The next generation of cowboys and cowgirls is about to get a chance at some big money.
Last week, the American, presented by RFD-TV, announced that it would hold a Junior American, designed for contestants who are nineteen years old and younger.
The Junior American will include five events: barrel racing, team roping, calf roping, breakaway roping and steer wrestling, and will work similarly to the American, the world’s richest rodeo, and take place at the same time as the American, March 2-3, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Youngsters will qualify throughout the fall and winter at various jackpots throughout the country. The Better Barrel Races will organize the qualifiers for the barrel racing; Chris Neal’s Rising Star Calf Ropings will be the calf roping qualifiers, and Stewart Gulager will organize the steer wrestling qualifiers. The team roping and breakaway qualifiers are still in the works. The first qualifier was the International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) in Shawnee, Okla. in July. The top ten in each event at the IFYR who paid the side pot entry fee for the Junior American qualified for the event.
Kevin Hall, organizer of the Junior American, figures there will be about fifteen qualifying jackpots or rodeos for each event, with the top ten from each discipline making it to the semi-finals. Up to 900 youth athletes will make it to Ft. Worth, and like the adult qualifiers for the American, they will compete in the semi-finals and finals in Ft Worth at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum February 27-March 1, 2019. Each youth event will do a long round, with the top fifteen or twenty athletes, depending on TV time restrictions, going on to the semi-finals on Friday, March 1.
The top two Junior Americans in each event are guaranteed a spot in the competition on Saturday, March 2, along with the sixteen adults in each event. The juniors don’t have to qualify through the finals on Friday night for their spots on Saturday, but to be eligible for the $1 million payout on Sunday, they have to have been one of the top eighteen after the semi-finals Friday night, including the adults. The money is huge, said Hall. “The money is the exciting part for these kids,” he said. “There will be an opportunity never seen in rodeo history.”
Hall, who along with his wife, Andrea, came up with the idea, said the talent among the youth is excellent. “You’re going to see some kids that will blow your mind. There are kids out there, some of these thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year-olds, that could make the National Finals Rodeo, if they had the time and could buy their (PRCA) cards.” Contestants must be eighteen years old to get their PRCA membership. “These kids are either at home, waiting to turn eighteen, or they’re hitting jackpots.”
The Halls have run the Young Gun National Championship, a youth rodeo held in Ft. Worth, for the past four years. Next year, the Young Gun will be the final qualifier for the Junior American. The Halls also produce the Patriot, billed as America’s richest equine event, with a payout this year of $3.3 million. The Patriot includes four events: barrel racing, team roping, calf roping, and mounted shooting and a trade show and concerts.
Contestants in the qualifiers for the Junior American pay a $250 entry fee. One hundred percent of the fee is paid back; 25 percent is paid back at the individual qualifier; 50 percent is paid back at the Ft. Worth event, and 25 percent goes towards the purse money at the American.
Youth qualifiers will not only come from the U.S. but from around the globe, Hall said. An Australian has already qualified in the barrel racer.
Hall stresses that the Junior American will have a momentous influence on rodeo and the youth who compete in it. “We’ve worked with RFD-TV to create the greatest youth rodeo in history,” he said. “We have a concept where these kids can compete on their own playing field and have a chance to move towards the $1 million (awarded to the winner or winners of the American.) “If someone makes it to the final day (of the American), they could win life changing money.”
More information on the Junior American can be found at http://www.JrAmerican.com.
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