Sanderson, Bertus weekend’s top earners
February 18, 2015
The north shore of Lake Okeechobee turned out to be the perfect spot for Caleb Sanderson to celebrate his 26th birthday.
To be sure, Sanderson was on a working vacation, but he had no complaints after claiming the first Xtreme Bulls Tour win of his career at the Seminole Classic at Fred Smith Arena, and joined fellow bull rider Jeff Bertus in becoming the top earners in PRCA rodeos completed over the weekend.
A fourth-place finish in the first round and a shared win with Bertus in the short go allowed Sanderson, from nearby Kissimmee, Fla., to win the Xtreme Bulls title Feb. 15 with 174 points on two head and earn $6,593.
Sanderson – who's unusually tall for a bull rider at 6-foot-3 – bought his PRCA card just before the start of the 2014 season. He earned $29,215 as a PRCA rookie to finish 44th in the world standings and fourth among rookies behind Sage Kimzey, Tanner Bothwell and Garrett Smith.
Bertus was the runner-up by a half-point in the Xtreme Bulls Division 2 event. With his win in the Brighton Field Day Festival & Rodeo in Okeechobee a day earlier, Bertus actually left town with more money ($6,759) than Sanderson.
Jeff is the eldest (by two years) of the bull-riding Bertus brothers of Avon, S.D.; Joe Bertus, 21 in April, finished third in the Brighton Field Day Festival & Rodeo behind brother Jeff and Tate Stratton. Jeff, who turns 23 on March 2, finished 32nd in the world last year with $35,823, up from 111th the previous year.
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Zeb Lanham, a two-time WNFR qualifying bull rider who is currently No. 2 in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, was badly injured in the Seminole Classic Xtreme Bulls event Feb. 15 when he was stepped on by a bull. According to multiple news outlets, Lanham suffered a lacerated liver, two punctured lungs and 16 fractures to his ribcage. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital from the rodeo grounds. Check http://www.prorodeo.com for updates on Lanham's condition as they become available.
Seth Cooke, a permit-holder, entered the Bell County PRCA Rodeo in Belton, Texas, with no wins and $319 in total earnings since buying his permit in December 2012. He left town with three wins and checks totaling $2,828. He won the steer wrestling in 3.5 seconds, the tie-down roping in 9.7 seconds and that parlay brought him the all-around title as well. Cooke, a sophomore who competes in both steer wrestling and tie-down roping at Weatherford (Texas) College – which had four alums in the WNFR field last year in Reese Riemer, Timber Moore, Clayton Hass and Brandon Beers – says the wins won't change his plans to rodeo on his permit in 2015 and then buy his PRCA card and compete as a rookie in 2016. "It is tempting to want to buy my card now, but I'm going to stick to my plan and wait," Cooke said. "I want to wait until next year so I can enter Denver and Fort Worth and all the early winter rodeos. I have some young horses coming up this year that I want to take to rodeos in Texas and get ready for next season."
Three-time Wrangler NFR saddle bronc rider J.J. Elshere, 35, may not be on the road as much as he once was, but he still knows how to win. His 80-point saddle bronc ride at the Coors ProRodeo in Gillette, Wyo., was three points better than the runner-up, 2005 World Champion Jeff Willert, and allowed Elshere to keep alive his streak of winning at least one PRCA title each year since buying his card in 2000. A year ago, he entered just 20 rodeos, finishing 116th in the world standings, while earning a win in Bowman, N.D. In 2013, he ended up 100th in the world standings, with a win at the Corn Palace Stampede in Mitchell, S.D.
Heith DeMoss rode Papago of Pete Carr's Classic Pro Rodeo string for 88 points to earn a win at the West Monroe (La.) ProRodeo – just 74 miles from his front porch in Heflin – and backed that up with a second-place result in Starkville, Miss., where he finished two points behind Clay Elliott (82-80). West Monroe proved a welcoming stop on the road for former WNFR qualifiers, with DeMoss, 2013 World Champion Tie-down Roper Shane Hanchey and three-time WNFR bareback rider Heath Ford all getting wins there.