O’Connell shows greatness in RAM CFR
It was the perfect tune-up for bareback rider Tim O’Connell.
The Zwingle, Iowa, cowboy – who will be competing in his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo next month – had a dominating performance at the RAM Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo (Nov. 13-15) at Freedom Hall.
O’Connell won one round and tied for first in the other two rounds to capture the average title with 245 points on three head.
Thanks to that performance, O’Connell also won the Great Lakes Circuit year-end title.
“I was doing what I have been doing all year and that’s having fun, and trying to be aggressive and trying to take care of business,” said O’Connell, 23.
This season has been a magical one for O’Connell as he finished fourth in the final regular-season Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings with $102,890. The WNFR is Dec. 4-13 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“I feel like I’m riding good and I’m in control with what I want to do,” O’Connell said. “Everything is going correctly, and the good Lord has blessed me. I’m ready to experience my first NFR. It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was knee-high, and I feel like I’m riding good enough that I can compete at the highest level.”
Back in 2012, O’Connell finished first in the Great Lakes Circuit year-end standings and earned $20,242 on his permit, but he never had any luck at the RGLCFR until this year.
“I had never even won a round at the Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo,” said O’Connell, who was the PRCA Resistol Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year in 2013. “This year, things went much better for me.”
In the first round, O’Connell had a first-place-tying 77-point ride on Barnes PRCA Rodeo’s Pull Ups and he then won the second round with an 84-point ride on Three Hills Rodeo’s Rocky. O’Connell capped his weekend with another 84-point ride on MJM Rodeo’s Hawley Falls in the third round to tie for first again.
With his year-end and average titles, O’Connell qualified for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo March 25-28 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla.
“That’s awesome, and I think it’s great what the PRCA is doing (increasing the money at the RNCFR),” O’Connell said. “It’s better for everyone and makes circuit cowboys want to compete at the highest level to make the (RNCFR). They did a great thing and I’m excited to go and compete against those guys for a national title. Next to a world title, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo title is right there.”
The other winners at the $125,005 rodeo were all-around cowboy Kyle Whitaker ($2,431, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and steer wrestling), steer wrestler Tooter Silver (13.7 seconds on three head), team ropers Jason Arndt and Gabe Gwaltney (21.2 seconds on three head), saddle bronc rider Austin Joseph (237 points on three head), tie-down roper Jared Kempker (26.4 seconds on three head), barrel racer Natalie Foutch, (46.97 seconds on three runs) and bull rider Will Crain (155 points on two head).
Wade Shoemaker, a veterinarian from Gill, Colo., seems to relish the challenge of going against his region’s best steer ropers. Shoemaker, 42, won the Nov. 15-16 Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo title in Douglas, Wyo., with a time of 110.3 seconds on six head – he was the only contestant to earn times on all six steers – to claim that title for the second time in five years. In addition to his previous win in 2010 (54.4 on four head), Shoemaker also finished second in 2011 and fourth in 2012. This latest triumph at the Wagonhound Arena earned him $2,184 and came as the result of dogged consistency; he placed in just one round, a second-place finish in the second round.