Steven Dent rides Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Hell Freckles for 81 during the first round of the Las Vegas WCRA rodeo. Photo by Andy Watson

WCRA Athletes are One Step Closer to Their Gold Medal Dreams

The Race to Qualify for Salt Lake Heats Up

Written by Catelyn Felts

Held each July in Salt Lake City, The Komatsu Equipment Days of ‘47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is the first $1-million rodeo in 2018 where athletes can utilize the newly unveiled WCRA Virtual Rodeo Qualifier. It is a race to qualify for the world’s only gold medal rodeo where winners will take home $50,000 in cash and prizes for gold, $25,000 for silver and $12,000 for bronze.

The Virtual Rodeo Qualifier will allow contestants to nominate any event they compete in, from a local jackpot to a pro rodeo, and everything in between regardless of the location, sanctioning body, or multi discipline versus single discipline. The act of nominating requires athletes to register on the web-based app (wcrarodeo.com) and declare which rodeo they will be competing in, so that it can count towards their WCRA point total. The goal is to MAKE EVERY RIDE COUNT.

While the Days of ‘47 rodeo nominations officially close July 9, there are still plenty of opportunities to qualify. Athletes can nominate their upcoming rodeo events, and earn their chance at qualifying for one of 20 spots in their respective discipline, (one of four in the bull riding due to a previously announced partnership with the PBR) in the first $1 million event supported by the WCRA Virtual Qualifier.

BAREBACK RIDING:

Bareback Riders are experiencing the benefits of using the WCRA Virtual Rodeo Qualifier, as it doesn’t require them to add another rodeo to their schedule, which is helpful in a discipline that is hard on their bodies.

The bareback riding race to qualify for Days of ’47 is being dominated by Steven Dent and Caleb Bennett. Bennett is leading with 369.5 points, followed by Dent with 126 points. We caught up with Dent and talked to him about what he believes to be beneficial in participating in the WCRA nomination process.

“The best thing is you can nominate a rodeo you are already planning on going to,” Steven Dent, WCRA bareback rider, said. “My event is very physical, and I don’t have to add wear and tear to my body to qualify.”

BULL RIDING:

In addition to minimizing the wear and tear on the athlete’s bodies by not going to extra events, those who might not have the opportunity to travel often are getting the opportunity to compete for larger purses on larger stages.

Logan Beckett is sitting second on the WCRA leaderboard with 18 points, and Luke McCoag is in the number one spot with 51 points. Beckett said he is looking forward to the potential opportunity of getting to perform on such a large stage.

“This will help some of the local guys put their name on the map,” Beckett said. “Not everyone has the opportunity to ride every weekend for the money like the pros do; this is the next step in a new age of rodeo.”

TIE-DOWN ROPING

Tie-down ropers are taking advantage of the opportunity to nominate ropings they are going to in addition to rodeos. For Ty Harris, this has proven very helpful to his current standing.

Harris is leading the event with 93.5 points; he has received from nominating the Barry Burk Championship Jr Roping, and the Future Stars Calf Roping. Following him on the leaderboard is Jason Thomson with 66 points.

“I think the virtual qualification system is great for cowboys scheduling wise,” Ty Harris, WCRA number one tie-down roper said. “I am looking forward to qualifying without having to drive all over the country.”

BARREL RACING:

For the ladies in barrel racing, the virtual qualifier makes a way for less wear and tear on their horses. With the ability to nominate rodeos they have already planned on going to, they will be able to preserve their horses.

“The virtual qualification system gives you a chance to qualify using rodeos and events you are already competing in instead of having to run in extra qualifiers,” Tammy Fischer, the number two spot holder said.

Not only does this system allow for preservation of runs, but for those who do not have the opportunity to rodeo full time now get the opportunity to showcase the talents of their equine partners.

Sarah Christensen explained how she doesn’t get to travel as much to rodeos, but is excited for the opportunity to showcase her horses on a larger stage.

“I think it’s a fabulous opportunity to get more experience and to get out there,” she said. “Especially for people like me who do not get to travel as much to rodeos. I mainly stay in the Midwest.”

Christensen is the current leader with 90 points, followed by Fischer with 54 points.

TEAM ROPING HEELING:

Team ropers are taking advantage of the ability to nominate ropings, jackpots and rodeos they have already planned on going to.

“I look forward to being able to nominate places that I want to go to and not drive far if I don’t want to,” Jade Corkill said. “If you just take the time to nominate wherever you are going, anyone has a chance. I look forward to being able to nominate places that I want to go.”

Corkill is leading the heeling with 84 points, followed by Jake Long with 15 points.

BREAKAWAY ROPING:

The breakaway roping, might be a newly added event, but the leaderboard is already heating up. Ropers are working to qualify for the first WCRA semi-finals held in November and currently JJ Hampton is in first with 145.5, with Kelsie Chace behind her with 135 points.

We spoke with JJ Hampton, the current WCRA Breakaway Roping leader and discussed her feelings on WCRA’s incorporations of breakaway roping and what this means for the women in rodeo.

“I am very excited for the women breakaway ropers and the opportunity to rope on such a large stage,” Hampton said. “I have been rodeoing my whole life, and this is something I have always dreamed of; I hope we make the sport of rodeo proud.”

Not only is Hampton working toward a spot in the WCRA semi-finals, but she is looking forward to the potential opportunity of competing on the same stage as her nephew Marty.

Hampton expressed her gratefulness toward the WCRA for the inclusiveness. “I am so thankful for all that the WCRA has done to make this possible,” she said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for giving us this opportunity.”

The race to qualify for Days of ’47 is also tight in the other disciplines. In Team Roping Heading, Clay Tryan is holding onto the top spot with Derrick Begay right behind him with 71 points. CoBurn Bradshaw is sitting first with 21 points in the Saddle Bronc, followed by Joey Sonnier with 15 points. Matt Dewetering is dominating the Steer Wrestling with 104 points, with Tim Kemp in second with 66 points.

The WCRA Virtual Qualifying system is revolutionizing the world of rodeo, and everybody has the opportunity to take part. With Cowboy Christmas just around the corner, the leaderboard can change in just a weekend as athletes nominate and win at upcoming high-paying events. Each win will give them a bump in the WCRA leaderboard.