KISSIMMEE, Fla. – A lot of young men from the Northeast are in Florida this week for the annual rite of extreme behavior that is spring break. Not a one of them is going home with better memories or demonstrable reason for pride than Pennsylvania bull rider Mike Adams.
The recent graduate of the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades showed plenty of trade craft in riding Footloose of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo string for 84 points and the first-round win at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo worth $6,182.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Adams said, “so this doesn’t shock me. I had a good bull and I made it work. He went out around to the left and got me over his head, but I sat up and got (centered) again. I didn’t feel real comfortable out there, but I hope I looked comfortable.”
The judges seemed to think so. His 84-point score was eight points better than 2014 Reserve World Champion Joe Frost in second place, and was one of only four qualified rides in 24 tries in Silver Spurs Arena over the first two nights of this national championship event.
To understand how utterly unexpected this win might seem to the casual rodeo fan, a little background is in order.
Adams, 22, didn’t start rodeoing until 2010, just before his 18th birthday. He went to one of the Cowtown Rodeos that the Harris family has been running for more than 50 years in Pilesgrove, N.J., and just decided that bull riding was something he wanted to try.
There was no family background here – father, Dale, is a carpenter and mother, Sue, is a school aid. More than that, his family wasn’t openly dubious about this change in sports from baseball, football and lacrosse to something more, well, life threatening.
“They didn’t really try to talk me out of it,” Adams said, “but they weren’t for it either. That’s for sure. They were just trying to be good parents.”
Adams learned the basics of bull riding by going to a small practice facility called the Luck of the Draw in Woodstown, N.J., and another practice pen about 90 miles from his home in Oxford, Pa., which had sessions every Monday.
“And I was there every Monday,” Adams said, “When Gary Leffew held a bull riding school in Grantville (Pa.) I went to that. I went to his school a couple of times. A First Frontier rider named Jason Power really helped with the mental side of bull riding, and I just kept working to get better.”
Despite the fact that Adams never felt like he had a natural gift for the sport, he has progressed rapidly. Since his first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo in 2011, he has qualified for the RNCFR each of the last three years and is now in position to become the first bull rider from the First Frontier Circuit to ever win this rodeo.
“That’s the plan,” Adams said.
The other first-round winners at this 29th edition of the RNCFR were bareback rider Tim O’Connell (83 points on Silver Spurs Club’s Ned Ross), steer wrestler Wade Steffen (4.5 seconds), team ropers Rob Webb and Dan Webb (4.9 seconds), saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley (84 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Famous Dave’s), tie-down roper Rhen Richard (7.8 seconds) and barrel racer Lisa Lockhart (16.44 seconds).
In addition to Adams, Steffen, Richard and Lockhart all had their winning efforts on the Thursday night session that completed the first round. The second round begins Friday night with a 7:30 p.m. (ET) performance.
The tournament-style RNFCR format determines the national circuit champions in each event. All 24 qualifiers from the 12 circuits compete in the two preliminary rounds of the rodeo. The top eight contestants from each event advance to the semifinal round, with all previous scores and times thrown out. The top four move on to the final round, a sudden‑death competition that determines the national circuit champion in each event.
Because the top four contestants begin that final round with a clean slate, each one has an equal opportunity to claim an RNCFR title.
Event winners each receive a $20,000 voucher toward the purchase of a new RAM Truck and a Polaris Ranger utility vehicle in addition to their winnings.
Wrangler Network is airing live webcasts of the rodeo’s first four performances and, after the event, highlights from the RNCFR will be televised on CBS Sports Net; see ProRodeo.com/TV for the telecast schedule.
RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo
Kissimmee, Fla., March 25-28
Bareback riding: First round: 1. Tim O’Connell, 83 points on Silver Spurs Club’s Ned Ross, $6,182; 2. Joe Gunderson, 80, $4,683; 3. Jessy Davis, 79, $3,372; 4. (tie) Kaycee Feild, Micky Downare and Austin Foss, 78, $1,499 each.
Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Wade Steffen, 4.5 seconds, $6,182; 2. Beau Clark, 4.6, $4,683; 3. Tooter Silver, 4.9, $3,372; 4. Josh Peek, 5.2, $2,248; 5. Austin Manning, 5.6, $1,311; 6. Aaron Vosler, 5.7, $937.
Team roping: First round: 1. Rob Webb/Dan Webb, 4.9 seconds, $6,182 each; 2. (tie) Coleman Proctor/Billie Saebens; Rhett Anderson/Cole Wilson, and Jade Stoddard/Ike Folsom, 5.0, $3,434 each; 5. (tie) Zach Kilgus/Justin Yost and Blake Hirdes/Joseph Shawnego, 5.2, $1,124 each.
Saddle bronc riding: First round: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 84 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Famous Dave’s, $6,182; 2. Wade Sundell, 83, $4,683; 3. Jeff Willert, 81, $3,372; 4. Jesse Wright and Taos Muncy, 80, $1,780 each; 6. Cody Taton, 79, $937.
Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Rhen Richard, 7.8 seconds, $6,182; 2. (tie) Jesse Clark and Ryan Jarrett, 8.0, $4,028 each; 4. Jerome Schneeberger, 8.3, $2,248; 5. Marty Yates, 8.4, $1,311; 6. Jared Kempker, 8.8, $937.
Barrel racing: First round: 1. Lisa Lockhart, 16.44 seconds, $6,182; 2. Lindsay Kruse, 16.45, $4,683; 3. Natalie Foutch, 16.49, $3,372; 4. Nancy Hunter, 16.53, $2,248; 5. Carmel Wright, 16.54, $1,311; 6. Cheyenne Schnelle, 16.59, $937.
Bull riding: First round: 1. Mike Adams, 84 points on Pete Carr’s Classic ProRodeo’s Footloose, $6,182; 2. Joe Frost, 76, $4,683; 3. Bart Miller, 74, $3,372; 4. Josh Frost, 69, $2,248; no other qualified rides.
Total payoff: $749,316. Stock contractors: 4L & Diamond S Rodeo, Barnes PRCA Rodeo, Cowtown Rodeo, Klein Brothers Rodeo, Korkow Rodeos, MJM Rodeo, Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, Pete Carr’s Classic ProRodeo, Rafter H Rodeo Livestock, Rocky Mountain Rodeo, Silver Spurs Club, Smith, Harper & Morgan Rodeo, Stace Smith Pro Rodeo, Sutton Rodeo, Three Hills Rodeo and United ProRodeo. Rodeo secretary: Carole Martinez. Officials: Skip Emmett, George Gibbs, Cliff Overstreet and Glenn Sullivan. Timers: Amy Muller and Mary Borgen. Announcers: Bob Tallman and Roger Mooney. Specialty act: Troy Lerwill. Bullfighters: Lucas Littles and Josh Rivinius. Clown/barrelman: Dennis Halstead. Flankman: Various. Chute boss: Gerry Byrn. Pickup men: Jeremy Willis and Shawn Calhoun. Photographers: James Phifer and Mike Rastelli.
Courtesy of PRCA