Passed the Halfway
Mark for the 2022 Season
By JOE KUSEK
July 28, 2022
If the second half is anything like the first half, the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour will have a fantastic finish.
With four rodeos in three days last week, the tour for the Northern Rodeo Association and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association passed the halfway mark for the 2022 season.
There are 14 rodeos remaining in the regular season that ends Labor Day weekend. And every event gold buckle is still up for grabs.
Some races are closer than others with Rachel Ward of Philipsburg holding a lead of $133 on Tammy Jo Carpenter of Kalispell in barrel racing while Glendive’s Ben Ayre is just $147 head of Spur Owens of Helena in the all-around cowboy race.
Less than a $1,000 separates the top two of the standings in eight of the 11 events that will determine year-end champions.
The season has been a showcase of newcomers and veterans.
Ward and bull riding standings leader Caden Fitzpatrick of Polson just finished competing at the National High School Finals Rodeo while Ayre and Carpenter have multiple NRA and NWRA championship saddles in their homes.
A year ago, Cole Detton of Great Falls won the year-end steer wrestling title while still in high school. He finished his senior year this spring and is a contender once again.
“We’re seeing a huge amount of new contestants,” said Theresa Sorlie, the NRA/NWRA executive secretary. “It’s the largest number of new members we’ve had.
“For this time of year, we did not expect the numbers to be up like this.”
The NRA/NWRA has 682 members this year, an increase from 660 a year ago.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour has awarded almost $300,000 in prize money, with competitors from eight states and 74 different Montana communities taking home money.
“The women’s events continue to be strong,” Sorlie said. “And the tie-down roping entries have been really good.”
Standings leads have changed like fruit on a slot machine.
So balanced is the competition there have been 16 different winners for breakaway roping 15 for team roping, 14 for barrel racing, 13 for tie-down roping, 12 for bull riding and 10 for steer wrestling.
Even with fuel prices high, entries were up at East Helena, Harlowton, Havre and Opheim with the promise of more of the same at rodeos on the second half of the schedule.
“This biggest thing is that the numbers are super encouraging with the gas prices so high,” said Sorlie, adding that it was a similar trend in 2008 when fuel prices spiked.
“People want to continue to rodeo and we’re super thankful for that.”
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour culminates with the NRA/NWRA Finals, Oct. 27-29 at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell.
Only the top 10 in each event qualify for the tour’s premier event.
“Rodeo is strong,” Sorlie said. “Rodeo is growing.”
The first half is over. The second half will be a sprint to the finish. Hang on for a wild ride.
The Hells A-Roarin’ Guts N Glory Rodeos in Jardine made their debuts on the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour schedule after the June rodeos were delayed because of flooding.
Trevor Kay of Chester won his third bareback title of the season at Jardine 1 while Jeremy Kay won the bull riding. Lisa Warfield of Helena was a winner in the barrel racing.
Other Jardine 1 winners were: Kain Stroh and Carson Klingler, saddle bronc; Reno Ward, steer wrestling; Ty Spring and Levi Delamarter, team roping; Nicole French, breakaway roping; Tye Brown, junior barrel racing; Brooks Bolich, junior breakaway roping. There were no qualified runs in tie-down roping.
At Jardine 2, Bode Spring of Bozeman won the tie-down roping and paired with Ty Spring to do the same in team roping. Ward won the steer wrestling for the second consecutive night while Ellie Meeks of Geraldine won the breakaway roping in 2.1 seconds. Meeks has won three rodeos with throws of 2.3, 2.2 and 2.1 seconds.
Other Jardine 2 winners were: Spur Owens, bareback; Carson Klingler, saddle bronc; Koby Whitford, bull riding; Gayleen Malone, barrel racing; Tye Brown, junior barrel racing; Blaise Bolich, junior breakaway roping,
Anaconda’s Bucky McAlpine was a double winner at Scobey, taking the bareback and bull riding titles. Flaxville’s Elli Linder won the barrel racing. Garrett Cunningham of Broadus won his seventh saddle bronc title of the season. It was a nice day for the Billingsley family as father J Billingsley won the senior men’s breakaway roping and was second in the tie-down roping while daughter Bailey Billingsley won the junior barrel racing and daughter Brooke Billingsley won the junior breakaway roping.
Other Scobey winners were: Grady Larson, steer wrestling; Lincoln Yarama, tie-down roping; Bronc Pippert and Ian Pennington, team roping; Sierra Lee, breakaway roping.
The money at Eureka is a game-changer for the season and this year was no different. Reigning all-around cowgirl and breakaway roping champion Celie Salmond of Choteau vaulted to the standings lead for both events. She won the breakaway roping for $1,355, the biggest single-event check of the year and was third in barrel racing to earn more than $2,100 in the two events. Her time of 1.9 seconds in breakaway roping is the only sub-two second run of the summer. Former all-around cowboy champion Gerald Eash of Trego won the bull riding and was fourth in saddle bronc riding.
The Mountain Health Co-op Tour returns to Jardine for the Hells A-Roarin’ Guts and Glory Rodeos on July 28 and 29.