Circuit finals rodeo determines Badlands rodeo champs in Minot
MINOT, N.D. (October 11, 2020) – The best pro rodeo cowboys and cowgirls in the Dakotas gathered in Minot this weekend for the PRCA’s RAM Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, held at the North Dakota State Fair Center.
Over 100 contestants, the top twelve in each of eight events, competed for two titles: the year-end championship (the most money won over the season), and the average, or finals championship, the most money won in Minot.
In the bareback riding, a North Dakota man made a clean sweep at this year’s circuit finals.
Jordan Pelton had never won a check in the last four times he’s qualified for the finals, but this year he won first place for each performance, and the average, with 258 points on three head.
In fact, he’s enjoying rodeo more than ever, after a mental “switch.”
“My focus has changed to just riding,” the 30-year-old said. “Rather than focusing on winning, which takes away from your job. It’s been a fun year, dang sure a lot of fun.”
He also realizes bareback riding careers don’t last forever. “I know the clock is ticking,” he said. “I can’t do this forever.”
Pelton, who farms and ranches with his dad, has more to focus on than just rodeo. He and his wife Tessa are expecting their first child later this month.
Jamie Howlett, Rapid City, S.D., competed on Sunday after pulling a hamstring during Saturday night’s ride. He finished as year-end champ, for the second consecutive year.
In the steer wrestling, Riley Reiss, Manning, N.D., entered the finals in first place and finished in the same spot, even though he didn’t win any money.
“I had a lot of luck this summer,” he said, but his luck ran out at the fairgrounds. “I’ve struggled in this building. I don’t know what it is.” Last year, in his first qualification for the circuit finals, he didn’t win any money, either.
“This year, I couldn’t capitalize. Next year I’ll be prepared for it.”
Reiss is in his sophomore year at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo.
His dad, Jason, also competed at the circuit finals, winning checks in two rounds.
The year-end winner was Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D. Lord’s dad, J.B., like Reiss’, was also a qualifier for the circuit finals, in the team roping.
The winning team ropers came north to Minot in first place and never looked back.
Brothers Tucker and Cooper White, Hershey, Neb., had an excellent season, and a finals as well, winning one first place check and two second place checks to also win the average (16.4 seconds on three head).
They ran the numbers before the Sunday performance. “We had it figured before today,” Cooper said. “We did some math last night on what teams would have to do to beat us, even if we missed. We knew exactly what we had to do, and it worked out.”
After their wins, the pressure was off for Cooper. “I’m glad it’s over with. We finally have the first one under our belts,” he said. “We’ve been working for this for a long time. It’s pretty cool to do it with your brother, that’s for sure.”
Their mother was on hand for the win, and their dad, at home in Nebraska, was waiting to hear from his boys. “He’s been heckling us to send a video,” Cooper said. Cooper, the header, is 23 years old; Tucker is 27.
In the saddle bronc riding, a veteran cowboy won the finals. Chuck Schmidt, Keldron, S.D., tied for first in the first round (83 points) and first place in the second round (81), with an average of 242 points on three head. Schmidt has been to the circuit finals a dozen times.
Jacob Kammerer, Philip, S.D., was the year-end winner.
For the barrel racers, it came down to a bit more than a half-second in the average between the top three cowgirls: Amanda Welsh, with 40.83 seconds on three runs, Heidi Gunderson, 41.29, and Molly Otto, 41.37.
Welsh, Gillette, Wyo., won the average on her ten-year-old sorrel, Firefly. The horse, trained by her dad, excels in small indoor pens like the fairgrounds. “He seems to love it up here in Minot,” she said.
The gelding, whose registered name is Frenchmans Firefly, is a special horse, she said. “He’s usually all business. He can be a little fret-y sometimes, so he’s always got to have a buddy. He’s a lot of fun.”
Welsh finished the 2020 pro rodeo season in 36th place in the world standings.
The year-end title went to Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D. She rode the 2020 Women’s Pro Rodeo Association Badlands Horse of the Year, Fiery Miss West, “Missy,” who is owned by Westergren Quarter Horses. This is the fourth consecutive year for Jessica and Missy to win the award.
Both tie-down roping titles went to Trey Young, Dupree, S.D.; in the women’s breakaway, Cora Borman, Backus, Minn., won the average title (29.4 seconds on three head) and Katie Mundorf, Mullen, Neb., won the year-end title.
Out of a field of twelve bull riders, only four men rode two of three bulls, and no one rode all three.
Thunder Boomer, TJ Schmidt, Ardie Maier, and Chance Schott made qualified rides on two bulls, but it was Schott who wrapped up both titles.
Schott qualified for the circuit finals in first place, and also won the finals with 173 points on two head, seven and a half points ahead of the number two man, Maier, of Timber Lake, S.D. This is his second trip to the Badlands Circuit Finals; last year, he was the average champion.
The all-around winner, the cowboy competing in more than one event, was Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D. The rookie of the year went to Riley Reiss.
Badlands champs will go on to compete at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, to be held in Kissimmee, Florida next spring. Points from the Badlands Circuit Finals count towards the 2021 National Finals Rodeo.
For full results from this night’s rodeo, visit ProRodeo.com.
–Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo
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