Setting the pace

Dally Sears made the most of his second chance Thursday. Competing on the first day of the Yeti Junior World Finals rodeo in Las Vegas, the Malta, Idaho, cowboy scored 79.5 points on his re-ride to finish the day in second place in the Leal Junior Bull Riding 14-15 division.

When the chute opened on Sears’ first ride, his bull strolled into the Wrangler Rodeo Arena and, no matter how hard Sears tried, the bull was more content to wander around the arena than try to dislodge Sears. After the 8-second buzzer sounded, Sears jumped off the bull and heard his score: 22 points with the option of a re-ride.

His friends who had been helping him prepare before the ride, immediately started telling Sears what to do.

“Dally! You’ve got to take the re-ride!” they shouted.

Sears wasted little time in telling the arena judge that he was indeed taking the re-ride.

Less than 30 minutes later, Sears finished the first day of bull riding with his 79.5-point ride on a white-faced black bull that appeared to be brown before he started bucking the arena dirt off him.

“That actually helped me because it was kind of a warm-up,” Sears said of his first ride. “I was just fine with that. That’s the best bull ride I’ve made in Vegas … so far.”

Luke Mackey of Ignacio’s, Colorado, set the pace in the 14-15 age group with an 80. Blaize Caddenhead of Cold Springs, Texas, is third with a 79.0.

Needless to say, Sears, who is competing in the Junior World Finals for the third time – he previously qualified in 2018-19 – is looking forward to keeping things going the rest of the week.

“I’m really bad at getting distracted,” Sears admitted. “Today I just kept my head in the game and did what I had to and it worked out. That was a big key for me.

“Another big key for me is just having fun, because once you aren’t having fun anymore there’s no point doing it. When I take it way too seriously is when I don’t do well. We’re just here to have fun.

“If you keep doing well you can have a good career in this sport, so you’ve got to have fun while you can because it’s not going to be around forever.”

Even though he’s only 16, the high school junior seemingly has been around the sport for years.

Dally Sears stands with his dad, Jade, after his 79.5-point ride in the 14-15 bull riding division of Leal’s Junior Bull Riding on Thursday at the Junior World Finals.

“He’s wanted to ride bulls since he was 6 months old,” Jade Sears, Dally’s father, said. “He used to sit on the floor and watch Gary Leffew instructional bull riding videos when he was a baby. That was the only thing that would calm him down and get him to sleep. I knew he was going to be a bull rider.”

Dally’s path from watching bull riding videos before he could walk to sitting second after the first round of the Junior World Finals has come with the normal ups and downs associated with the sport.

“I’ve been riding bulls since I was 7 years old,” he said. “My dad started putting me on sheep when I was 3, and then I rode steers and then mini bulls for about three years.

“It’s been a long road and a tough journey, but we made it. We’re here where we need to be.”

Setting the pace

The first competitor of the 2021 Junior World Finals ended the day atop the leaderboard. Ryder Hackett of Soldotna, Alaska, had a 79-point ride to win the first go-round of the 10-11 bull riding.

Other bull riding winners on Thursday were: Damien Krushall of Wharton, Texas (12-13); Mackery (14-15) and Blake Blanchard of Pearland, Texas (16-18).

The Junior Roughstock Association bareback riding and saddle bronc riding also got things started Thursday, crowning first-round winners in four events. Cooper Heimburg of San Tan Valley, Arizona, won novice bareback with an 81; and Kelton Maxfield of Nampa, Idaho, won senior bareback with an 81.5. The saddle bronc riding was a family affair for two cowboys from Breda, Iowa. Zane Magner won the junior division with a 76 and Wade Magner won the rookie division with a 75.5.

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