’ve got a mixed bag as well. Team ropers Riley and Brady Minor won another $5,300 last week and are now in the high 70’s in season earnings. That’s in. Even if they fall into a rut this coming month, the smart money is on them to make another trip to the NFR.

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Cousin Jake Minor — heeling for Garrett Rogers — picked up $4,100 last week. The duo won the first round in Kennewick and placed second — to Riley and Brady — in Coeur d’Alene. I’d like to publicly apologize to Garrett and Jake, however. I don’t know if it’s a jinx or it just wasn’t their day, but little Delaney and I watched them miss their steer in Kennewick the other night. Upon further discussion with Delaney, she finds it hard to believe that our presence, some 200 feet away from the roping chutes at the time, was the reason for the no-time. So me, in what I’d call middle age, is quick to blame something non-existent, while Del Pickle, who is all of 11, used facts and a practical mind for her reasoning.

That’s my daughter, y’all.

Kennewick was packed on Saturday night and I’m expecting Ellensburg to be the same this weekend. Don’t let me down, Ellensburg, Friday’s performance is a great kickoff to the weekend. The sun will be setting on a nice day of high 70s. Monday’s performance will be a sun-splashed 78 degrees. That’s great weather. We can expect Saturday and Sunday to be virtual sellouts, but Friday’s start and Monday’s finale are great days as well.

One guy hopeful of making it to Monday’s finale is Junior Nogueira, who in his previous two years at Ellensburg has made the short go and picked up average checks.

“I’ve placed both years I’ve been here. I’m hoping to make it again,” he said.

Nogueira is the world leader in the heeling standings at $98,522. He and partner Kaleb Driggers have been on a tear lately and at this pace they’ll have $120,000 in the bank by the season’s end.

A win at Ellensburg will get them — anyone really — another 5-7 grand in the bank, maybe more. In addition to the Ellensburg Rodeo, the world finals of the Xtreme Bulls tour will put a ton of cash in some bull rider’s pocket and the Cinch Shootout — back for its second year — pays out $10,000 to all the event winners. Cinch’s money won’t count for the PRCA’s world standings, but like yesterday’s WestStar Ranch open roping, any day is a good day to make some money, whether it counts or doesn’t.

One of my favorite interviews was with Wade Wheatley in 2009. The California header was hurting for money — he may have even needed to borrow some to get up here for the WestStar event — but when he and Jade Corkill partnered up to win the thing seven years ago, he was like a kid on Christmas morning. That 10-grand went a long way for that guy.

That’s what this week is for me. Watching something materialize. Some might call it magic. Some say it’s hard work. I don’t know what I call it, but every year I truly enjoy watching it happen.

Watch it with me and say hi if you see me. I’ll be the guy running around the arena looking exhausted, but I’ll probably have a smile on my face.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo for the Daily Record. Contact Jon at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

Amateur ropers compete alongside pros at WestStar

That dream became a reality for Ellensburg resident Tegan Abbott Monday afternoon at the WestStar Ranch's Best of the Best Pro/Am roping event.

Abbott and 67 other amateur ropers were part of a competition that featured three divisions. Over the years, amateur cowboys have competed in the pro header/amateur heeler and the amateur header and the amateur header/pro heeler competitions, but this year the women got their chance during the all-girl header/pro heeler division.

"These pros are great and support you 100 percent," Abbott said. "It is a little nerve racking because you want to do well for them, but it is just a lot of fun."

Abbott grew up in Snohomish and attended Central Washington University. She got into roping seven years ago when she hung out with friends at junior rodeo and since has competed in spots such as Wenatchee.

Although Abbott has competed in events throughout her time, this was the first time she has competed at WestStar.

“I've been going to WestStar for the last six or seven years, but this was the first time that I competed," Abbott said. "I've always wanted to, but I had some shoulder surgeries and was never able to."

Before the event starts, amateurs are given a professional roper to compete with. They do not get much time to strategize or talk. There is just enough time for some encouragement.

"I got fortunate to draw Brady Minor." Abbott said. "I know him pretty well from just being here in Ellensburg."

Minor is just one of many ropers in his family that resides in Ellensburg and is currently fourth in the world as a heeler.

But he was just one of the many pros who helped out in the pro/am. Others included Brady Minor's brother Riley Minor, Kaleb Driggers and Casar de la Cruz.

"It can be a little nerve-racking because we are roping on their dime," Brady Minor said. "We don't want to disappoint them."

Over the course of three pro-am events, Brady Minor competed not only with Abbott, but two other competitors. He said the pro/am is a good practice for upcoming roping events later that day.

"It's a great warmup session," Brady Minor said. "I get to rope about 10-15 steers before the (Open Team Roping) portion."

Abbott finished the day placing third and after gave some advice for future competitors.

"It's really fun and the (pros) really try to help you out," Abbott said. "You need to always make sure you are having fun."

Kolton Schmidt, Cory Petska take WestStar title

  • By JON GUDDAT Rodeo correspondent 

They came in as high call and left the arena with the biggest check. Kolton Schmidt and Cory Petska bested them all with room to spare at the annual Best of the Best open roping at the WestStar Ranch.

The duo — by way of Alberta and Oklahoma — had a 27.18-second average on four coming into the final. JB James and Bronc Hanson had just finished with a 36.14 average on five, with Luke Brown and Jake Long roping a leg for a 40.04 aggregate.

To say there were a bit of nerves might be watering it down, but it wasn’t just for Monday’s short round.

“I ran five steers with Cory and I was nervous five times,” the 22-year old Schmidt joked.

Petska, who turns 37 this weekend, had more of a veteran response, going so far to say that he didn’t know the steer that well.

“No I didn’t,” he said. “I rope each steer as fast as each steer will let me rope ‘em.”

The team roped their short round steer in 7.61 seconds for the 34.79-second average on five.

Like many ropers, Petska was entered twice, also making the short round with Erich Rogers. Petska roped a leg for a five-second penalty, bumping them down a bit in the standings, but still earning fifth-place money with a 41.11. In all Schmidt and Petska shared $20,000 and Rogers and Petska split $7,000.

“(The announcer) called out what we needed to be but you still go out and rope the steer as fast as he’ll let you,” Petska said of his short round steer with Schmidt. “If you win it, you win it and if you don’t you win second or third. I actually tried to rope the one for Erich faster than I did and I roped a leg. I probably should’ve won first and second today. Should’ve, could’ve, whatever.

“I love winning this roping. I’m happy that I won it, but I was mad at myself for messing up like that. Even though I knew I had another one, it still bums me that I didn’t do my job.”

Somber words for a guy who picked up $13,500 and some prizes.

“This is a work day,” Petska said. “This is what we do for a living. This is an awesome roping and a great family that puts it together. Awesome location. So it’s one of the better ropings that you can go and make a good living at and it’s enjoyable to be at.”

Schmidt agreed.

“No one’s gonna be upset with 10,000. It’s what we do for a living. 10,000 on a Monday is pretty good.”

The roping paid James and Hanson $7,000 apiece, with Clay Smith and Paul Eaves jumping from sixth to third ($5,500 each) in the final standings. Brown and Long finished fourth for $4,500 each and rounding out the top five was Rogers and Petska. The roping paid eight deep.

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira picked up $2,000 each (in addition to eighth place money of $1,500 each) when they not only won the short round fast time prize of $1,000 per man, but earned another grand each for having the fastest time of the day. Their 4.97 in the third round was only eclipsed by their 4.81 short round time. Coming in 13th in the short round, their quick time moved them all the way to the eighth and final hole for paychecks.

“It’s a great roping. It’s a great jackpot,” Nogueira said. “It’s an awesome place with good steers in a good arena.”

WestStar welcomes the best ropers in PRCA

  • By JON GUDDAT Rodeo correspondent

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Faced last year with schedule conflicts with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the WestStar Ranch’s Best of the Best Open roping amended its schedule to accommodate team ropers traveling all over the western United States. But that was about it: the date changed, but the competition was still fierce – while still being friendly – and the payout still reached more than $130,000.

And that’s what fans and ropers can continue to expect in this year’s annual roping event Monday afternoon.

“Their schedules are crazy, but every year they seem to have it all figured out,” said the WestStar’s Jo Repp on Wednesday.

As of earlier this week, nearly 70 teams had entered the prestigious roping – including many in the PRCA’s top 25 world standings. The top seven team roping headers in this year’s PRCA standings – and 19 of the top 25 – are entered. The top five heelers – and 20 of the top 25 – are up as well. What that means for fans? Nearly every one of the PRCA’s best team ropers are on display in what many ropers call a backyard roping that pays so well.

“You can’t get much further from my home in Texas than the Northwest,” said Kory Koontz. “But Scott and Jo are a part of my family. They really just love on us and to be able to win $10,000 at this time of the year is so great.”

That’s $10,000 per man. While the pot changes depending on the amount of entries, the winning team can expect to win $20,000, along with all the prizes that come with the win. But it’s not just the eventual winners who leave with money. Fast times are awarded checks and the purse pays seven or eight deep depending on the amount of entries.

Yet, it’s not just the professionals who will get all the attention, as amateur ropers are paired up with the pros to open the roping. The amateurs are not just roping for the exclusive chance to rope with well-established and world champion-caliber ropers. Up for grabs for those amateurs is more than $30,000 in cash to be disbursed to the top headers and heelers.

New this year is the addition of a separate amateur event. Commonly a handful of lady amateurs enter the Pro-Am, but with at least 15 female headers entered, WestStar – along with the encouragement of the professional ropers – decided to add another division, specific to female headers with professional heelers.

Travis Graves – one of the many professional heelers entered in the Open and the Pro-Am thought it was a great idea.

“I think that’s great,” he said Thursday. “I think I’m entered up a few times in the Pro-Am and I’ll be in that Open roping, too. It’s just a great event. They do so much for us and whatever we can do for them we do.”

While Koontz on the heeler side is on the outside looking in about $17,000 out of the top 15, Graves has had a great summer as the Oklahoma cowboy is sixth in the world with $68,000 won. He’s entered twice in the Open and will be roping with Colby Lovell and Kaleb Driggers. Graves won the WestStar about 10 years ago with Colter Todd. Koontz hasn’t won the event, but has picked up checks nearly every year. And while WestStar’s checks won’t count toward those world standings, it certainly counts for momentum and keeping wind in the sails of out-of-town ropers who have been on the road since June and won’t be back home for another three-plus weeks.

The Best of the Best starts at noon with the Pro-Am with the Open roping usually beginning around 2 p.m. Around 1:30 will be the finals of the kids dummy roping in the arena.

Admission is $20, with a portion of those proceeds going toward the roping pot and another portion going to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.

The WestStar Ranch is located at 1570 Robinson Canyon Road, just west of Ellensburg off of Thorp Hwy.