Colorado Competitors add spice to Greeley Stampede’s rodeo finals | TheFencePost.com

Colorado Competitors add spice to Greeley Stampede’s rodeo finals

Story and photos Lincoln Rogers

A sunny day, mixed with a big crowd in a patriotic mood, was the recipe for big rodeo entertainment at the final round of the 2016 Greeley Stampede. Sunday July 3 brought some of the best contestants in the sport of rodeo to Greeley, Colo., to vie for a slice of the $307,698 pie. Among those contestants were a number of Colorado athletes that spiced up the afternoon for home state fans.

Bareback cowboy Heath Ford, 39, made a long drive from Texas to be a part of his parent's 40th wedding anniversary in the Centennial State. While he was in Colorado, he figured entering the Greeley Stampede would be a nice surprise for them. Fighting through multiple aches and pains, the seasoned rodeo veteran willed his way into the championship round, where he delighted the crowd by serving up an 83-point ride aboard a strong bucker named Hollywood Hills. The score earned Ford second place in the final round, as well as second place overall at the historic rodeo.

In Ford's case, there was no gain without pain, as he left the arena grimacing and clutching a shoulder. After checking in with the Justin Sports Medicine personnel, Ford was in good spirits.

"I'm an older guy, but on a bucking horse I will still match anybody," Ford said. "And that's how my heart feels. But as you saw today, your body wears out before your heart does. My shoulder fell out about five seconds into (the ride) and all I kept thinking is just keep gassing it. It's out now; it ain't gonna get no worse, so just keep gassing it."

Ford was enthusiastic about the horse he drew to earn his second place finish in the average.

"Hollywood Hills is a great horse," he said. "He is strong. Guys either really love him or really don't. I had him one other time and he fits me to a T. I guess I will take him any day of the week."

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Contestants with a Colorado connection weren't finished impressing the crowd. The steer wrestlers were next on the docket and popular Colorado cowboy Josh Peek sprinkled a dash of excitement into the mix when he took over the lead with a solid run of 4.2 seconds. Although the crowd saw that lead disappear when several other contestants earned sub-4.0 times, they remained appreciative of Peek notching fourth place in the average.

"I loved it," said Peek about the loud cheers from the home state crowd. "It's hard to explain how it feels to have your home town Coloradoans screaming and yelling for you clocking a time at a rodeo over the Fourth of July. And with the accumulation of what the Fourth of July and Cowboy Christmas adds to it, it was awesome. It's a feeling I don't even know how to explain."

Peek said it's not just the crowd he loves at the Greeley Stampede. He also said the level of competition at a big rodeo like the Stampede makes the event more enjoyable.

"Greeley is an extremely tough rodeo, now that they have gone to a (scoring format of) one-header with a short go," he said. "It's such a great deal, but the level of competition is awesome and I was thankful to be there with those guys competing."

After Colorado team ropers Cole Dorenkamp and Josh Fillmore delighted the crowd by winning first place in the Team Roping event, the last pair of Mile High competitors on the menu were listed in the field of barrel racers. CJ Vondette from Rifle and Kim Schulze of Larkspur both made it back to the championship round. Hard rain throughout the week made the ground sticky and heavy for the horses, which was not ideal, but all the contestants had to run in the same conditions. While times in the 17.0-second range allowed the competitors to reach the championship round, the fastest time in the short go was winner Lisa Lockhart's 18.02-second run.

Vondette and her seven-year-old horse, Mikey, powered through the first two barrels, but the heavy ground eventually got to Mikey and they settled for the fourth fastest time in the finals of 18.66-seconds. Although their third place finish in the average wasn't her dream scenario, the 2014 Greeley champion remained pleased just to have qualified for the historic rodeo's short go on a different, younger horse.

"It was a big surprise (to be in the short go), because he is so young and I really didn't know how he would handle it," said Vondette. "He is such a nice colt. We really worked good on the first two barrels, but I could feel it; (the ground) was kind of sticky. I think I could have pushed him a little harder, but I was a little worried about him."

Both Vondette and Schulze mentioned that having a fellow Mountain States Circuit competitor in the championship round with them in Greeley was a treat. They also both enjoyed the high energy atmosphere of the enthusiastic, home state crowd.

"It was a great crowd," said Schulze, whose horse, Speedy, stumbled in the tough conditions to place her in the back of the standings. "When the fans get excited and yell, it's good. It was fun and I'm very thankful. Greeley pays good and I feel very blessed."

With a first, second, third and fourth place finish earned by five of the Colorado competitors in the Greeley Stampede's final round of rodeo action, the results sent them and the local crowd home satisfied. ❖

Greeley Stampede Rodeo Champions:

Bareback Riding – Evan Jayne – score: 173.5/2

Steer Wrestling – Mike McGinn – time: 8.1/2

Team Roping – Cole Dorenkamp and John Fillmore – time: 11.8/2

Saddle Bronc Riding – Rusty Wright – score: 171/2

Tie Down Roping – Timber Moore – time: 17.6/2

Barrel Racing – Lisa Lockhart– time: 3517/2

Bull Riding – Garrett Tribble – 159.5/2