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LAS VEGAS â€“ That was a close one.
As Carlee Pierce and her horse Lolo sped past the first barrel a little too much during Friday nightâ€™s second round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, it looked as though her chances of a paycheck went with her.
The duo recovered, finishing the cloverleaf pattern in 14.81 seconds, typically a slow run in such quick conditions inside the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. But other cowgirls struggled more. Only seven cowgirls left all the barrels standing, and only six of those placed. For struggling through the run, Pierce collected a $3,065 first-place check.
â€śI have to remember she is my baby and not Dillion or Arson,â€ť she said of Lolo, a 6-year-old sorrel mare now competing in just her fourth rodeo â€“ it just so happens this is the biggest stage in the game, amplified by 10 go-rounds and the largest purse. â€śThis was rider error totally.â€ť
Those things happen, but Pierce and her filly have persevered.
â€śWeâ€™ll put that behind us and move on,â€ť said Pierce of Edmond, Okla. â€śWe have eight more rounds, so Iâ€™m excited to see what we can do. This is a chance for Lolo and I to learn a lot.â€ť
Through two go-rounds, the Alberta-born cowgirl has earned a little more than $11,000. By leaving the barrels up in both nights, she is fourth in the average race with a two-run cumulative time of 29.10 seconds, just four-tenths off the leader, four-time world champion Sherry Cervi.
â€śAll I can do is try to ride better every night and give Lolo her shot,â€ť Pierce said. â€śThatâ€™s what Iâ€™m going to do.â€ť
LAS VEGAS â€“ There are many nights when itâ€™s great fun to be a saddle bronc rider competing at the National Finals Rodeo.
Friday night wasnâ€™t one of them. The top 15 cowboys in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association all faced the toughest test of their 10-day championship, the nastiest bucking horses in the world.
â€śThis was our eliminator pen,â€ť said Cort Scheer, a four-time NFR qualifier from Elsmere, Neb. â€śThis is the juice, so everyone was a little nervous tonight.â€ť
Of the 15 attempts, there were only seven qualified rides. Most of the cowboys failed to post a score, and some hit the ground rather hard. Scheer stayed in the saddle on Pete Carr Pro Rodeoâ€™s Mike & Ike for 82 points, finishing second to round winner Jacobs Crawley by half a point. Scheer earned $15,018
â€śI actually got on him in Guymon (Okla.) two or three years ago and ended up missing him out,â€ť he said, referring to the starting position in which the heels of his Justin Boots needed to be over the breaks in the horseâ€™s shoulders; failure to do that means a disqualification. â€śI knew he was a good horse, and I think I rode him better there.
â€śAt least I spurred him out this time.â€ť
That made the difference for Scheer, who knew he was in for a fight from the time he nodded his head on the powerful bay gelding until it was time to dismount. Hearing the eight-second whistle while still on Mike & Ikeâ€™s back was a bit of a relief.
â€śUsually my stuff feels pretty long on horses,â€ť he said, referring to the cinches on is saddle that secure him to the animal. â€śItâ€™s not like heâ€™s a tall horse, but heâ€™s thick. My stuff felt tight on him, and I mean he was always bucking. You feel like youâ€™ve got it knocked out, and I got loose about seven seconds. Heâ€™s just strong, and finally he jackhammers you out of there and creams you.â€ť
Through two rounds, Scheer has pocketed more than $34,000; only team ropers Turtle Powell and Dakota Kirchenschlager have earned more so far. He is No. 2 in the world standings, trailing leader and fellow Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team alumnus Taos Muncy by less than $100.
Now the bronc busters get a big of a break for Round 3, the easiest pen of horses at the finale, the â€śhoppers.â€ť
â€śThe pen tomorrow will be fun no matter what,â€ť said Scheer, who is matched with Kesler Rodeoâ€™s Nickels & Dimes. â€śThese are the ones you know you should spur every jump, and you just think you need to spur harder and harder just to make you feel good.â€ť
Scheer feels pretty good. Thatâ€™s what happens when you average $17,000 a day in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS â€“ The Cooper boys know how to rope, and they showed it Friday night during the second go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Team roping heeler Jim Ross Cooper of Monument, N.M., and tie-down roper Clint Cooper, who grew up in Lovington, N.M., each finished in third place on the second night of ProRodeoâ€™s championship event.
Jim Ross and header Brandon Beers stopped the clock in 4.6 seconds, while Clint roped and tied his calf in 8.0 seconds. Those third-place runs earned each cowboy $11,340. It was the first time at this yearâ€™s NFR that the Lea County Coopers placed.
This is the fifth NFR for the Coopers, who are cousins. Both their fathers are world champions and inductees of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame; Clintâ€™s father, Roy, is an eight-time world champ, while Jim Rossâ€™ dad, Jimmie, won the 1981 all-around gold buckle.
Both also are â€śRiding for the Brandâ€ť for Tate Branch Auto Group, which has dealerships in the southeastern New Mexico communities of Hobbs, Artesia and Carlsbad. Their NFR teammate, two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy of Corona, N.M., bucked off his horse, Tiger Warrior, which is part of the Calgary Stampede bucking string.
Eight nights remain in ProRodeoâ€™s grand finale, so there are plenty of more opportunities for the three New Mexicans to earn top payoffs.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Everybody knows itâ€™s always beneficial to have good friends.
Bray Armes leaned on a couple Friday night during the second round of the National Finals Rodeo. Thankfully, his horse, Ote, and hazer, Sean Mulligan, came to the rescue and secured a second straight paycheck for the Ponder, Texas, steer wrestler.
â€śI missed the barrier a little bit and was fortunate enough to catch up quick,â€ť said Armes, now competing at the NFR for the third straight year. â€śI know I can trust them. If something goes wrong, itâ€™s probably my fault.â€ť
Armes owns Ote, the palomino gelding that guided him to the NFR average title a season ago; Mulligan, a four-time NFR qualifier, rides Champaign, known as one of the best hazing horses in rodeo.
â€śBoth Shawn and Champaign set it all up perfect every time,â€ť Armes said. â€śI just have to take care of my part.â€ť
Fridayâ€™s steers seemed to be rather tough. Only four cowboys posted runs faster than 4 seconds: round winners Kyle Irwin and Luke Branquinho in 3.6 and Nick Guy in 3.7 to join Armes, whose traveling partner, Casey Martin, finished in 4.4 seconds to place sixth.
â€śThese steers were a little full tonight,â€ť Armes said. â€śIt will get better and be alright.â€ť
Through two nightsâ€™ work, the Texan has earned a little more than $11,000 in Las Vegas. In his three years competing in the Nevada desert, he has pocketed nearly $200,000.
Heâ€™s in the right place to add to it.
1. Aaron Pass on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Seeing Red, 89.5 points, $19,002; 2. Cody Teel, 85, $15,018; 3. Sage Kimzey, 80.5, $11,340; 4. Joe Frost, 74, $7,969; no other qualified rides.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Kyle Irwin always tries for perfection even though itâ€™s unattainable.
He was pretty close Friday night during the second go-round of the National Finals Rodeo. The steer wrestler downed his steer in in 3.6 seconds to share the round victory with four-time world champion Luke Branquinho. It was worth $17,010.
â€śI knew he was good,â€ť Irwin said of his steer. â€śI knew he was a chance. I tried to get a good start and felt like I did with no mistakes â€“ maybe one or two, because there is no perfect run, but Iâ€™m not complaining one bit. I was 3.6 to win the round, my second round at the NFR was great.â€ť
The Robertsdale, Ala., cowboy has found early success in his first qualification to ProRodeoâ€™s grand championship. He has earned almost $22,000 in just two nights in the Nevada desert.
â€śWhen I was out in the parking lot getting ready, it was what I envisioned in my head,â€ť he said of his run. â€śThatâ€™s the run I needed to run; smooth is fast and slow is smooth. Thatâ€™s what we tried to do tonight, and thatâ€™s the way it worked out.â€ť
In the two weeks leading up to the NFR, numerous NFR qualifiers spent time at Branquinhoâ€™s California home working with some of the cattle featured in Las Vegas, so they have seen the steers that were in Fridayâ€™s pen. That paid off for the winners.
â€śFrom running at Lukeâ€™s, I knew that steerâ€™s pattern,â€ť Irwin said. â€śMy cousin reminded me that weâ€™re chasing animals and anything happen. I kind of knew his pattern and knew what would happen if I got my feet on the ground, and sure enough, it did.â€ť
It helps that he has two perfect partners in his hazer, Tyler Pearson, and Pearsonâ€™s bulldogging horse, Sketch.
â€śIt means everything to have that kind of consistency,â€ť Irwin said. â€śThe first rodeo I went to this year was Austin, Texas; I went with Tyler and rode his horse. Iâ€™m comfortable. I donâ€™t have any doubts about his ability of the horse or Tyler.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m comfortable in this atmosphere because of that.â€ť
It shows. Thatâ€™s a good thing for Irwin.
1. Lisa Lockhart seconds, 14.29 seconds, $19,002; 2. Kassidy Dennison, 14.31, $15,018; 3. Sherry Cervi, 14.35; 4. Jana Bean, 14.59, $7,969; 5. Kaley Bass, 14.66, $4,904; 6. Carlee Pierce, 14.81, $3,065.
1. Cade Swor, 7.7seconds, $19,002; 2. Trevor Brazile, 7.9, $15,018 each; 3. Clint Cooper, 8.0, $11,340; 4. Tyson Durfey, 8.1, $7,969; 5. Matt Shiozawa, 8.2, $4,904. 6. Hunter Herrin, 8.5, $3,065.
1. Jacobs Crawley on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Spade, 82.5 points, $19,002; 2. Cort Scheer, 82, $15,018; 3. Dustin Flundra, 81, $11,340; 4. Jake Wright, 80.5, $7,969 each; 5. Cole Elshere, 76.5, $4,904 each; 6. Spencer Wright, 76.5, $3,065 each.
1. Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlage, 3.8 seconds, $19,002; 2. Coleman Proctor/Jake Long, 4.5, $15,018; 3. Brandon Beers/Jim Ross Cooper , 4.6, $11,340; 4. Clay Tryan/Jake Corkill, 9.4, $7,969; 5. Kaleb Driggers/Patrick Smith , 9.7, $4,904; 6. Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueira, 10.10, $3,065.
1. (tie) Luke Branquinho and Kyle Irwin, 3.6 seconds, $17,010; 3. Nick Guy, 3.7, $11,340 each; 4. Bray Armes, 3.9 $7,969; 5. Trevor Knowles, 4.1, $4,904; 6. Casey Martin, 4.4, $3,065.