There were some familiar faces from the Longhorn state in the winner’s circle as the 2019 Junior World Finals roughstock competition came to a close Monday at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena.
Two Texas cowboys — Bradlee Miller from Huntsville and Kash Loyd from Cleburne – both won world championships for the fourth year in a row, Mesquite bull rider Chris Villanueva won his third in a row in dominating fashion, and Layn Claxton from West made it back-to-back Peewee bareback bronc titles with his highest score of the week in the short go-round.
Bareback Bronc Riding
Loyd was leading the average entering the short go of the junior division, but Brant Cookston put some pressure on the rest of the field with an 88.5-point ride on CT Rodeo’s Eggwhites.
Loyd proved to be up to the challenge, scoring 82 points on R&R Rodeo’s California Larry.
“I knew I needed to be on one there,” Loyd said. “And now I’m four for four.”
Miller picked up his sixth world title in the past four years, winning the novice division on his third re-ride.
“The first horse I had started out really good but she kind of petered out at the end,” Miller said. “She didn’t have what it took so I got a re-ride. And the re-ride was pretty weak too so they gave me one more re-ride and she was good enough to allow me to take the win.”
Miller had an 82 on his final ride to win the average with 237.5 points on three head. Chase Yellowhawk, who had an 80 in the short go, finished second in the average with a 230.
“One of the things I like about coming into the short go in first is you’re the last one to buck,” Miller said. “So not only do you know what you have to do, but you know how many points you have to be to take home the win.”
Miller had to wait more than an hour after his first ride before finally posting his winning score. But that was just fine with Miller, who won bareback and bull riding world championships in both 2016 and ’17 and tied for the novice bareback title last year.
“I’ve been battling with a pinched nerve in my neck the past six months,” he said. “It makes my left arm go numb and it really messes with my riding a lot. So thankfully there was a long wait between my first ride and my second one.
“With that extra time I had I worked with the Justin Sports Medicine team and they got me loosened up. I just love Vegas.”
Unlike Miller, Claxton didn’t need any extra time Monday. But he was just as happy to be in Las Vegas.
“This is overwhelming,” Claxton said after his 86-point ride on Skullbone Buckers’ Ringo.
Claxton entered the short go 6.5 points behind Hayes Weinberger from Breien, North Dakota. But Claxton rode Skullbone Buckers Rodeo’s Ringo for 86 points to put the pressure on Weinberger. The North Dakota cowboy made the 6-second whistle, but his 75-point ride wasn’t enough to hold off Claxton.
“I was chasing Hayes all week,” Claxton said. “But that’s the way I do it. That’s my way.”
In the senior division, Kooper Heimburg of San Tan Valley, Arizona, won the short go with a 90 on R&R Rodeo’s Wreckless Kelly, but Beau Kelly of Coolidge, Arizona, had an 88 on CT Rodeo’s Foxy to win the average with 243.5 points.
The Chris Villanueva Show brought the championship round to an exciting close Monday.
Villanueva entered the short go as the only senior bull rider to cover two bulls after an 89.5 in the first round and an 86.0 in the second round. He made it three for three with an 84.5 in the final round.
No other bull rider made it to the 8-second whistle Monday.
“I had a good week,” Villanueva said, in what was the understatement of the rodeo so far.
So did Cookston, who started his day by winning the 10-11 division with 191 points on three head.
“I knew it would be hard,” the 11-year-old from Trinidad, Texas, said, “but I really wanted to be a world champion so I just tried my hardest.”
Cookston later won the short round in the junior division of both the bareback and the saddle bronc to win the junior all-around title.
Linden Raaen won the 12-13 division to give Australia back-to-back world champions after fellow Aussie Chris Wilson won the 14-15 division last year.
In the 14-15 division, Caynyon Jolly of Austin, Texas, had an 81.5 to win the short go and won the average title with a 235.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Elvis was in the building Monday. More precisely, Elvis Bishop was in the Las Vegas Convention Center.
And, like his namesake, the 10-year-old from Lebanon, Ohio, left town a winner.
Bishop rode 406 Rodeo’s Frank Sinatra for 67 points to win the peewee division average title.
“It feels pretty good to be a world champion,” Bishop said. “And it’s cool because I was the only one to stay on three broncs.”
Eylam Podolak of Canada won the junior division when he became the only competitor to cover two head with a 61 on Blue Music Ranch Rodeo’s Albert.
Lane Leeper of Leon, Iowa, was the only cowboy in the senior division to cover all three broncs, scoring 68 points on CT Rodeo’s Donald in the short go, to win the average title with a 193.
“This is what I had in mind when I came here,” Leeper admitted. “I just had to go out there and do what I do.”
That same formula worked for Jaret Cooper in the novice division. The Canadian cowboy won the short go with a 78 aboard R&R Rodeo’s Cheerleader. He entered the final round in third place more than 40 points back of both Mason Stuller and Stran Nielson, but when they both bucked off Cooper was the world champion.