Bubble Cowboys Qualify for WNFR on Last Weekend

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Beau Hill Justin Boots Championships Omaha Nebraska 2014
Beau Hill rode Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Beer Gut for 83 points to finish third in the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb., and the $4,456 he earned there was enough to qualify him into the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time since 2004.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – After a 10-year absence, bull rider Beau Hill is headed back to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as one of a handful of contestants who made the Big Show in Las Vegas during a frantic final week of the regular season.

The West Glacier, Mont., cowboy made his advance a reality by finishing third at the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha on Sept. 26, and also adding a check in Kansas City the next day.

“This is great,” Hill, 35, said about returning to the Wrangler NFR for the first time since 2004. “It’s the goal at the beginning of the year to get in the Finals and win a world championship. I was, like, $600 out that last weekend and I knew I had to win, and it felt good to have that pressure and get the job done.”

Thanks to winning $4,456 in Omaha and $355 for tying for sixth place at the American Royal Pro Rodeo in Kansas City, Hill moved from 16th to 13th, ahead of Aaron Pass, Elliot Jacoby and Brett Stall. Stall finished $1,498 behind Jacoby for the final qualifying spot.

There was also a change at the top end of the bull riding standings, required because four-time and reigning World Champion J.W. Harris failed to compete in the minimum number of PRCA rodeos required (40) to be able to count the money earned on the Xtreme Bulls Tour.

Without the $47,726 he earned as Tour champion, Harris dropped from third to sixth in the world standings with $77,307 – $65,858 behind leader Sage Kimzey.

“That’s going to light a fire under me and motivate me more to do good out there (at the WNFR),” Harris said.

While Harris dropped three spots, Hill was just worried about making it into the top 15. His 83-point ride aboard Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Beer Gut is what helped punch his ticket to Las Vegas for the Dec. 4-13 Wrangler NFR.

“I had never been on that bull before,” Hill said. “I saw him in Fort Madison (Iowa) a few weeks before and Howdy Cloud rode him for 85 points, so I knew he was a really good bull. I knew I was just going to have to do my part. It was a great bull. He jumped out there and turned back into my hand and was just really good. I kind of got to spurring on him at the end and it just felt like I made a great ride.”

Although the Justin Boots Championships ended Sept. 26, Hill didn’t realize he placed third behind Tim Bingham (85 points) and Trey Benton III (84) until the next day.

“I was in Kansas City and I didn’t think I was going to end up finishing that high (at Omaha), but that’s just the way it worked out, that I finished third,” Hill said. “It was pretty exciting.”

This is Hill’s third trip to the WNFR, with his other two trips coming in 2002 and 2004 when he finished seventh and fifth, respectively, in the world standings.

“Ten years (since going to the Finals) is a long time, and it feels special to me to make it,” Hill said. “That was a goal of mine at the beginning of the year, and I guess I’m running out of years as far as bull riders go, so it feels good to reach a goal like this.”

Hill wasn’t the only cowboy to qualify for the WNFR with a flurry in the last week, as bareback rider Steven Dent, steer wrestler Seth Brockman, saddle bronc rider Dustin Flundra, and pending an audit, the team roping pair of Tom Richards and Cesar de la Cruz, made it into the WNFR field by each finishing 15th.

Richards and de la Cruz advanced to the coveted Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with huge final weeks.

Richards pocketed $12,120, and de la Cruz earned $10,858.

Pending further review, Richards made his first WNFR with $66,744 – $1,802 more than 16th-place Chad Masters, who won gold buckles in 2007 and 2012. De la Cruz has now qualified for nine WNFRs in a row after edging out No. 16 Kinney Harrell by $2,774.

Dent qualified for his seventh WNFR berth, and fifth in a row, with checks in Omaha, Neb., San Bernardino, Calif., and Stephenville, Texas, to bump injury-plagued R.C. Landingham out of the 15th spot by $3,532.

The highlight for Dent was his win in Stephenville, where his 91-point ride on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket equaled the highest-scored bareback ride of the season; Richmond Champion was also 91 on Dirty Jacket at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days. Dent started the week 16th.

Brockman, of Wheatland, Wyo., rose from 17th to 14th during the week by tying for second place at the Wrangler Champions Challenge in Omaha, and tying for seventh in the Justin Boots Championships, for total earnings of $5,800.

Ty Erickson dropped to 15th, and the odd man out was Blake Knowles, who fell all the way to 18th in this closest of all the races. Erickson’s total earnings of $52,470 was just $64 better than No. 16 Tom Lewis, and Riley Duvall was $445 back in 17th. This will be Brockman’s second WNFR qualification; he made the field in 2011 and placed in three rounds.

In saddle bronc riding, Dustin Flundra edged Troy Crowser by a mere $148 to claim the No. 15 spot.

Despite having used up his rodeo count (he won two checks during the week), Spencer Wright held on to the 13th spot in the world standings to earn his first WNFR berth and join brothers Cody, Jesse and Jake in the field. It is the first time four brothers have ever qualified for the WNFR.

Tie-down roper Cody Ohl, who was outside the top 50 in mid-July, moved up one more spot to 14th, and will be going to his 20th WNFR.

Courtesy of PRCA