Colorado cowboy’s late invite turns into big day
Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
for The Fence Post
2019 Rodeo All Star Title Winners:
Bareback – Will Lowe
Steer Wrestling – Mason Carter
Team Roping – Justin Thigpen and Kyle Crick
Saddle Bronc – Travis Gardner
Tie Down Roping – John Douch
Barrel Racing – Shali Lord
Bull Riding – Preston Louis
Denver’s Rodeo All Star competition, held at the National Western Complex on April 12-13, 2019, invited 126 cowboys and cowgirls from seven different associations and boasted a total purse of $126,000.
The two day event was a high energy rodeo, with the winners automatically earning a qualification to compete in the million dollar Days of ’47 rodeo in Salt Lake City. With all that in its favor, it was unexpected for a contestant to cancel just before the rodeo began.
Fortunately for bareback rider Casey Colletti, when the other participant couldn’t make it, Rodeo All Star organizers called to see if the Pueblo, Colo., cowboy could show up by that afternoon to fill the vacancy. It seemed to be fate intervening, as Colletti had attempted to enter the rodeo at an earlier date, but circumstances left him out of the competition.
“We thought he was up Saturday (April 13), only to find out Casey actually wasn’t entered at all due to miscommunication,” said Colletti’s wife, Kacee Willbanks Colletti. “I reached out to (rodeo organizer) Leon Vick to let him know we did want to come, so when he had a turn out he reached out to me Saturday morning at 7 a.m. and asked if Casey wanted to come up that day. So I woke Casey up and asked him if he wanted to go. He said, ‘well I guess we’ll just go’ and the rest is history.”
That history she described was Colletti driving up and notching the highest score of Saturday afternoon’s round with an 84-point ride. The first place finish qualified Colletti to advance into Saturday night’s championship round and he was pleased with the result.
“It is really cool, because I didn’t know what the horse was,” he said of the afternoon’s winning ride. “I have heard of him, but I have never been on him. Everyone was telling me good things about it. I was pretty excited and it worked out good.”
Moving ahead to Saturday night’s rodeo action also worked out good for Colletti. The evening’s format consisted of two phases of competition, where eight contestants from each event competed against each other to earn the top two scores or times and progress further into a head-to-head round, where the Rodeo All Star title then would be decided. Along with winning the title if they emerged the victor in the head-to-head round, there was also an accompanying bonus of $5,000 to add incentive.
When Saturday night’s performance kicked into gear, Colletti showed his affinity for competing at the National Western Complex by posting yet another high score for the round. His 87-point ride was one point better than Will Lowe’s 86 points, and it ensured the two veteran riders would return in short order to compete against each for the bareback title and the extra $5,000 check. To say the Colorado cowboy was enthusiastic about facing off against former world champion bareback rider Will Lowe would be an understatement. “I’m excited,” said Colletti about the upcoming match-up. “Being able to go against three time world champion Will Lowe in a shootout, head-to-head format? It is pretty cool. This is the kind of stuff we live for, you know what I mean? That final round, bear down, best of the best, run your hand in and see who is first.”
Lowe led the way out of the gate, and his flashy, black and white bronc soared and kicked throughout the 8-second ride, earning the Texas cowboy an impressive 90 points from the judges.
“What a great little horse,” said Lowe after the ride. “She was really electric. She bolted out of there hard and had kind of a wild move and then just set up and bailed in the air and had a lot of electricity and a lot of flash to her. She had a lot of hang time and a lot of snap with her back feet to help send your feet to the rigging. She was a great dancing partner and a lot of fun.”
Not only was it fun for Lowe, but it was fun for the crowd as they anticipated Colletti’s turn inside the arena. Needing to beat 90 points, he spurred a Cervi Rodeo Company bronc throughout a successful ride, but his efforts came up short when the judges awarded a score of 88 points. While he didn’t take home the title, Colletti remained upbeat.
“You know, I am happy,” he said after exiting the arena. “I had that horse in the short round of Denver this year and we were like 75 points and she knocked me goofy. So I kind of had revenge more on that horse than I did beating Will. Of course, it would have been nice to beat Will, but when somebody is 90 points?” he paused with an appreciative grin. “I went for broke and was trying to be 92. It didn’t work today.”
With every other event providing a similar measure of excitement, the weekend worked for Rodeo All Star organizers and fans alike.
“It was great,” described Leon Vick, NWSS senior director of Rodeo and Horse Show Operations, about the level of competition over the weekend. “It is always so fun to do the tournament style (format of rodeo), because the cream keeps rising to the top. I think that really showed tonight.”
2019’s bareback winner Will Lowe had high praise when summing up the rodeo.
“It is such a great event here,” he said while he collected his gear behind the chutes. “I loved the timed events, with the longer chute run and alley run. That just adds another element. I think rodeo fans in the area that don’t show up are missing out. The facility is great, the Cervis bring great animals, and it is exciting. You can’t say enough about an event like this.” ❖
— Rogers is a freelance writer and photographer located east of Parker, Colo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him on Facebook at Official Lincoln Rogers Writing & Photography Page.