Chadron State national bull riding champs entering college’s Athletic Hall of Fame
Chadron State College
Will Farrell and Dustin Elliott, both national bull riding champions, will be among the eight former Chadron State College (Nebraska) athletes inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame this fall. The ceremonies will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, following the Eagles’ football game with New Mexico Highlands.
Four football players and two basketball players are the other inductees. All were standouts around the turn of the century.
Farrell and Elliott combined to win the College National Finals bull riding top honors three times in four years. Farrell was the winner as a freshman in 1999 and again as a senior in 2002. Elliott won the title as a sophomore in 2001.
Farrell was the Wyoming State High School bull riding champ as a senior at Hot Springs County High School in Thermopolis, Wyo., in 1997. He enrolled at Chadron State at least partially because his girlfriend and wife-to-be, Shawna, was on the Eagles’ basketball team.
He qualified for the college finals in Casper, Wyo., all four years.
As a freshman, Farrell placed at six of the nine rodeos to easily win the regional championship. At the national finals in Casper, he was bucked off his first bull, placed fourth in both of the next go-rounds and was second in the final go-round with 74 points to win the title by one point over defending national champion Corey Navarre of southwest Oklahoma.
The next year, Farrell won the bull riding at four of the 10 rodeos in the region and was fourth in two more. At the college finals, he won the first go-round with 80 points, tied for fifth in the second go-round, but was bucked off during the next two go-rounds to finish seventh in the final standings.
He did not ride any of the three bulls at the 2000-01 finals rodeo, but that was the year Elliott, caught fire and became the champion.
It was Ferrell’s turn to win the whole shebang again the next year, giving CSC three national bull riding champs in four years for one of the college’s all-time great sports accomplishments.
Farrell proved early that he intended to make his senior year a good one. He won two of the fall rodeos and placed second and third at the remaining two to build a big lead in the standings. He won another first and a third during the spring to lock up his third regional championship.
At the college finals, Farrell rode Widow Maker, Gunpower and Grim Reaper in the first three go-rounds. While he did not make it to the eight-second whistle on Desert Storm in the last performance, no one else stayed aboard in the finals either, and he won the championship by 26.5 points.
Farrell rode 51 of the 82 bulls he drew for an amazing 62 percent during his college career.
Although injuries sidelined him not too long after he had concluded his college career, Farrell qualified for the PRCA National Finals in 2003. He is now a “lead lactman” for Merit Energy in the oilfields near Thermopolis. Will and Shawna have four children — Roedy, Kamryn, Logann and Ben. Each of the oldest three has already won at least one saddle at youth rodeos.
Elliott came to Chadron State after winning the Oregon High School Rodeo bull riding as a senior at Grant Union High School at John Day, Ore., in 1999.
He finished fourth in the Central Rocky Mountain standings as a freshman at CSC, was the regional runner-up the next year and rode all four of his bulls at the CNFR finals in Casper to claim the national championship. The 79 points he scored in the third go-round was the top score entering the finals. During the finals, he stayed aboard at least 10 seconds because the crowd noise was so loud he could not hear the whistle.
Elliott also qualified for the CNFR the next two years. While he did not place either time, he continued to ride extra well. During his college career, he stuck 47 of the 77 bulls he drew and often competed at other rodeos. Just a few days before he and Cynthia, whom he had met at CSC, were married in May 2003, he scored 84 points to win the bull riding and earn $2,156 at a PRCA rodeo in Kansas City.
Then he really hit the big time. Just a year after he had concluded his college career, he was the PRCA world champion. He rode a remarkable 73 percent of his bulls that year and earned $193,000. The next two years he rode something like 60 percent and placed fourth in the world standings with earnings of about $159,000 each year.
One of his big paydays in 2006 was at Cheyenne’s Frontier Days, when he scored 91 points in the finals to claim top honors and collect nearly $20,000.
When Cynthia delivered twins Ethan and Emma prematurely on Christmas Eve 2006, he cut back on his rodeo schedule and pretty much became a full-time dad, particularly after Cynthia resumed teaching business at North Platte High School.
That’s why his name disappeared from the PRCA’s top 15 list for a few years. But he returned to the finals in Las Vegas again in 2010 and also was a Pro Bull Riders finalist five times.
He was within striking range of qualifying for the PRCA finals again in 2013 when he announced his retirement. He now coaches the rodeo team at North Platte Community College and also owns and operates haying and trucking businesses. ❖