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Austin Whitehouse planned a career in numbers


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Austin Whitehouse planned a career in numbers.

After graduating from Helena High School, Whitehouse attended the University of Providence where he walked across the stage with a diploma in accounting.

He just had bad timing for the next step.

“That year was COVID. I was not able to intern, not able to get my toes into it,” Whitehouse said of 2020.

“It’s been a while (doing accounting work), probably since college. If you put a tax sheet in front of me, I wouldn’t know what to do,” he finished with a chuckle.

But numbers are still part of his life.

Like the number two, as in back-to-back steer wrestling average titles at the Northern Rodeo Association Finals held in Kalispell.

The Capital City cowboy began his pursuit of a three-peat opening weekend, winning the steer wrestling at Whoop-Up Trail Days in Conrad to start the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour for 2024.

Whitehouse, who turned 26 in April, put down his steer in 4.9 seconds for the victory.

“I’ll just see how the year goes,” he said of competing for a third consecutive NRA Finals average crown.

In 2022, Whitehouse placed in all three rounds and was 17 seconds on three steers. He earned $3,889 to finish second to Tyler Houle of Bozeman in the final standings.

Whitehouse was even faster in 2023, finishing with 12 seconds on three to pocket $3,589. He jumped from eighth to second in the year-end standings, just $383.47 shy of friend and traveling partner Kolby Bignell of Helena.

“I kind of like coming from the middle of pack,” said Whitehouse. “It’s more comfortable for me.

“My first two years of the Finals were not so good. A big part of it is being on Walt Anseth’s horses. You get more confident as you ride.”

Whitehouse has been riding Bernie, a 23-year-old sorrel owned by Anseth.

“The thing about Bernie is he is very consistent,” Whitehouse said. “He never changes and makes your job a little easier.”

Anseth, a former NRA steer wrestling champion, also served as Whitehouse’s hazer at both Finals.

Whitehouse has earned $7,489 in just 29 seconds the past two years at Majestic Valley Arena. It averages out to $258 a second.

“Now I really like that barn,” said Whitehouse.

Whitehouse, a shade over 6-feet and a solid 235 pounds, was kind of a latecomer to rodeo.

“I grew up playing baseball. It was baseball, baseball, baseball,” said the former catcher. “Senior year of high school, a friend got me into rodeo.

“I like the thrill. I’ll be honest, it can be tough at times but then the thrill comes back. I like the camaraderie. It’s like a brotherhood. I’m rooting for everybody.”

Whitehouse is another product of Helena’s steer wrestling culture that has produced many NRA and Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit champions. Ty Erickson, the PRCA world champion in 2019, is part of that group.

“We all get together and practice,” said Whitehouse. “We try to get together a couple of times a week or one time a week depending on schedules. It certainly helps. Everybody picks each other brains.”

Whitehouse also credits the NRA for his development.

“I’ve learned a lot in the NRA,” he said. “My improvement has been kind of gradual, one piece of the puzzle almost.

“The NRA helped me a lot. My first year at the Finals showed I can compete with anybody. It lifted a weight off your shoulders, trying to prove yourself.”

Last year, Whitehouse won at Harlowton, Three Forks and Superior.

He and Bignell work for True Grit Construction, owned by Steve Burger of Helena. Burger’s daughter Hailey was fourth in the Northern Women’s Rodeo Association breakaway roping standings in 2023 and recently won the year-end goat tying title for the Montana High School Rodeo Association.

“When there is a rodeo, sometimes we’re all gone,” Whitehouse said with a laugh about work. He also travels with Logan Beattie.

“We’ll go to every one we can and make it work to get back to Kalispell.”

Last week

Reigning all-around cowboy and bull riding champion Kelly Murnion picked up where he left off a year ago.

The Jordan cowboy won bareback titles at Culbertson and Poplar and was second at Conrad. He also won the bull riding at Culbertson.

Quanah Glade of Miles City won the saddle bronc riding at Culbertson and Poplar and was third at Conrad.

Conrad was highlighted by Eli Higa’s 82-point bull ride while former all-around cowgirl champion Milee Dailey of Pray won the barrel racing. Higa is from Ronan.

Times were tight in Poplar as hometown cowgirl Heather Crowley won the barrel racing by .01 over Bailee Murnion of Lindsay. Only two-hundredths of a second separated the top four finishers.

There was a three-way tie in breakaway roping with Shaylee Wahl of Circle, Miles City’s Cadence Schweigert and Sierra Lee of Rhame, North Dakota all sharing first with throws of 2.9 seconds.

The first weekend of rodeo featured competitors from five different states and 42 Montana communities.

Conrad winners: Trapper McAllister, Ronan, bareback; Garrett Varilek, Dillon, saddle bronc; Eli Higa, Ronan, bull riding; Austin Whitehouse, Helena, steer wrestling; Clint Craig, East Helena, tie-down roping; Ty Kittson-Kadine Racine, Havre, team roping; Milee Dailey, Pray, barrel racing; Molly Salmond, Choteau, breakaway roping; Bryar Taylor, Forrest Grove, junior barrel racing; Rhett Billington, Big Fork, junior breakaway roping.

Culbertson winners: Kelly Murnion, Jordan, bareback, bull riding; Quanah Glade, Miles City, saddle bronc; Ben Ayre, Glendive, steer wrestling; JC Crowley, Poplar, tie-down roping. Jace Bishop-Wyatt Schearer, Belt, team roping; Kenzie Pennington, Sidney, barrel racing; Ellie Meeks, Geraldine and Tori Murnion, Jordan, breakaway roping; Skylar Rogers, Sidney, junior barrel racing; Tye Brown, Helena, junior breakaway roping; Steve Sherwood, Grace, senior men’s breakaway roping.

Poplar winners: Kelly Murnion, Jordan, bareback; Quanah Glade, Miles City, saddle bronc; Scott Meeks, Dublin, Texas, tie-down roping; Steve Sherwood, Grace-Ron McDaniel, Gilbert, team roping; Heather Crowley, Poplar, barrel racing; Shaylee Wahl, Circle, Cadence Schweigert, Miles City, Torrie Eiker, Glendive, breakaway roping; Chaney Akin, Cody, Wyo., junior barrel racing; Lauren Youngquist, Sidney, junior breakaway roping; Steve Sherwood, Grace, senior men’s breakaway roping.

Up next

The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour heads to the southwest part of Montana with rodeos in Gardiner (June 14-15) and Wilsall (June 15-16).

The Gardiner performances are 6 p.m. each day, while Wilsall will go at 6:30 p.m. on June 15 and 2 p.m. on June 16.

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