Ben Ayre goes the extra mile in pursuit of NRA all-around title
By JOE KUSEK
August 21, 2020
Cowboys and cowgirls chasing year-end championships in the Northern Rodeo Association and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association have had to go the extra mile this season.
The COVID-19 pandemic this year has greatly altered the NRA/NWRA summer schedule forcing competitors to change their competitive itinerary.
Some have gone a little further than others.
Ask Ben and Bill Ayre.
Earlier this month, the son and father ropers from Glendive traveled 620 miles – a 10-hour drive – to compete in Eureka.
“It’s kind of a long drive,” understated Ben Ayre, who leads the all-around cowboy standings, is second for tie-down roping and 15thfor team roping headers. Bill Ayre is 14th for team roping heelers.
The two could have driven to the Mall of America in Minneapolis or to Denver for a Broncos game in shorter time.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Ayre added of their tour across Montana.
The two left home late in the morning and spent their first night in Havre. Driving a Freightliner, the two were hauling three horses.
After roping the next day, they spent the night in Eureka.
“We moseyed out of town the next morning and got home around 10 that night,” Ayre said. “We’ve got a grill for our cooking, it’s pretty nice set up.”
The Ayres traveled more than 1,200 miles round trip to place fifth in the team roping. Ben Ayre also competed in tie-down roping and also entered the steer wrestling at one of the NRA’s highest paying rodeos.
“I’ve had some good luck there in the past,” Ayre said of adding bulldogging to his entries.
Who handled the driving?
“That would be me,” he added with a chuckle. “I’m the main driver. My dad told me, ‘If you’re going to rodeo, you have to learn how to drive.’
“I’m still learning.”
Ayre approaches the final stretch of the season trailing Jade Gardner of Winnett by $1,051 in the tie-down roping standings. Gardner and Ayre placed 1-2 at both Harlowton and Ennis during the Fourth of July run.
“The Fourth of July was good for me. My roping has been pretty decent,” said Ayre, who also placed third at Opheim earlier in the year. “The tie-down roping kind of took off on me and that shifted my focus. Whichever event is hitting the best, that’s the one you prioritize.
“At the start of the season, you want to win every event and the all-around. Now, I just want to get a good one down in whatever I’m doing.”
He and his father also collected a check in team roping at Poplar.
“Going into the season, you didn’t know what to expect with some rodeos being cancelled,” said Ayre. “I just hoped to win as much as I could.”
Ayre, a two-time tie-down roping champion (2014-15), has a lead of $939 over Tate Benson of Scobey in the all-around standings and is only $166 out of the top 10 for team roping headers. Bill Ayre is the same distance for the top 10 among the team roping heelers. Bill Ayre won the NRA team roping title in 1994.
With less opportunities to compete, each rodeo has taken on added importance to determine the standings. The 2020 regular season enters its final stretch with three remaining rodeos: Wibaux (Saturday), Deer Lodge (Sept. 28-29) and Helmville (Sept.6-7).
While all the attention goes to the top of the standings, most of the action is below with competitors jockeying for a spot in the NRA/NWRA Finals in October. Only the top 10 in each event qualify.
Less than $82 separates 10th from 11thplace in seven of the events. Tyler Turco of Missoula is 10th in the saddle bronc standings, a scant $1.84 ahead of Brant Grisedale of Glasgow.
In breakaway roping, Anna Callaway of Billings leads Makenna Hubler of Rexburg, Idaho by $7.95 – the price of a fast food meal – for the final qualifying spot.
Ayre is just trying to solidify his lead in the all-around where he has finished second twice (2014 and 2015).
“I’m looking to finish the year strong. The only way to win the all-around is to make good runs,” Ayre said.
The two are entered in Wibaux this weekend – a short 28-mile drive from home – and will finish their 2020 regular season in Helmville. Helmville is an eight-hour drive from Glendive.
“I pretty much guarantee I’ll be the driver,” said the son.