THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF VEGAS: Montanans among repeat qualifiers for Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Haven Meged, Miles City, and Joey Williams, Broadus, have qualified in the tie-down roping and breakaway roping, respectively.
This year will be the fourth qualification for 24-year-old Meged, who, at his first Wrangler NFR, won the world title.
“I had a really good year this year,” he said. “I felt like I placed at more rodeos. I try to place at every rodeo I go to. That’s my biggest thing, to pull a check at every rodeo I go to.”
Meged’s new main mount this year was a six-year-old bay horse named Smoke, who did well and “got better and better at every rodeo,” he said. While his previous mount, Beyonce, a twelve-year-old black mare, was in the breeding barn in the spring, Smoke took the load. And when Beyonce tore a meniscus at Cheyenne Frontier Days, Smoke handled all of the runs. “I probably rode Beyonce at ten rodeos this year, and rode Smoke everywhere else,” he said.
Beyonce “has had a pretty light year, as far as rodeos. The plan is she’ll be ready for the Finals.”
Meged is engaged to marry breakaway roper Shelby Boisjoli, who will compete at her third National Finals Breakaway Roping. The couple will marry in May, and will make their home in the summer in Montana and in the winter in Texas, where Meged has a place and 35 head of horses. “We rope all day, every day.”
Meged is used to training his own calf horses; he started that as a kid.
“It’s something I’ve done since I was young. We didn’t have the nicest horses growing up. We had pretty good ones, but they were ranch horses. We learned how to make them better and bring them along. It’s nothing like the horses coming out of a cow horse, cutting or reining barn.”
Not only is he training horses but he’s growing his herd of registered Angus cattle. His goal is a bull sale in Miles City in 2025, starting with 100 embryos placed in recipient heifers this fall. The bloodlines he’s using include Poss Deadwood, Poss Rawhide and Poss Maverick.
He enters the Finals in third place in the world standings, with more than $156,000 won.
His goal in Vegas? Leave with an average title and a world title.
Breakaway roper Joey Painter Williams will make her second appearance at the National Finals Breakaway Roping (NFBR), qualifying in eighth place in the world standings.
Last year, the South Dakota native entered the NFBR in last hole, barely qualifying on the final day of the rodeo season.
This year was better. The summer went well; she hung around the fifteenth to twenty-fifth place all summer, but in August and September hit a hot streak, getting her into the top fifteen in the world.
Williams is aboard the Nutrena Breakaway Horse of the Year, presented by the AQHA, Baybe Bullet, “Baybe,” an eleven-year-old bay mare who Williams’ husband Taylor team ropes on.
“She’s pretty special,” Williams said. “She’s great at her job, and she makes my job easy. When I go to a rodeo, I can usually trust she’ll do her job as long as I ride her how I should. It’s nice to have that confidence that when you back into the corner, that your horse will go to work.”
Taylor won the Montana Circuit Finals team roping average on the versatile horse three times.
“She should be in the spotlight, not me,” Williams said.
The couple, who ranch near Broadus, have three kids: sons Landon (6), and Carson (4) and daughter Shay (1). Shay often traveled with Williams; the boys did some of the time. “The boys are old enough I can leave them home with their dad, and he can get some work done.”
Juggling young kids, a ranch and rodeo competition is tough; Williams scheduled rodeos around the family.
“I try to (rodeo) when I can, and not overdo it. I try to find the balance to keep my kids happy, but stay” in the rankings.
A native of Harding County, S.D., Williams’ cousin Riley Routier is married to Jessica Routier, a five-time National Finals barrel racer.
Routier “has been a big motivator for me. Every time I strap a kid in a car seat, I think, if she can do this, I can do this.”
While a student at Black Hills State University, she was the 2012 College National Finals Rodeo breakaway champ. Then breakaway went on the back burner, after marriage, mostly because the event didn’t break onto the pro rodeo scene till about four years ago.
“I backed off (of breakaway) for several years, till the PRCA rodeos up here added it in 2019. When I cracked back out, I had the horsepower to do it.”
At last year’s NFBR, she had the fastest time in two rounds (1.7 seconds and 1.8 seconds), and split the fastest time in a third round.
She’s excited to go back. “I’m going to go out there and have fun.”
The Wrangler NFR runs Dec. 1-10, with performances beginning at 6:45 pm Mountain Time each night. The rodeo will air on The Cowboy Channel and RFD-TV. For more information, visit ProRodeo.com.
The Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping is Nov. 29-30 at 2 pm each day, five rounds per day. The roping will be livestreamed on the WranglerNetwork.com.