Gering cowboy is average champion at the NFR |

Gering cowboy is average champion at the NFR

Riley Pruitt competes in round two of the National Finals Rodeo. The Gering, Neb., cowboy won the average at this year’s NFR, the fastest time on 10 head.
JackieJensen |

GERING, Neb. — Tie-down roper Riley Pruitt has won the average at the 2016 National Finals Rodeo, which was held Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas.

The 25-year-old Gering, Neb., cowboy qualified for the NFR by being one of the top 15 tie-down ropers in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association on Sept. 30, the end of the pro rodeo season. At his first NFR, he was consistent, being one of only five of the 15 tie-down ropers to get a qualified time on all 10 runs.

The average, sometimes referred to as the aggregate, is the combined times a cowboy makes for all of his competition runs at a rodeo. The NFR, the “Super Bowl” of pro rodeo, features 10 nights of competition. Pruitt’s time was 85.9 seconds on 10 runs. For his average title, he won a gold buckle and $67,000, which was in addition to the $28,769 he won for placing fourth in the first round, fifth in rounds three and seven, and sixth in round five.

“I messed up some good calves,” he said, referring to a few runs where he should have done better, “but coming out here, I wanted to make 10 good runs. If they paid me, they paid me. If not, I wasn’t too worried about it. That was my game plan.”

Pruitt, the son of the 1990 PRCA tie-down roping champion Troy Pruitt, showed his dad the average buckle after he made his victory lap the night of Dec. 10. His father, who qualified for eight NFRs and won the average in 1993, looked at it, and said, “They’re a little different than they were in 1993. They’re a lot prettier.”

Pruitt’s horse for the year, a 17-year-old buckskin named Chip, was purchased from Sam Chittick of Wellfleet, Neb., in the spring of 2015.

His winnings will come in handy. He and wife Jenna, who married in October, are planning a honeymoon in Jamaica this winter. But for now, he’s just happy to get home. “I miss home, I don’t care how cold it is,” he said.

Pruitt won the Nebraska High School tie-down roping championship three times and finished third in the average at the College National Finals Rodeo in 2011 before hitting the pro rodeo trail full time. ❖

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