Hamilton, Helmville offer last chances
By JOE KUSEK
August 31, 2023
Hamilton and Helmville are two different Montana towns.
Hamilton, with a population approaching 5,000, is the county seat for Ravalli County.
Helmville is an unincorporated community in Powell County with a population of 38 according to the 2020 census.
And while different they also share some similarities.
Both begin with the letter H. Both have rodeos this Labor Day weekend produced by Red Eye Rodeo.
And both represent the last opportunity for cowboys and cowgirls to qualify for the Northern Rodeo Association Finals presented by nuWest Builders.
The top 10 in each of the nine events qualify for the NRA Finals, Oct. 26-28 at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell.
Which makes Hamilton and Helmville must-entries for those who want to continue their 2023 at the NRA and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association’s premier event.
Those at the top of the standings have pretty much punched their ticket to Kalispell.
But the reasons to ride, rope and race at Hamilton and Helmville are many because every year-end championship will be decided in Kalispell.
The final two regular season rodeos offer a chance for those at the top of the standings to get closer to the gold buckle.
For others, Hamilton and Helmville are an opportunity for competitors to move up in the standings and put themselves in the title picture.
And for those looking in from the outside, the two rodeos are a last chance to earn a coveted Finals party invitation.
Only an average of $159 separates 10th from 11thplace in the event standings. For breakaway roping, saddle bronc, team roping headers and bull riding, the margin is $87 or less to get into the top 10.
For breakaway ropers, tie-down ropers, team roping headers and team roping heelers, the difference between 10th and 15thplace is less than $713.
Or the equivalent of two solid loops.
The Rockin’ RC Rodeo in Hamilton is Sept. 1 and 2 with 7 p.m. performances each night.
Helmville follows on Sept. 3 and 4 with 1 p.m. shows each day.
Only 116 miles separates Hamilton and Helmville, a little more than a two-hour drive.
Those roads will be burning up with NRA and NWRA competitors.
And the action in the arenas will be equally intense.
This is it. The last chance to qualify for the Finals.
With rodeos in Wibaux, Boulder and Chinook, there were some changes at the top of the standings for tie-down roping and breakaway roping.
Ben Ayre of Glendive swept the tie-down roping and steer wrestling titles in Wibaux. The veteran cowboy moved to the top of the tie-down roping standings and continued his climb in the all-around standings. Ayre is a former tie-down roping (2014-15) and all-around (2020).
Townsend’s Tanner Theriault took over the season lead with his fourth victory of the summer while bareback standings leader Jordan Larson traveled from Charlo to Wibaux – 646 miles -- for his fifth bareback win.
Teenagers Parker Mothershead and Devin Hundley stood tall in Boulder. Mothershead, of Joliet, won the saddle bronc riding, his NRA-high seventh win, while Hundley earned his fifth bull riding victory. Hundley, of Darby, is the reigning Montana high school state champion.
Helena’s Hailey Burger split second place to take over the lead in the breakaway roping standings. Burger won the state high school goat tying crown this past June.
Haven Wolstein of Helena won the breakaway roping with a time of 2.1 seconds, matching the fastest time of the year. Team ropers Shawn Bird and Zachary Schweigert moved closer to the top of the standings with a win.
Kelly Murnion is making a late-season push in the all-around standings. He won the bareback in Chinook and was fourth in the tie-down roping. After a fast start, Murnion missed the bulk of the summer rodeos because of an injury. He was also second in bull riding at Wibaux.
Brittney Cox won the barrel racing at her hometown rodeo.
Wibaux winners: Jordan Larson, Charlo, bareback; Qwint Stroh, Dickinson, N.D., saddle bronc; Tanner Theriault, Townsend, bull riding; Ben Ayre, Glendive, steer wrestling, tie-down roping; Kale Day Chief-Chase Kellett, Gooding, Idaho, team roping; Emily Dockter, Denhoff, N.D., barrel racing; Layni Stevens, Gillette, Wyo., breakaway roping; Bailey Billingsley, Glasgow, junior barrel racing; Macey Wendt, Newell, S.D., junior breakaway roping.
Boulder winners: Nathaniel Dearhamer, Bozeman, bareback; Parker Mothershead, Joliet, saddle bronc; Devyn Hundley, Darby, bull riding; Kolby Bignell, Helena, steer wrestling; Kevin Peterson, Dillon, tie-down roping; Shawn Bird-Zachary Schweigert, team roping; Abby Knight, Charlo, barrel racing; Haven Wolstein, Helena, breakaway roping; Katey Short, Stevensville, junior barrel racing; Dylan Burger, Helena, junior breakaway roping.
Chinook winners: Kelly Murnion, Jordan, bareback; Wyatt Hotz, Philipsburg, saddle bronc; Kobe Whitford, Cut Bank, bull riding; Garret Yeager, Choteau, steer wrestling; Cash Trexler, Corvallis, tie-down r roping; Tanner Anderson-Jesse Benson, team roping; Brittney Cox, Chinook, barrel racing; Jenna Kittson, Harlem, breakaway roping; Shaylee Broere, Whitefish, junior barrel racing; Steely Stubblefield, Choteau, junior breakaway roping.