This time of the season on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit, world class competitors ride and rope in numerous rodeos throughout the Northwestern United States.
That’s been the experience of former Clarendon College star Tegan Smith who tied for second in the saddle bronc riding title race with an attention grabbing score of 87 at the Aug. 13-15 McCone County Fair PRCA Rodeo in Circle, Montana.
This week, he signed up to compete in PRCA shows in Kalispell, Montana, and Burley, Idaho. But he also entered rodeos in Hastings, Nebraska, and in Guymon, Oklahoma.
The reason he’s coming all the way down to Guymon this weekend because the rodeo’s dates were changed because of coronavirus concerns. The Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo usually is a higher paying spring pro rodeo. The 2020 edition originally was scheduled for May 1-3. But this year, the dates were changed to Aug. 21-23 and many serious pro rodeo competitors will divert from a usual practice of only competing in the Northwest this weekend and will head south to the Guymon rodeo.
“I’m very glad that they can have it,” Smith said of the renowned Oklahoma Panhandle rodeo.
For Smith, it’s been a busy summer of traveling many miles. Pro rodeos have not been as plentiful as usual this summer because of COVID-19. The larger rodeos in cities such as Reno, Nevada; Calgary, Alberta: and Cheyenne, Wyoming, have been cancelled.
So, competitors jump at the opportunities to compete in those rodeos that have been made available by determined organizing committees.
“We’re going to rodeos that we’ve never been to before,” Smith said. “That’s kind of the cool part because it’s rodeos that you never think about going to. We’ve been from Idaho to Montana and it’s like we’re making a big circle every week.”
Smith is attempting to earn his first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He was ranked No. 19 in the PRCA saddle bronc riding world standings (released Aug. 17) and he has a mathematical chance of qualifying for the Las Vegas championships.
This year, Smith, 22, is traveling with 2018 PRCA world saddle bronc riding champion Wade Sundell, and Colt Gordon, who earned his first trip to the National Finals last year.
He said Sundell has been a great influence.
“He helps us enter and getting up the right days at the right rodeos so you can make as much as you can in that weekend,” Smith said. “It’s just a positive influence.”
Smith, who is from Winterset, Iowa, and currently lives in Coleman, Oklahoma, also has been positively influenced by three-time National Finals saddle bronc riding qualifier Bret Franks who was Smith’s coach at Clarendon College. Smith met Franks during his freshman year of high school when he attended at saddle bronc riding school in Guymon.
Franks was one of the instructors. After attending the Guymon bronc busting school, Smith stayed in touch with Franks and opted to attend Clarendon College.
Smith finished third in the 2019 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association saddle bronc riding title race while competing for Clarendon College at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming. He and his cousin, Riggin Smith, who clinched the 2019 NIRA saddle bronc riding title, helped Clarendon College finish third in the NIRA men’s team title race at the Casper championships.
Smith said Franks is respected for challenging his students.
“He’s straight forward with you.” Smith said. “He’s going to tell you if it’s good or bad. He’s doesn’t powder coat nothing. He tells a guy what he needs to hear to work to get better.”
Smith ceased from competing on the collegiate circuit last year. He said the pro rodeo circuit is challenging.
“You have to make sure you don’t overthink it all of the time and just make sure that a guy is having fun because it can get rough out here,” Smith said. “You have to stay positive.”
PBR competition update
The Professional Bull Riders conducted an Unleash The Beast tour stop last weekend called Bullnanza at the Lazy E Arena in the Oklahoma City area. The UTB is the association’s top tier tour.
Kaique Pacheco, a Brazilian from Decatur who clinched the PBR’s world title in 2018, finished No. 1 at Bullnanza on Aug 15 and $30,779.
This weekend, the UTB tour had stopped in Salt Lake City. The PBR also has scheduled a UTB show next weekend at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena. The WinStar World Casino and Resort Invitational is scheduled for Aug. 29 (6:45 p.m.) and Aug. 30 (1:45 p.m.). The PBR will sell only 50 percent of the arena capacity and masks and social distancing will be required. Tickets start at $15. For more information, visit pbr.com and Ticketmaster.com.
Cooper riding high
Four-time world champion Tuf Cooper, who has homes in Weatherford and Decatur, and Reo Lohse a Wyoming cowboy, tied for first in the steer roping second round with a 9.2 at the Aug. 13-16 Fallon County Fair & Rodeo, a PRCA show in Baker, Montana. According to prorodeo.com , their 9.2 was a single round steer roping record at the Baker Rodeo. Their 9.2 was a half second faster than the previous record of 9.7 by Brodie Poppino in 2018. Cooper is ranked No. 1 in the PRCA’s 2020 world all-around title race.
Sterling Crawley injured
Sterling Crawley, a six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc riding qualifier, is sidelined indefinitely after breaking his right leg at a pro rodeo in Montana.
Crawley, 29, a former Stephenville resident who currently lives in the Huntsville area, was injured during a ride on Brookman Rodeo’s Lunatic Bait at the Fallon County Fair & Rodeo in Baker, Mont., Aug. 16, according to prorodeo.com .
“That was a big horse and it kind of jumped forward toward the post,” Crawley said in an interview with Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association journalist Tracy Renck. “I was trying to mark him out, and my toe went in between those pipes and it snapped my leg around and broke bones through there.”
Crawley said he hopes to be sidelined for about 12 weeks after undergoing surgery in Dallas under the supervision of sports physician Tandy Freeman.
Crawley was ranked seventh in the Aug. 17 PRCA RAM World Standings in saddle bronc riding.
“In a perfect world, depending on where the standings go and how things work, it’s a longshot that I could make it to Vegas, but maybe it will happen,” Crawley said. “We will just take things step by step.”
The PRCA regular season concludes Sept. 30 and the 2020 Wrangler NFR is scheduled for Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas.
Weatherford’s Hillman thriving
Stevi Hillman, a former National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Weatherford, finished sixth in barrel racing at the Circle, Montana, rodeo with a 15.02. She also finished ninth at the Aug. 10-12 Jerome County Fair And Rodeo in Jerome, Idaho, with a 17.21. If that wasn’t enough, she came in seventh at the Baker, Montana, rodeo with a 16.50. After all that, she’s ranked No. 6 in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association 2020 barrel racing world standings.
Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos and horse shows for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than 35 years. Email him at email@example.com.