DENVER, Colo. – History repeated itself, but the tables were turned at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver.
A year ago, Tim O’Connell won the short round at Denver on Calgary Stampede’s Reckless Margie, and Jake Brown won the rodeo. But this year, Brown won the short round on Reckless Margie, and O’Connell won the rodeo.
O’Connell, the 2016 world champion, and winner of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER, kicked off 2017 on a high note with a big payout – raking in $9,252 by winning the average title with 255.5 points on three head.
“It’s a great start to the year, and knowing I had a strong Finals, it’s carrying over (into 2017),” O’Connell said. “I feel healthy and strong, just picked up where I left off and I’ve got my eyes on the prize of another gold buckle. To take advantage of the first big rodeo of the year gives me confidence for the winter run.”
With the momentum of 2016 continuing into 2017, he’s setting a new and higher goal.
“Last year, I accomplished the biggest goal in the sport, and now, my goal is to win six in a row – I’d like to do it the fast way,” O’Connell said. “I’m going to keep praying, and my goal is to keep working out and stay fit and deep in prayer, and the Lord will make it happen – if it’s meant to be.”
Prior to Denver, O’Connell ranked 12th in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings with $7,959, and his latest win has likely propelled him into the Top 3.
The Zwingle, Iowa, native tied for sixth in the first round with 83.5 points, and returned to the Denver Coliseum for a third-place score of 84.5 in the second round. He claimed the top score in the average during the third round with an 87.5.
This was his first big win in Denver, and his eyes were already on Rapid City, S.D., as the dust was settling in Colorado.
“I’ve made the short round every year, and placed second before (in Denver), and I feel blessed to win,” O’Connell said. “I feel that at every rodeo, regardless of the draw, it’s my job to perform my best. It gives me confidence and I feel blessed – the Lord has blessed me these last two months.”
Other winners at the $479,645 rodeo were all-around cowboy Clayton Hass ($13,105 in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping), steer wrestler Hass (11.5 seconds on three head), team ropers Dustin Egusquiza/Kory Koontz (15.5 seconds on three head), saddle bronc rider Audy Reed (254.5 on three head), tie-down roper Marcos Costa (24.7 seconds on three head), barrel racer Kellie Collier (45.92 seconds on three runs) and bull rider Dustin Bowen (251 points on three head).
For more coverage of the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, check out the Feb. 3 issue of the ProRodeo Sports News.