DENVER It was showdown Sunday in Denver. Not only were the Denver Broncos playing the Pittsburg Steelers at Invesco Field at Mile High, but the best in ProRodeo were battling it out for top honors at the 100th National Western Stock Show & Rodeo at the Denver Coliseum. This year's event set a record for attendance with a total of 726,972.
Two-time and reigning world champion Will Lowe got the day started with a big win in the bareback riding over Colorado native and good friend Royce Ford. Lowe (Canyon, Texas) won the average title with 249 points on three head, just one point ahead of Ford (Kersey, Colo.). Ford won the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour round with an 86-point ride aboard Cervi Championship Rodeo's Rose Puff Multichem, while Lowe rode Burch Rodeo's Lyin Eyes Vitalix for 83 points to finish in a three way tie for second.
"I got on that horse here last year in one of the long rounds and was 84 on her," Lowe said. "She didn't have quite as many moves last year, but felt good. She felt really good today and was real electric."
Lowe tied for the win in the first round with an 84-point ride on Powder River Rodeo's Jungle Girl and finished in a tie for fourth in the second round after posting an 82 on Beutler Bros. and Cervi's Little Fletch. Lowe pocketed $13,986, while Ford won $8,079.
The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo marked the second stop on the 2006 Wrangler ProRodeo Winter Tour, its sixth appearance overall on the 12-stop Tour. Contestants not only compete for money at the Tour rodeos, but for valuable Tour points that qualify them for the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out upon the conclusion of the Winter Tour.
The Pace Chute-out will be held May 13-14 in Tulsa, Okla. All 12 stops on the Winter Tour will be televised on Fox Sports Network for the first time in history. Check local listings for times in your area.
Five-time world champion saddle bronc rider Billy Etbauer doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Etbauer (Edmond, Okla.) entered the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour round nine points out of first place, but like any veteran athlete he went out and took care of business. Etbauer rode Cervi Championship Rodeo's Back Street for 87 points to not only win the Tour round, but the average too with 246 points on three head.
"It was an outstandingly nice horse that just was jumping out there and kicking, and that's what you want," said Etbauer, who won $12,937. "Every day I can get on one is a blessing, and I'm just tickled to death to be here. Hopefully I can just stay healthy and stay after them."
Bull rider Spud Whitman has had his share of injuries and is just glad to be back in the arena for the 2006 rodeo season. Two years ago, Whitman (Kiowa, Colo.) suffered a shoulder injury and also received the news that he had parathyroid cancer, a rare form of cancer that produces extra calcium in the body. After doctors were able to regulate and monitor the cancer, he returned to the arena in 2005 but immediately blew out his wrist on his riding arm (left) and had to have surgery.
Whitman is now ready for the 2006 season and he proved it Sunday afternoon, riding Guidry and Cervi's Final Dose for 86 points and the Tour round win. He also won the average with 252 points on three head, a full 20 points ahead of Tate Stratton.
"I went to Odessa (Texas) and got on one and kind of got the rust off," said Whitman on his return to rodeo. "I hadn't been on one in seven months, so to come here and go ahead and pull out a win, that's a good way to get it started. I'm looking forward to a big year."
Whitman picked up checks totaling $12,040, while Stratton, a full-time college student at Texas A&M University, won $6,976.
In the steer wrestling, Dru Melvin (Tyron, Neb.) turfed his steer in 3.8 seconds to win the Tour round and finished in a tie for the average title with a total time of 13.7 seconds on three head. Melvin shared the victory with Kyle Hughes (Olney Springs, Colo.). Melvin picked up a check worth $8,001, while Hughes, who became a dad on Jan. 6, won $8,829.
It was a log jam in the team roping average race in Denver with Shane Schwenke and Jhett Johnson tying Steve Purcella and Britt Bockius with a total time of 17.5 seconds on three head. They finished just one-tenth of a second faster than Colter Todd and Cesar De La Cruz, who won the Tour round with a run of 5.3 seconds. Schwenke (Harlem, Mont.) and Johnson (Casper, Wyo.) picked up $7,786 each, while Purcella (Hereford, Texas) and partner Bockius (Claremore, Okla.) left Denver $6,477 richer.
South Dakota is known for great bronc riders, but Justin Scofield, of Flandreau, is hoping to make a name for himself in tie-down roping. If he continues to turn in performances like he did in Denver, he will accomplish that goal. Scofield won the average title with a total time of 26.4 seconds on three head, finishing ahead of Ricky Hyde (Mount Vernon, Ark.), who finished with a time of 27.1 seconds. Hyde won the Tour round, stopping the clock in 8.3 seconds, three-tenths of a second faster than Scofield. Scofield not only won a buckle, but picked up a check totaling $8,628, while Hyde pocketed $6,500.
Oklahoma's Tana Poppino won the barrel racing average title after turning in three clean runs totaling 46.75 seconds. Poppino (Big Cabin, Okla.) edged Colorado's Marlene McRae with a 46.93. Megan McLeod (Star, Idaho) won the Tour round with a time of 15.66 seconds. Poppino, who won the second round with a time of 15.36 seconds, collected checks totaling $9,455.
The next Wrangler ProRodeo Tour stop will be the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo on Feb. 5 in Rapid City, S.D. The Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo has been a stop on the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour since its inception in 2000.