PUEBLO, Colo. – Looking back at his Built Ford Tough Series debut three years ago, Bonner Bolton has no problem admitting that it was a missed opportunity.
Bolton went 1-for-12 in six BFTS events in 2012 and would only go on to compete at one more BFTS event – 2014 Allentown – before getting another chance this year.
The Odessa, Texas, native has thrived in making the most of his second opportunity. Bolton has gone 5-for-11 (45.45 percent) and is ranked 20th in the world standings heading into this weekend’s First Premier Bank PremierBankCard Invitational.
“I definitely know that I have seen opportunity come and go once before and I don’t want to see it go away again,” Bolton said. “I am going to do all I can to work at it every week, but it is still a sport. You have to keep it fun.”
Bolton set two career-highs this past weekend in Fresno. He finished a BFTS-best fourth overall and rode LL Cool J for 88.25 points to tie Fabiano Vieira for the championship-round win.
He finished 2-for-3 for his second two-ride performance in the past three weeks and has moved into second in the Rookie of the Year race behind Kaique Pacheco.
Bolton explained that his progression to the BFTS has been two-fold in the past three years. While part of his current success has been taking more responsibility in his life, the other side of it is he is trying to be a more consistent bull rider that puts in the time necessary to succeed.
“Most of all, I am trying to keep my priorities straight as far as I can from week to week and focus on the things that are the most important,” Bolton said.
He added that by taking care of his priorities in his own life, he has been able to bring a mental confidence into the arena and focus on the tall task at-hand of competing against the best bull riders in the world.
Bolton earned his way back onto the BFTS by going a combined 9-for-11 on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division earlier this year and made his 2015 BFTS debut in Oklahoma City last month.
“Where I was lacking before was definitely pointed out to me this past time around and it has done nothing but make me want to grow and become better.”
Bolton has been spending time with current world leader Matt Triplett and seven-year BFTS veteran Douglas Duncan to try and learn the ropes better.
He also has been training at Michael Johnson Performance on and off since last year and when he arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Fresno he was wearing a purple MJP t-shirt.
Bolton said the training regimen at MJP has been extremely beneficial to him after he has dealt with a chronic elbow injury for most of his career.
“I hurt it just by overriding when I was younger and going to all of these rodeos and Touring Pros,” Bolton said. “I tore my biceps off and over the years I came back and it kept accumulating, and then getting slammed, and bone fragments were racking up in my elbow to where I couldn’t straighten out my arm. It is still not perfectly straight.”
Bolton had a minor surgery done on the elbow in the summer of 2013 to remove some of the fragments.
He spent last season trying to work his way back into better riding shape and ended the year on a high-note when he qualified for the final regular-season BFTS event in Allentown, where he went 2-for-3, by winning the Locust Grove, Oklahoma, TPD event.
Bolton said the cryotherapy sessions he participated in at the Michael Johnson Performance center in McKinney, Texas, have done wonders for his elbow and other bumps and bruises that come with trying to conquer 1,800-pound bucking beasts.
“The technology they have, like the cryo machine, is totally geared toward healing all of the areas you are sore or places that you are injured or have been injured before. You get out of there and you feel brand new again.”
Normally, cryo therapy uses cooled, liquid nitrogen that can be chilled to various temperatures, such as -257 F degrees. The treatment only lasts between 2 and 3 minutes.
Bolton added that training exercises have improved at MJP since he first started going there. MJP has developed a year of data to formulate programs that are specific to bull riding and individual athletes.
“Everything targeted is what we use when we are riding,” Bolton said. “There are a lot of coordination drills and fast agility switch drills – stuff that is really targeting on fast movement and reaction and balance.”
Now, Bolton hopes to take the next step in his career.
“This is what I look at as my career and this is everything I want to put myself into right now while I am at this age,” Bolton concluded. “It can go away at the end of any day. I am dedicating myself in every way I can.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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