By: Kendra Santos

GUTHRIE, Okla.—The World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) is all about additional competitive opportunity for contestants, and it’s an equal opportunity that’s open to everyone. Today’s progressive round at the $500,000 WCRA Semi-Finals here at the Lazy E Arena was a perfect example, as two bareback riding big dogs threw the doors open on the professional rodeo welcome wagon to a 17-year-old young gun.

The top three bareback riders in today’s progressive round advance to tomorrow’s championship round, and that one-two-three punch belonged to Kaycee Feild, Mason Clements, and Payton Lackey. Four-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Champ of the World Feild and fellow Beehive State cowboy and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bareback rider Mason Clements tied at the top with 87 points apiece, and 2017 National High School Rodeo Association Champion Payton Lackey was next in line with 80 big ones.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Payton Lackey. Mason Clements, left, and Kaycee Feild, right, were almost as pumped as newcomer Lackey, 17, when he advanced alongside his heroes to Championship Sunday.

High school senior Lackey, who hangs his hat in Blanco, Texas, was visibly shaking right after his ride, because he was so excited to be moving on.

“I’m so pumped up right now,” beamed Lackey, who won his national high school title as a sophomore. “It’s an amazing opportunity just to be here riding against cowboys of this caliber. Kaycee and Mason are some of my heroes.

“Because of my age, this is my first taste of professional rodeo. And I love it. I love the horses. I love the atmosphere. I love being back here behind the bucking chutes with the best in the business. I love it all.”

Clements of Santaquin, Utah, is headed to his second-straight NFR next month.

“To have an event like this in the fall is good extra cash to have in your pocket, and great momentum going into Vegas,” said Clements, 26. “The magnitude of this event not only brightens my spirits in my pocketbook, but for the sport of rodeo. A rodeo like this is why we put so much blood, sweat, and tears into what we do.

“New rodeos like this one are also how this sport will rise above where it’s ever been before. Rodeo is growing, and I’m happy to be a part of this new movement of more opportunity for cowboys.”

It’s not as likely that young Lackey will be sore from his money ride as from all the slaps on the back from his fellow bareback riders, including Clements and Feild.

“One of the things that I really like about the WCRA is the qualifying system (Virtual Rodeo Qualifier),” said Feild, 31, of Spanish Fork, Utah. “Everybody has a shot to get into this rodeo, and I think that’s especially cool for the guys who circuit rodeo and stay closer to home. The WCRA gives those guys a chance to qualify for big events like this one—and the $1 million Windy City Roundup in Chicago in January.

“A kid like Payton (who’s the protégé of Feild’s fellow four-time World Champion Bareback Rider Bobby Mote) being here is a priceless experience. When I was a young kid, I watched all the greats. I just went and stood behind the chutes. Payton gets to be back here with us, see how we prepare, and be in the zone with us. That’ll do nothing but make a talented up-and-comer like him better.”

Feild comes from a long line of cowboys that also includes his late, great, ProRodeo Hall of Fame father, Lewis Feild.

“The competitors come first in the WCRA, and we all appreciate that,” said Kaycee, who’s headed to his ninth NFR in Cowboy Town next month. “We all had great horses today, so everybody had a chance to win. It’s November, and everybody’s amped up for the NFR. My dad always said, ‘If you’re not getting up every day working and making money, you’re losing money.’

“So right before Thanksgiving and the holidays, this works out perfectly. It’s always good to get some extra cash. We can Christmas shop now and beat the holiday rush. Thanks, WCRA. Merry Christmas!”