Broadus teenager is the winningest saddle bronc rider on Tour
By JOE KUSEK
August 4, 2022
Garrett Cunningham is a young man on the proverbial hot seat.
The Broadus teenager is the winningest saddle bronc rider on the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour for 2022.
Cunningham, 19, has won eight events this summer, the most of any competitor for a single event.
“It’s been really good,” said Cunningham of his first year in the Northern Rodeo Association. “I had a great freshman year in college and it has continued into my NRA season.”
Cunningham rides for Montana State-Northern where he is majoring in diesel mechanics. This past collegiate season, he easily won the Big Sky Region title and qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo. He finished seventh in the nation at the CNFR in Casper, Wyoming this past June.
He also finished among the top 20 twice at the National High School Finals Rodeo and is a two-time Junior NFR champion, including last year.
This summer, Cunningham has won at Polson, Choteau, East Helena, Malta, Havre, Scobey and Jardine 3 and Jardine 4. The victories have included a run of five in a row and back-to-back at the Hells A-Roarin’ Guts N Glory rodeos last week.
Cunningham has pocketed $5,601, the most for a single event.
“I was close to not making Jardine in time,” he said of Jardine 3. “I was home cutting hay the day before and I got up late. I just made it.”
Among his winning scores were high marks of 77 at Choteau on the Fourth of July and 77 at East Helena the following week.
Cunningham was also second at Opheim, third at Big Timber, Harlowton and Jardine 2 and fourth at Ennis and Three Forks. He earned $1,337 during the Fourth of July run with checks at Choteau, Harlowton and Ennis.
"’We’ve had a few all-night drives,” said Cunningham, noting he traveled from Broadus to Polson to Big Timber to Opheim one weekend in June.
When not riding, he lives on the family ranch outside Broadus. “It keeps the summer schedule busy,” he said of work and play.
Cunningham is part of a young group of cowboys representing the next generation of saddle bronc riders.
He was mentored by Shaun Stroh, a four-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo. Stroh, who won the NFR average in 2009, is also a two-time NRA champion (2000-01). His sons Kain and Qwint now competed on the Mountain Health Co-op Tour. Both qualified for the NRA Finals last year and are in the top 10 standings this year.
“Shaun Stroh taught me everything I know,” said Cunningham, who began riding broncs in junior high. “A bunch of us grew up riding broncs together. It makes it fun to ride against those guys. It’s fun when it comes down to a drawing game.”
Having competed at the national high school finals, college finals and the Junior NFR, Cunningham has become a veteran of riding for high stakes.
“That’s a big help,” he said of his experience. “Being in those finals helps with the pressure and how to deal with it. What I’ve been taught is don’t let it (a bad ride) bother you. Keep focusing on the good things and keep moving forward.”
Now he has another Finals in his sights.
“Yeah, I just have to keep riding like I can and try to pull the title,” said Cunningham. “I’m having a blast.”
Gayleen Malone found the perfect arena for her barrel horse. The Pray cowgirl won both Hells A-Roarin’ Guts and Glory Rodeos last week, running her win streak to three in Jardine. She was also second at the first event. Malone has won $1,411 at the new rodeos on the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour and has jumped to second in the barrel racing standings.
Bucky McAlpine won both nights of bareback riding and added a victory in bull riding at Jardine 4 to take over the lead in the all-around cowboy standings. Jack Cornwell of Glasgow was busy, winning the steer wrestling and placing second in tie-down roping at Jardine 3, then coming back the next night to place second in steer wrestling and fourth in tie-down roping.
The tie-down roping winner at Jardine 4 was Ryley Mapston of Belt, the teenage son of saddle bronc great Ryan Mapston. Another teenager, Payton Levine of Wolf Creek won the breakaway roping.
Other winners at Jardine 3 were: Blayne Hubing, tie-down roping; Justin Jones and Austin Rath, team roping; Hailey Burger, breakaway roping; Bailey Billingsley, junior barrel racing and junior breakaway roping.
Other winners at Jardine 4 were: Garret Yeager, steer wrestling; Caden Gines and Mason Trollinger, team roping; Bailey Billingsley, junior barrel racing; Charlie Cornwell, junior breakaway roping.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour continues in Townsend and Superior this weekend.
Both rodeos are Friday and Saturday.
Townsend will have 7 p.m. performances each day while Superior’s performances are 8 p.m.