While St. Cloud native Juan Alcazar didn’t take home the steer wrestling title at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo last weekend at the Silver Spurs Arena, he advanced through three performances to Sunday’s championship final and earned a five-figure payout during the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association’s second-most lucrative event of the year.
That was one of the long weekend’s many highlights, as national circuit champions were crowned in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc, tie-down roping, bull riding and barrel racing at the RNCFR, being held in Osceola County for the fifth time.
The RNCFR featured the year-end and Finals champions from 12 circuits from around the United States and qualifiers from Mexico. The money the cowboys and cowgirls earned counts in the PRCA standings that could help them qualify for next winter’s rodeo crown jewel event, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Upwards of $1 million in purse money was doled out over the RNCFR’s four days of competition. In addition to their winnings, each champion received a voucher toward a new Dodge RAM truck; a Polaris Ranger XP 1000 utility vehicle; a 65 Venture OtterBox Cooler; a pair of Justin Boots; a custom champion Montana Silversmiths buckle; and a champion saddle handcrafted by Cactus Saddlery.
Miguel Valenzuela of the Mexico Circuit, who competed in competed in team roping and tie-down roping, was crowned the All-Around Cowboy.
The rodeo action began Thursday with two rounds that cut the field down in each event to eight for Saturday’s semifinals. From there, the top four advanced to Sunday’s finals, the previous scores were wiped clean and the crowd of thousands were treated to “One go for the title.”
Here’s a rundown of the seven events:
Steer wrestling – while Cameron Morman (Glen Ullin, N.D.) won the most prize money over the weekend ($18,194), Tyler Pearson (Louisville, Miss.), the Prairie Circuit champ, posted a final-round time of 3.9 seconds to win the title.
“That felt good,” said Pearson, who was 16th in the PRCA World standings before claiming his first RAM NCFR title.
Alcazar, competing out of the Southeast region, was third in Sunday’s final and took $11,940 home to Okeechobee.
Barrel racing – Lisa Lockhart (Oelrichs, S.D., Badlands Circuit) went run-for-run with fellow South Dakotan Jessica Routier. Lockhart completed the race course in 15.3 seconds to win by just .06 seconds and pocketed $26,154.
Bareback riding – Tilden Hooper (Carthage, Tex., Texas Circuit), posted an RNCFR-record 92-point ride on Hi-Lo ProRodeo's Redzilla for the win and a $19,669 pay day.
“That was one of my most fun bareback rides of my career,” said Hooper, a PRCA veteran (he joined in 2006). “There’s nothing better than breaking a record and having all your buddies cheering for you behind the chutes. It is fun to win, but it is even more fun with your buddies involved.
“It always feels good to win this kind of money. I’m trying to win a world championship, so all those dollars are just helping me get a little closer to No. 1.”
Tie-down roping – Haven Meged (Miles City, Mont., Montana Circuit) excelled despite competing in a collegiate rodeo event the morning before arriving at the RNCFR. He won Sunday in a time of 7.4 seconds and won $22,743.
Saddle bronc – Chase Brooks (Deer Lodge, Mont., Montana Circuit) logged an 89.5-point ride on Sue City Sue. He won $24,828.
Bull riding – Garrett Smith (Rexburg, Idaho, Wilderness Circuit) had the only scored ride of the finals, staying on Holly Holy for the full eight seconds. That 85-point right gave him the title and $18,763.
Team roping – The tandem of Clay Smith (Broken Bow, Okla.) and Jake Long (Coffeyville, Kan.), winners from the Texas Circuit, won with a time of 4.8 seconds and their winners share was $25,207.
“This is great to win,” Smith said. “This is a great rodeo down here, especially with as much as it pays and everything you win.”
Competitors from the Texas Circuit ($133,689) won the most prize money.
In a nod to the Silver Spurs Riding Club and rodeo, their saddle bronc horse Best Hope was named to the Top Stock list of the RNCFR.