NWSS Championship Round delivered the goods in 2010 | TheFencePost.com

NWSS Championship Round delivered the goods in 2010

Lincoln RogersArkansas bull rider Clint Craig tied an arena record with 92 points aboard Ole Yeller to grab first place at the NWSS.

The Denver Coliseum was packed to the rafters with high-energy fans for the championship round of rodeo at the 2010 National Western Stock Show. Every one of the thousands filling the seats buzzed with anticipation before the start of action, hoping to see big name cowboys and cowgirls beat the beasts and timers in the historic venue.

They weren’t disappointed.

Producers of the Sunday short-go got the crowd hopping by introducing each leading competitor with a burst of fire and lasers inside a black arena.

By the time introductions were finished, it was time to get down to business, and the first order of business was the bareback cowboys.

With names like Kelly Timberman, Bobby Mote and Ryan Gray lining up for a chance at a coveted buckle and a big paycheck, the initial rough stock section blew fast and furious from the chute. Utah cowboy Bud Munns got it going with an 83-point score on Calgary Stampede’s high-kicking Margarita Margie and, much to the delight of everyone present, four more 80-plus rides arrived soon after, including a big-kicking 85 from World 80 Plus Champ Bobby Mote on Zippy Delivery. Mote’s crowd-pleasing effort came up 2 points shy of eventual buckle winner Joe Gunderson, a South Dakota cowboy who posted 82 points aboard a midnight bucker called Knoxville USA.

Not to be outdone, the steer wrestlers put on a show for the assembled throng, with seven out of 12 competitors blistering the arena floor and stopping the clock in less than five seconds. Against quality competition like K.C. Jones, Lee Graves, Ken Lewis and Clayton Morrison, Louisiana cowboy Gabe LeDoux held his lead and earned a buckle with a time of 4.5 seconds.

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“I had a good steer and a good horse, and everything went my way,” said a pleased LeDoux after collecting a win. “I always like coming up here. It’s the first big rodeo of the year (and) you get pumped up when you get here in Denver.”

The team ropers arrived next, and they weren’t about to concede entertainment value to anyone. Nailing the crowd to their seats, the teams kept everyone guessing with one solid sub-six second round after another. The fourth team from last to perform, David Key and Rich Skelton, zipped a 5.2 time to really make things interesting. When Keven Daniel and Brad Culpepper responded with 5.6 seconds, it left perennial contenders Clay Tryan and Travis Graves needing 5.8 to win it all.

Despite a solid run, the pair stopped the clock in 6.0 flat and fell to second behind Daniel and Culpepper by one-tenth of a second.

“We knew we had a pretty good steer,” said Daniel about their run in the short-go. “I missed the start a little bit, but we just went and made the best round we could and we kind of made them guys have to go make a pretty good run. We did our job and it just worked out for us.”

“I always like this rodeo,” chipped in Culpepper. “It starts our year off and it’s a good paying rodeo. We got here and got off on the right foot and it’s just been a great experience.”

Another great experience arrived in the form of saddle bronc competition.

South Dakota cowboy JJ Elshere came into the round with a good lead on his competitors, but they put up a fight, nonetheless. Tate Owens applied pressure with an 84-point ride aboard Knight Rocket, and Jeff Willert tried to do the same with 80 points of his own. If Elshere responded with 80 plus points of his own, it would mean “good night, Irene” for the rest of the field. After Elshere hung on for just 75, the door was cracked for Chad Ferley to put up 81 or better and make a move for first. Aboard a wild and crazy paint called Lunatic Fringe, he put on a dazzling display, wowing the crowd and bringing them to a full-throated roar. Unfortunately for Ferley, he missed the mark out and was disqualified, leaving the buckle and a big paycheck to Elshere.

“I thought it was a little tougher than the last time I’d been on him,” began Elshere about his 75-point effort. “I didn’t make quite the ride I wanted to, but I knew I just needed to stay on and I did.”

When asked about competing in the NWSS championship round, the South Dakotan heaped praise on the enthusiastic crowd.

“It’s pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “It looks full out there today and that sure does pump a guy up, being that big of a crowd; it kind of gears a guy up a little bit. You try not to think about it, but you know it’s out there. It’s awesome.”

The tie-down competition was awesome, as well, especially with Trevor Brazile arriving with the lead and threatening to make an early move in 2010 to earn a PRCA record of eight all-around world titles. Up by a full second and the big crowd ready to jump, Brazile gave them their money’s worth by stopping the clock one-tenth of a second faster over three runs than second place finisher, Houston Hutto. Brazile acknowledged the ensuing bedlam with smiles and waves on his way to picking up both the tie-down and all-around buckles for the 2010 NWSS.

“Denver’s always been pretty good to me,” said Brazile immediately afterward. “I seem to get some money out of here every year. It’s a great way to start building the run (for an eighth all-around title).”

Denver’s also been pretty good to world champion barrel racer Brittany Pozzi, and she showed it against a top-notch field in the championship round. Pozzi rode Stitch early in the lineup to a quick 15.33 seconds while the crowd shouted its approval. Nine more riders came and went in the round before Oklahoma cowgirl Jessi Eagleberger posed a serious threat to Pozzi. If Eagleberger matched Pozzi’s time, the Oklahoman would grab the NWSS title by one-hundredth of a second. The crowd cheered the challenge but Eagleberger fell short in a time of 15.50 for second place, leaving Pozzi to pick up her third NWSS buckle in six tries at the historic venue.

“I made the finals here every year since 2005,” said a happy Pozzi after the performance. “I hit a barrel last year, (but) I won it the two previous years. This is my third one. I don’t know what it is,” she added regarding her string of positive finishes in Denver. “You know, you just have that place. This is that place. Good thing it’s a big rodeo,” she finished with a laugh.

When asked how it feels to start the year off with NWSS paycheck and buckle momentum, the Texas cowgirl was enthusiastic in her reply.

“I’m not really looking to hit the road really, really hard this year,” Pozzi began on the subject. “I’d love to do good at these big rodeos and just be done with it and just kind of take some time for myself, do other things and enjoy other things. This is working in my plan!” she summed up with more laughter.

Big time bull riding works as part of the NWSS plan, and the final round’s action didn’t disappoint. Five out of 12 cowboys made qualifying rides in the championship round, with a pair of them reaching the crowd-pleasing 90-point mark. After the dust settled and rock anthems faded, it was Arkansas cowboy Clint Craig who wound up the victor with an arena record-tying 92 points aboard Cervi and Guidry Rodeo Company’s Ole Yeller. The big bull jumped and twisted his way out of the chute, but Craig was in the zone and nailed to its back.

“During the ride, you try not to think about anything else, just … you’re in the zone, you know,” described Craig of his experience within the noisy arena. “I didn’t think it was 92 points, but usually your highest marked rides are the ones you don’t have to put out quite as much effort on because those bulls will generally – they ride themselves. They have so much timing and so much kick, that if you’re doing everything right, like I said, you’re in the zone. They can’t hardly throw you off unless you just lose your concentration,” he continued. “The bull makes a move, you make a counter-move. It’s like a dance.”

It was a dance that paid off both the cowboy and the gathered crowd in a big way, sending spectators home satisfied and the bull rider on the road with momentum on his side.

“It’s great,” Craig said about his win. “I took two months off after the season last year. I kind of came back a little bit cold turkey; the last three weeks I’ve been riding but haven’t been able to put any big scores together, so this was awesome here.”

Stock Show officials eagerly agreed with Craig’s assessment.

“It’s been excellent,” declared Marvin Witt, National Western vice president of operations.

“With the top-notch horses and bulls we brought in here, it’s been excellent. This is one of the better rodeo productions,” he continued about 2010. “I think people are appreciating it and we’re getting a lot more people in the stands than we did last year. Attendance is up for the PRCA rodeos, so (it was) very good.”

The Denver Coliseum was packed to the rafters with high-energy fans for the championship round of rodeo at the 2010 National Western Stock Show. Every one of the thousands filling the seats buzzed with anticipation before the start of action, hoping to see big name cowboys and cowgirls beat the beasts and timers in the historic venue.

They weren’t disappointed.

Producers of the Sunday short-go got the crowd hopping by introducing each leading competitor with a burst of fire and lasers inside a black arena.

By the time introductions were finished, it was time to get down to business, and the first order of business was the bareback cowboys.

With names like Kelly Timberman, Bobby Mote and Ryan Gray lining up for a chance at a coveted buckle and a big paycheck, the initial rough stock section blew fast and furious from the chute. Utah cowboy Bud Munns got it going with an 83-point score on Calgary Stampede’s high-kicking Margarita Margie and, much to the delight of everyone present, four more 80-plus rides arrived soon after, including a big-kicking 85 from World 80 Plus Champ Bobby Mote on Zippy Delivery. Mote’s crowd-pleasing effort came up 2 points shy of eventual buckle winner Joe Gunderson, a South Dakota cowboy who posted 82 points aboard a midnight bucker called Knoxville USA.

Not to be outdone, the steer wrestlers put on a show for the assembled throng, with seven out of 12 competitors blistering the arena floor and stopping the clock in less than five seconds. Against quality competition like K.C. Jones, Lee Graves, Ken Lewis and Clayton Morrison, Louisiana cowboy Gabe LeDoux held his lead and earned a buckle with a time of 4.5 seconds.

“I had a good steer and a good horse, and everything went my way,” said a pleased LeDoux after collecting a win. “I always like coming up here. It’s the first big rodeo of the year (and) you get pumped up when you get here in Denver.”

The team ropers arrived next, and they weren’t about to concede entertainment value to anyone. Nailing the crowd to their seats, the teams kept everyone guessing with one solid sub-six second round after another. The fourth team from last to perform, David Key and Rich Skelton, zipped a 5.2 time to really make things interesting. When Keven Daniel and Brad Culpepper responded with 5.6 seconds, it left perennial contenders Clay Tryan and Travis Graves needing 5.8 to win it all.

Despite a solid run, the pair stopped the clock in 6.0 flat and fell to second behind Daniel and Culpepper by one-tenth of a second.

“We knew we had a pretty good steer,” said Daniel about their run in the short-go. “I missed the start a little bit, but we just went and made the best round we could and we kind of made them guys have to go make a pretty good run. We did our job and it just worked out for us.”

“I always like this rodeo,” chipped in Culpepper. “It starts our year off and it’s a good paying rodeo. We got here and got off on the right foot and it’s just been a great experience.”

Another great experience arrived in the form of saddle bronc competition.

South Dakota cowboy JJ Elshere came into the round with a good lead on his competitors, but they put up a fight, nonetheless. Tate Owens applied pressure with an 84-point ride aboard Knight Rocket, and Jeff Willert tried to do the same with 80 points of his own. If Elshere responded with 80 plus points of his own, it would mean “good night, Irene” for the rest of the field. After Elshere hung on for just 75, the door was cracked for Chad Ferley to put up 81 or better and make a move for first. Aboard a wild and crazy paint called Lunatic Fringe, he put on a dazzling display, wowing the crowd and bringing them to a full-throated roar. Unfortunately for Ferley, he missed the mark out and was disqualified, leaving the buckle and a big paycheck to Elshere.

“I thought it was a little tougher than the last time I’d been on him,” began Elshere about his 75-point effort. “I didn’t make quite the ride I wanted to, but I knew I just needed to stay on and I did.”

When asked about competing in the NWSS championship round, the South Dakotan heaped praise on the enthusiastic crowd.

“It’s pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “It looks full out there today and that sure does pump a guy up, being that big of a crowd; it kind of gears a guy up a little bit. You try not to think about it, but you know it’s out there. It’s awesome.”

The tie-down competition was awesome, as well, especially with Trevor Brazile arriving with the lead and threatening to make an early move in 2010 to earn a PRCA record of eight all-around world titles. Up by a full second and the big crowd ready to jump, Brazile gave them their money’s worth by stopping the clock one-tenth of a second faster over three runs than second place finisher, Houston Hutto. Brazile acknowledged the ensuing bedlam with smiles and waves on his way to picking up both the tie-down and all-around buckles for the 2010 NWSS.

“Denver’s always been pretty good to me,” said Brazile immediately afterward. “I seem to get some money out of here every year. It’s a great way to start building the run (for an eighth all-around title).”

Denver’s also been pretty good to world champion barrel racer Brittany Pozzi, and she showed it against a top-notch field in the championship round. Pozzi rode Stitch early in the lineup to a quick 15.33 seconds while the crowd shouted its approval. Nine more riders came and went in the round before Oklahoma cowgirl Jessi Eagleberger posed a serious threat to Pozzi. If Eagleberger matched Pozzi’s time, the Oklahoman would grab the NWSS title by one-hundredth of a second. The crowd cheered the challenge but Eagleberger fell short in a time of 15.50 for second place, leaving Pozzi to pick up her third NWSS buckle in six tries at the historic venue.

“I made the finals here every year since 2005,” said a happy Pozzi after the performance. “I hit a barrel last year, (but) I won it the two previous years. This is my third one. I don’t know what it is,” she added regarding her string of positive finishes in Denver. “You know, you just have that place. This is that place. Good thing it’s a big rodeo,” she finished with a laugh.

When asked how it feels to start the year off with NWSS paycheck and buckle momentum, the Texas cowgirl was enthusiastic in her reply.

“I’m not really looking to hit the road really, really hard this year,” Pozzi began on the subject. “I’d love to do good at these big rodeos and just be done with it and just kind of take some time for myself, do other things and enjoy other things. This is working in my plan!” she summed up with more laughter.

Big time bull riding works as part of the NWSS plan, and the final round’s action didn’t disappoint. Five out of 12 cowboys made qualifying rides in the championship round, with a pair of them reaching the crowd-pleasing 90-point mark. After the dust settled and rock anthems faded, it was Arkansas cowboy Clint Craig who wound up the victor with an arena record-tying 92 points aboard Cervi and Guidry Rodeo Company’s Ole Yeller. The big bull jumped and twisted his way out of the chute, but Craig was in the zone and nailed to its back.

“During the ride, you try not to think about anything else, just … you’re in the zone, you know,” described Craig of his experience within the noisy arena. “I didn’t think it was 92 points, but usually your highest marked rides are the ones you don’t have to put out quite as much effort on because those bulls will generally – they ride themselves. They have so much timing and so much kick, that if you’re doing everything right, like I said, you’re in the zone. They can’t hardly throw you off unless you just lose your concentration,” he continued. “The bull makes a move, you make a counter-move. It’s like a dance.”

It was a dance that paid off both the cowboy and the gathered crowd in a big way, sending spectators home satisfied and the bull rider on the road with momentum on his side.

“It’s great,” Craig said about his win. “I took two months off after the season last year. I kind of came back a little bit cold turkey; the last three weeks I’ve been riding but haven’t been able to put any big scores together, so this was awesome here.”

Stock Show officials eagerly agreed with Craig’s assessment.

“It’s been excellent,” declared Marvin Witt, National Western vice president of operations.

“With the top-notch horses and bulls we brought in here, it’s been excellent. This is one of the better rodeo productions,” he continued about 2010. “I think people are appreciating it and we’re getting a lot more people in the stands than we did last year. Attendance is up for the PRCA rodeos, so (it was) very good.”

The Denver Coliseum was packed to the rafters with high-energy fans for the championship round of rodeo at the 2010 National Western Stock Show. Every one of the thousands filling the seats buzzed with anticipation before the start of action, hoping to see big name cowboys and cowgirls beat the beasts and timers in the historic venue.

They weren’t disappointed.

Producers of the Sunday short-go got the crowd hopping by introducing each leading competitor with a burst of fire and lasers inside a black arena.

By the time introductions were finished, it was time to get down to business, and the first order of business was the bareback cowboys.

With names like Kelly Timberman, Bobby Mote and Ryan Gray lining up for a chance at a coveted buckle and a big paycheck, the initial rough stock section blew fast and furious from the chute. Utah cowboy Bud Munns got it going with an 83-point score on Calgary Stampede’s high-kicking Margarita Margie and, much to the delight of everyone present, four more 80-plus rides arrived soon after, including a big-kicking 85 from World 80 Plus Champ Bobby Mote on Zippy Delivery. Mote’s crowd-pleasing effort came up 2 points shy of eventual buckle winner Joe Gunderson, a South Dakota cowboy who posted 82 points aboard a midnight bucker called Knoxville USA.

Not to be outdone, the steer wrestlers put on a show for the assembled throng, with seven out of 12 competitors blistering the arena floor and stopping the clock in less than five seconds. Against quality competition like K.C. Jones, Lee Graves, Ken Lewis and Clayton Morrison, Louisiana cowboy Gabe LeDoux held his lead and earned a buckle with a time of 4.5 seconds.

“I had a good steer and a good horse, and everything went my way,” said a pleased LeDoux after collecting a win. “I always like coming up here. It’s the first big rodeo of the year (and) you get pumped up when you get here in Denver.”

The team ropers arrived next, and they weren’t about to concede entertainment value to anyone. Nailing the crowd to their seats, the teams kept everyone guessing with one solid sub-six second round after another. The fourth team from last to perform, David Key and Rich Skelton, zipped a 5.2 time to really make things interesting. When Keven Daniel and Brad Culpepper responded with 5.6 seconds, it left perennial contenders Clay Tryan and Travis Graves needing 5.8 to win it all.

Despite a solid run, the pair stopped the clock in 6.0 flat and fell to second behind Daniel and Culpepper by one-tenth of a second.

“We knew we had a pretty good steer,” said Daniel about their run in the short-go. “I missed the start a little bit, but we just went and made the best round we could and we kind of made them guys have to go make a pretty good run. We did our job and it just worked out for us.”

“I always like this rodeo,” chipped in Culpepper. “It starts our year off and it’s a good paying rodeo. We got here and got off on the right foot and it’s just been a great experience.”

Another great experience arrived in the form of saddle bronc competition.

South Dakota cowboy JJ Elshere came into the round with a good lead on his competitors, but they put up a fight, nonetheless. Tate Owens applied pressure with an 84-point ride aboard Knight Rocket, and Jeff Willert tried to do the same with 80 points of his own. If Elshere responded with 80 plus points of his own, it would mean “good night, Irene” for the rest of the field. After Elshere hung on for just 75, the door was cracked for Chad Ferley to put up 81 or better and make a move for first. Aboard a wild and crazy paint called Lunatic Fringe, he put on a dazzling display, wowing the crowd and bringing them to a full-throated roar. Unfortunately for Ferley, he missed the mark out and was disqualified, leaving the buckle and a big paycheck to Elshere.

“I thought it was a little tougher than the last time I’d been on him,” began Elshere about his 75-point effort. “I didn’t make quite the ride I wanted to, but I knew I just needed to stay on and I did.”

When asked about competing in the NWSS championship round, the South Dakotan heaped praise on the enthusiastic crowd.

“It’s pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “It looks full out there today and that sure does pump a guy up, being that big of a crowd; it kind of gears a guy up a little bit. You try not to think about it, but you know it’s out there. It’s awesome.”

The tie-down competition was awesome, as well, especially with Trevor Brazile arriving with the lead and threatening to make an early move in 2010 to earn a PRCA record of eight all-around world titles. Up by a full second and the big crowd ready to jump, Brazile gave them their money’s worth by stopping the clock one-tenth of a second faster over three runs than second place finisher, Houston Hutto. Brazile acknowledged the ensuing bedlam with smiles and waves on his way to picking up both the tie-down and all-around buckles for the 2010 NWSS.

“Denver’s always been pretty good to me,” said Brazile immediately afterward. “I seem to get some money out of here every year. It’s a great way to start building the run (for an eighth all-around title).”

Denver’s also been pretty good to world champion barrel racer Brittany Pozzi, and she showed it against a top-notch field in the championship round. Pozzi rode Stitch early in the lineup to a quick 15.33 seconds while the crowd shouted its approval. Nine more riders came and went in the round before Oklahoma cowgirl Jessi Eagleberger posed a serious threat to Pozzi. If Eagleberger matched Pozzi’s time, the Oklahoman would grab the NWSS title by one-hundredth of a second. The crowd cheered the challenge but Eagleberger fell short in a time of 15.50 for second place, leaving Pozzi to pick up her third NWSS buckle in six tries at the historic venue.

“I made the finals here every year since 2005,” said a happy Pozzi after the performance. “I hit a barrel last year, (but) I won it the two previous years. This is my third one. I don’t know what it is,” she added regarding her string of positive finishes in Denver. “You know, you just have that place. This is that place. Good thing it’s a big rodeo,” she finished with a laugh.

When asked how it feels to start the year off with NWSS paycheck and buckle momentum, the Texas cowgirl was enthusiastic in her reply.

“I’m not really looking to hit the road really, really hard this year,” Pozzi began on the subject. “I’d love to do good at these big rodeos and just be done with it and just kind of take some time for myself, do other things and enjoy other things. This is working in my plan!” she summed up with more laughter.

Big time bull riding works as part of the NWSS plan, and the final round’s action didn’t disappoint. Five out of 12 cowboys made qualifying rides in the championship round, with a pair of them reaching the crowd-pleasing 90-point mark. After the dust settled and rock anthems faded, it was Arkansas cowboy Clint Craig who wound up the victor with an arena record-tying 92 points aboard Cervi and Guidry Rodeo Company’s Ole Yeller. The big bull jumped and twisted his way out of the chute, but Craig was in the zone and nailed to its back.

“During the ride, you try not to think about anything else, just … you’re in the zone, you know,” described Craig of his experience within the noisy arena. “I didn’t think it was 92 points, but usually your highest marked rides are the ones you don’t have to put out quite as much effort on because those bulls will generally – they ride themselves. They have so much timing and so much kick, that if you’re doing everything right, like I said, you’re in the zone. They can’t hardly throw you off unless you just lose your concentration,” he continued. “The bull makes a move, you make a counter-move. It’s like a dance.”

It was a dance that paid off both the cowboy and the gathered crowd in a big way, sending spectators home satisfied and the bull rider on the road with momentum on his side.

“It’s great,” Craig said about his win. “I took two months off after the season last year. I kind of came back a little bit cold turkey; the last three weeks I’ve been riding but haven’t been able to put any big scores together, so this was awesome here.”

Stock Show officials eagerly agreed with Craig’s assessment.

“It’s been excellent,” declared Marvin Witt, National Western vice president of operations.

“With the top-notch horses and bulls we brought in here, it’s been excellent. This is one of the better rodeo productions,” he continued about 2010. “I think people are appreciating it and we’re getting a lot more people in the stands than we did last year. Attendance is up for the PRCA rodeos, so (it was) very good.”

The Denver Coliseum was packed to the rafters with high-energy fans for the championship round of rodeo at the 2010 National Western Stock Show. Every one of the thousands filling the seats buzzed with anticipation before the start of action, hoping to see big name cowboys and cowgirls beat the beasts and timers in the historic venue.

They weren’t disappointed.

Producers of the Sunday short-go got the crowd hopping by introducing each leading competitor with a burst of fire and lasers inside a black arena.

By the time introductions were finished, it was time to get down to business, and the first order of business was the bareback cowboys.

With names like Kelly Timberman, Bobby Mote and Ryan Gray lining up for a chance at a coveted buckle and a big paycheck, the initial rough stock section blew fast and furious from the chute. Utah cowboy Bud Munns got it going with an 83-point score on Calgary Stampede’s high-kicking Margarita Margie and, much to the delight of everyone present, four more 80-plus rides arrived soon after, including a big-kicking 85 from World 80 Plus Champ Bobby Mote on Zippy Delivery. Mote’s crowd-pleasing effort came up 2 points shy of eventual buckle winner Joe Gunderson, a South Dakota cowboy who posted 82 points aboard a midnight bucker called Knoxville USA.

Not to be outdone, the steer wrestlers put on a show for the assembled throng, with seven out of 12 competitors blistering the arena floor and stopping the clock in less than five seconds. Against quality competition like K.C. Jones, Lee Graves, Ken Lewis and Clayton Morrison, Louisiana cowboy Gabe LeDoux held his lead and earned a buckle with a time of 4.5 seconds.

“I had a good steer and a good horse, and everything went my way,” said a pleased LeDoux after collecting a win. “I always like coming up here. It’s the first big rodeo of the year (and) you get pumped up when you get here in Denver.”

The team ropers arrived next, and they weren’t about to concede entertainment value to anyone. Nailing the crowd to their seats, the teams kept everyone guessing with one solid sub-six second round after another. The fourth team from last to perform, David Key and Rich Skelton, zipped a 5.2 time to really make things interesting. When Keven Daniel and Brad Culpepper responded with 5.6 seconds, it left perennial contenders Clay Tryan and Travis Graves needing 5.8 to win it all.

Despite a solid run, the pair stopped the clock in 6.0 flat and fell to second behind Daniel and Culpepper by one-tenth of a second.

“We knew we had a pretty good steer,” said Daniel about their run in the short-go. “I missed the start a little bit, but we just went and made the best round we could and we kind of made them guys have to go make a pretty good run. We did our job and it just worked out for us.”

“I always like this rodeo,” chipped in Culpepper. “It starts our year off and it’s a good paying rodeo. We got here and got off on the right foot and it’s just been a great experience.”

Another great experience arrived in the form of saddle bronc competition.

South Dakota cowboy JJ Elshere came into the round with a good lead on his competitors, but they put up a fight, nonetheless. Tate Owens applied pressure with an 84-point ride aboard Knight Rocket, and Jeff Willert tried to do the same with 80 points of his own. If Elshere responded with 80 plus points of his own, it would mean “good night, Irene” for the rest of the field. After Elshere hung on for just 75, the door was cracked for Chad Ferley to put up 81 or better and make a move for first. Aboard a wild and crazy paint called Lunatic Fringe, he put on a dazzling display, wowing the crowd and bringing them to a full-throated roar. Unfortunately for Ferley, he missed the mark out and was disqualified, leaving the buckle and a big paycheck to Elshere.

“I thought it was a little tougher than the last time I’d been on him,” began Elshere about his 75-point effort. “I didn’t make quite the ride I wanted to, but I knew I just needed to stay on and I did.”

When asked about competing in the NWSS championship round, the South Dakotan heaped praise on the enthusiastic crowd.

“It’s pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “It looks full out there today and that sure does pump a guy up, being that big of a crowd; it kind of gears a guy up a little bit. You try not to think about it, but you know it’s out there. It’s awesome.”

The tie-down competition was awesome, as well, especially with Trevor Brazile arriving with the lead and threatening to make an early move in 2010 to earn a PRCA record of eight all-around world titles. Up by a full second and the big crowd ready to jump, Brazile gave them their money’s worth by stopping the clock one-tenth of a second faster over three runs than second place finisher, Houston Hutto. Brazile acknowledged the ensuing bedlam with smiles and waves on his way to picking up both the tie-down and all-around buckles for the 2010 NWSS.

“Denver’s always been pretty good to me,” said Brazile immediately afterward. “I seem to get some money out of here every year. It’s a great way to start building the run (for an eighth all-around title).”

Denver’s also been pretty good to world champion barrel racer Brittany Pozzi, and she showed it against a top-notch field in the championship round. Pozzi rode Stitch early in the lineup to a quick 15.33 seconds while the crowd shouted its approval. Nine more riders came and went in the round before Oklahoma cowgirl Jessi Eagleberger posed a serious threat to Pozzi. If Eagleberger matched Pozzi’s time, the Oklahoman would grab the NWSS title by one-hundredth of a second. The crowd cheered the challenge but Eagleberger fell short in a time of 15.50 for second place, leaving Pozzi to pick up her third NWSS buckle in six tries at the historic venue.

“I made the finals here every year since 2005,” said a happy Pozzi after the performance. “I hit a barrel last year, (but) I won it the two previous years. This is my third one. I don’t know what it is,” she added regarding her string of positive finishes in Denver. “You know, you just have that place. This is that place. Good thing it’s a big rodeo,” she finished with a laugh.

When asked how it feels to start the year off with NWSS paycheck and buckle momentum, the Texas cowgirl was enthusiastic in her reply.

“I’m not really looking to hit the road really, really hard this year,” Pozzi began on the subject. “I’d love to do good at these big rodeos and just be done with it and just kind of take some time for myself, do other things and enjoy other things. This is working in my plan!” she summed up with more laughter.

Big time bull riding works as part of the NWSS plan, and the final round’s action didn’t disappoint. Five out of 12 cowboys made qualifying rides in the championship round, with a pair of them reaching the crowd-pleasing 90-point mark. After the dust settled and rock anthems faded, it was Arkansas cowboy Clint Craig who wound up the victor with an arena record-tying 92 points aboard Cervi and Guidry Rodeo Company’s Ole Yeller. The big bull jumped and twisted his way out of the chute, but Craig was in the zone and nailed to its back.

“During the ride, you try not to think about anything else, just … you’re in the zone, you know,” described Craig of his experience within the noisy arena. “I didn’t think it was 92 points, but usually your highest marked rides are the ones you don’t have to put out quite as much effort on because those bulls will generally – they ride themselves. They have so much timing and so much kick, that if you’re doing everything right, like I said, you’re in the zone. They can’t hardly throw you off unless you just lose your concentration,” he continued. “The bull makes a move, you make a counter-move. It’s like a dance.”

It was a dance that paid off both the cowboy and the gathered crowd in a big way, sending spectators home satisfied and the bull rider on the road with momentum on his side.

“It’s great,” Craig said about his win. “I took two months off after the season last year. I kind of came back a little bit cold turkey; the last three weeks I’ve been riding but haven’t been able to put any big scores together, so this was awesome here.”

Stock Show officials eagerly agreed with Craig’s assessment.

“It’s been excellent,” declared Marvin Witt, National Western vice president of operations.

“With the top-notch horses and bulls we brought in here, it’s been excellent. This is one of the better rodeo productions,” he continued about 2010. “I think people are appreciating it and we’re getting a lot more people in the stands than we did last year. Attendance is up for the PRCA rodeos, so (it was) very good.”