Repeat champs and stock show rookies earn titles at Colorado vs. The World Rodeo at National Western
January 13, 2017
2017 Colorado Vs The World Rodeo Champions:
Bareback – Richmond Champion
Steer Wrestling – Luke Branquinho
Saddle Bronc – Jesse Wright
Barrel Racing – Kellie Collier
Bull Riding – Roscoe Jarboe
In its sixth year of existence, the annual Colorado vs. The World Rodeo on the first Saturday of the National Western Stock Show has turned into a hot ticket. Despite below freezing temperatures, solid crowds attended the qualifying performances on Saturday morning and afternoon, and the Saturday night final round was a near sellout.
The invitational rodeo distinguishes itself with its team format and a $90,000, one day payout. While 100 contestants in five events participated over the first two performances, the field was whittled to 40 for Saturday night. Designed to maximize spectator excitement, the evening short-go took each event's top finisher from both teams and had them return for a head-to-head round to determine the winner, along with an added bonus of the victor pocketing another $8,000 in prize money.
The invitational brought in some of the best rough stock in the business to pit against top-ranked contestants, which included newcomers to Denver and rodeo veterans with Colorado vs. The World trophies already in their possession.
Two-time bareback title winner Richie Champion qualified for the final round, looking to add a third victory to his resume. Things looked promising after he scored 87 points on Calgary Stampede's Twin Cherry to rev the big crowd and move forward to the head-to-head match-up. An opportunity for another win in the Denver Coliseum was something the Texas cowboy relished.
"I love Denver," Champion said. "Everybody has got their 'honey hole' and this is mine. I get a good feeling when I park my car here. It is one of my favorite rodeos of the year."
Whether it was the experience gained from his two previous wins or his fortune in drawing and choosing powerful horses that matched his spurring style, Champion outscored Tanner Aus in the head-to-head round by notching another 87 points aboard Harry Vold Rodeo's Little Linda to win his third Colorado vs. The World title and pocket nearly $10,000 for three successful rides in one day.
"To win in 2013 and 2014, and again in 2017, is insane," said Champion with a big smile. "I knew Tanner had a good horse, (but) I had confidence in Little Linda. She's been so good for a long time. I was confident she would do her job. The rest is up to me and it really couldn't have gone any better."
Another past winner looking to increase his Denver title count was popular steer wrestler and multiple PRCA world champion Luke Branquinho. After securing a fast 4.30-second run in the final round to move forward for a chance at the bonus $8,000, Branquinho chose his steer for the head-to-head round against Logan Gledhill. Gledhill's steer ran away from him in the extra round, giving Branquinho a seemingly easy route toward another win. But the Texas cowboy never does anything easy, and he went full speed ahead for an impressive 4.90-second time to become another cowboy with multiple Colorado vs. The World victories.
"Any time you can come to a rodeo like this, run three steers, and win close to $10,000, it is a great deal," Branquinho said. "You have some of the toughest names in the rodeo business (here), so it just adds to the excitement and makes you step up. To be able to win it again, this year, is a blessing."
It was also a blessing for first-time winners, as Texas cowgirl Kellie Collier found out when she showed up to her first National Western Stock Show in 2017 to compete in the one-day invitational rodeo. Riding 9-year-old Lolo, Collier qualified for the final round by nailing down a 15.586-seconds time on Saturday afternoon. With just a few hours to rest and recoup, Collier and Lolo ran a fast 15.477-seconds to move ahead at a chance for the win and the big bonus check. Despite the challenges of running three times in one day, the duo came back in the head-to-head match-up to nail down the win with yet another quick time of 15.565. Fellow Texan Carlee Pierce ran second to try and take the title for herself, but the fast time posted by Collier and Lolo pressed Pierce enough to tip the third barrel over and incur a 5 second penalty.
"She's phenomenal," said Collier of her horse Lolo. "She will try and give 100 percent of her heart, no matter if it is the first run or the 10th run. Even if she is a little bit slower, she is still giving me everything she has."
Describing the Saturday evening crowd as electric, Collier thought their energy was a positive force in her win.
"I feed off that more than anything (and) I think my horse feeds off my energy from that," Collier said. "I would rather run in front of a bigger crowd than a small crowd."
Her excitement at winning nearly $10,000 at the high-profile National Western Stock Show showed up in the big smile she wore while talking about her first Denver rodeo.
"Oh my gosh, it's not bad. It's not bad at all," Collier said with enthusiasm. "This is a rodeo I would love to come back to."
"It is awesome that they want to bring us back for more time than just the regular PRCA rodeo," Champion added about the feelings contestants have towards taking part in the invitational rodeo. "It brings more opportunity for us. They support us and we support them. It is a good relationship. Nobody here is upset at more opportunity. More money and another opportunity to do what we love." ❖