Titles still up for grabs as sun sets on 2016 rodeo season
Steamboat Springs — A summer full of rodeo has come down to one final weekend for the cowboys and cowgirls who are regulars at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series.
This weekend, many of those athletes will be looking to collect one more check before the sun sets on the 2016 season, and for a lucky few, there is still a chance to pick up a shiny new belt buckle that goes to series champions.
“After two-and-half months of pro rodeo, it all comes down to this,” said announcer John Shipley. “I’m not sure how many of the rodeo fans out there follow this stuff, but there is always a week 10, and these championships are something that we’ve always hung our hats on.”
Throughout the season, cowboys and cowgirls are awarded points for each dollar they win in the rodeo series. At the end of the season, those points are totaled, and the top athletes are crowned series champions in their respective events. Shipley explained that it’s not always easy to follow, because the cowboys and cowgirls are offered incentives as the season progresses in an effort to keep competitors coming back the full 10 weeks.
Incentives include double points for winning rodeos in August and bonuses for winning the most money in a given month. That month-end bonus will make this year’s battle in the bull riding much more interesting.
“A guy that has a strong run in the last three week’s might win a buckle over a guy that shows up more consistently but isn’t as hot down the stretch,” Shipley said.
He added that the field tends to thin as the season progresses, and the incentives are a way to keep the competitive level of the rodeo high throughout the summer. He said it’s not unusual for cowboys and cowgirls who are not winning, or those who are beaten up in the rodeo arena, to skip rodeos toward the end of the summer.
Even so, Shipley doesn’t expect too many of the title contenders to skip this weekend’s events and give up a chance at the belt buckles.
There will be a tight race in the bull riding, in which four cowboys still have an opportunity to land the title. Curtis Cordell is currently at the top of the standings, but with a $1,500 bonus — awarded to the best rider in August — still up for grabs, the final weekend should be interesting.
Shipley thinks Bryce Burnell, Garrett Uptain and Cyler Doremus all have a shot, and all four will be competing during the weekend. The event has a history of tight title races — last year, Brian Larson beat out Hayden’s Jake Booco by less than $13 during the final week.
The race will also be tight in permitted bull riding, which features first-year riders. The title will come down to Cordell, Uptain and Kaiden Decker. All three cowboys are entered, and all three still have a chance to win a buckle during the weekend.
Hunter Brasfield is in good position to bring home the series title in the bareback riding event, but Dylan Wahlert is definitely still in the running. With an estimated 1,000 points up for grabs during the weekend, a top finish by Wahlert could take a bite out of Brasfield’s comfortable lead.
Riders competing in saddle bronc during the weekend include Garrett Buckley, who holds a comfortable lead. Shipley said most of the cowboys in that event are competing with the hope of placing in the top-six and earning a chance to ride in the 25th annual Pat Mantle Saddle Bronc Riding Championships, which will be the highlight of Saturday’s rodeo. The saddle bronc riding event offers extra prize money to the winner, along with a rifle and the pride that goes with being among an elite group.
One of the most contested events will come in the tie-down roping event. Don Coffell holds a narrow, 150-point lead over Darnell Johnson headed into the final weekend. Shipley said Coffell is a teacher and has returned to classes. He will miss the final rodeo and leave the door open for Johnson, who is currently in second place. If Johnson wins any money this weekend, he will likely earn the buckle.
The team roping titles, which go to the top header and top heeler, will also be decided this weekend. Shipley said the race in the heeler group will come down to Josh Filmore, Chad Wahlert and J.W. Barrage. The header title will between Paul Beckett, Cole Dorenkamp and Nick Pullara.
The regional roping titles will also come down to the final weekend, with Jeff Busby, Shawn Darnell, Bill Plummer, Macy Fuller and Nick Camilletti contending for a title.
There will be a four-way battle for the top spot in the barrel racing events, with Camie Haskins and Wendy McKee leading the way. Shipley said Macy Fuller and Marley Hammer also have a shot at winning the buckle.
The final contested title will be for the buckle that goes to the best all-round cowboy — or a cowboy who competes in more than one event. This year, two cowboys have consistently competed in more than one event, and it looks as though Cole Dorenkamp and Garrett Busby will both be in the running the final weekend.
Shipley said the buckles that go to the top junior barrel and pee wee barrel racers are pretty much in the bag, as Jacey Matt and Alexis Vreeman take commanding leads into the final weekend.
One of the few things that is certain about the coming weekend is that the rodeo series will wrap up the 2016 season with two more energy-packed rodeo performances. Live entertainment and a barbecue will kick things off at 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.
Rodeo action gets underway at 7:30 both nights.
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