Popular rodeo adds excitement and drama to first weekend of the NWSS | TheFencePost.com

Popular rodeo adds excitement and drama to first weekend of the NWSS

Now regarded as one of the hottest tickets of the National Western Stock Show, the popular Colorado vs. The World Rodeo showcases "the richest one-day rodeo in Colorado history with prizes totaling $90,000."

The fan-friendly event divides 100 contestants into a team of 50 that have won rodeos in 2018 from outside of Colorado (World team) against a team built from 50 contestants that have won rodeos in 2018 from inside the state of Colorado (Colorado team). High scores from each team keep advancing until there is a head-to-head round of one contestant from each team competing against each other for the title in each of five rodeo events. Winners of those titles can earn up to $10,000 for one day of competition. It is a big-energy contest that packs the stands throughout three performances during the first Saturday of the National Western.

2019's version provided as much drama as previous years, with high point rides ending in a tie, a home state cowboy vying for a title, and a winner by as close a margin as you could imagine.

The bareback cowboys provided the evening's championship with plenty of color, as Wyoming's Seth Hardwick advanced to go against Colorado's own Logan Patterson to determine the first title. After choosing the horses they would ride, another unique angle of the rodeo's format, Patterson went first on a twirling black bay named Excalibur.

After Patterson notched 84 points, it was Hardwick's turn to shine. Riding Calgary Stampede's Alert Warrior, Hardwick spurred the jumping bay all over the front of the arena for a crowd-pleasing 87.5 points and the winner's check.

"I've made it to that shoot-out round before, but never ended up winning it," said Hardwick with a grin. "It is good to finally win it."

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The Wyoming cowboy also appreciated the enthusiasm coming from the full stands.

"It is great riding in front of a crowd like that," he said. "It is loud and there are tons of people here. It gets you pumped up. I think you ride better with good crowds and people that are yelling and screaming."

The yelling and screaming continued when the saddle bronc duo squared off against one another. Utah's Ryder Wright started the shoot-out aboard a Vold Rodeo Company bronc. Against a backdrop of roaring approval, he maximized Sun Glow's high kicking pattern and looked poised for a win after the judges awarded him 90 points for the 8-second effort. Unfazed, Canadian Clay Elliott rode a Calgary Stampede bronc for a matching 90 points. Owning the tie breaker due to points entering the round, Elliott took home the title and more than $8,000 in prize money.

"It is pretty special to be riding against guys of that caliber," said Elliott about his counterpart Wright. "It is just a really good event. You put yourself in that situation where you get on (good) horses that you are able to be 90 points on. It's not every day you get a chance to do that."

It's not every day that rodeo fans get to see a victory by the slimmest of margins, either, but that was also included in the price of their Saturday night tickets.

BARREL RACING

A pair of barrel racers advanced throughout the day to end up against each other in the head to head round for a coveted title, trophy spurs, a big check and even bragging rights. Owning the best time entering the round, Wyoming cowgirl Amy Jo Reisdorfer, and her horse Blue Duck, had the choice to go first or second. While strategy may favor going second in order to know the time to beat, Reisdorfer unflinchingly chose to go first. After her explanation, the big crowd roared its appreciation.

"I can't live that way," said the Wyoming competitor. "I wasn't competing against Ari-Anna (Flynn). It was honestly just Blue Duck and I doing our best."

That best was a time of 15.539 seconds in her third run of the day. Flynn went next and the crowd buzzed when her time of 15.540 seconds flashed on the big board. A mere one one-thousandth of a second separated victory from defeat.

"To find out it was that close at the very end was really incredible for those horses," Reisdorfer said. "It shows the athletes that they are at this level, to be that close."

The men of steer wrestling and bull riding also had their moments to shine. California steer wrestler Josh Garner posted one of the fastest times of the rodeo as he stopped the timers in 4.15 seconds to win the title. He had praise for the big crowd after picking up his win.

"Oh man, it gives you butterflies in your stomach," Garner said about the high-intensity atmosphere. "After that third (winning) run, I heard that crowd go crazy. It is a lot of energy and a good crowd here."

The energy built to reach its crescendo with the bull riders, and Clayton Sellars didn't disappoint. The Texas cowboy was one of the few to successfully ride the elite animals brought in for the one day rodeo, and he saved a solid effort for last. Aboard a brown and white brahma named Hail to the Redskins, Sellars survived five left-handed spins and more bucks than anyone could count. After an animated celebration by Sellars, the scoreboard showed 87.5 points for the win.

"It means everything in the world to me," said Sellars about a successful ride to win the title. "That's my job and every time I nod my head I have to do that in order to make a living, in order to reach my goals. To actually do it and do it well, it is the best feeling in the world."

The Texan echoed his fellow contestants' appreciation for the enthusiastic crowd.

"We can do this same thing at the house in front of absolutely nobody and it is not near as fun," Sellars said. "To go out there and to hear them cheer and yell like that, it is awesome."

The action inside the arena, along with the packed crowd on the first Saturday of every National Western Stock Show, makes the Colorado vs. The World Rodeo as awesome as it gets. ❖

— Rogers is a freelance writer and photographer located east of Parker, Colo. He can be reached at lincoln@lincolnrogers.com or you can find him on Facebook at Official Lincoln Rogers Writing & Photography Page.

2019 Colorado vs. The World Rodeo Winners:

Bareback: Seth Hardwick (Cinch Jeans World Team)

Steer Wrestling: Josh Garner (Cinch Jeans World Team)

Saddle Bronc: Clay Elliott (RAM Rodeo Team Colorado)

Barrel Racing: Amy Jo Reisdorfer (Cinch Jeans World Team)

Bull Riding: Clayton Sellars (Cinch Jeans World Team)