By: Justin Felisko
July 18, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – It’s been a yin and yang kind of two weeks for 18-year-old rookie Jess Lockwood.
A week ago, Lockwood was in Bowie, Texas, serving as a guest instructor at the first PBR Academy bull riding school at Cody Lambert’s ranch. This week, Lockwood is now competing against some kids of the same age range at the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in Gillette, Wyoming.
“Kind of,” Lockwood responded when asked if it was a little weird going from instructor to high school competitor, “But I wish I had another year – heck four years – to be with all of my buddies and hang out.”
Some have questioned why Lockwood should even bother trying to win a national title when he is clearly in the running for the World Championship.
The Volborg, Montana, bull rider is 15th in the world standings and 1,079.5 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco.
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney overcame a 1,002.5-point deficit to win the 2015 world title last year.
However, winning a national title is a bucket list item for Lockwood, and he hasn’t lost sight of one of his main goals for this season.
Why is this year different for him compared to his previous trips to the NHSFR?
Well, it is one of the few championships Lockwood has failed at winning in his very brief career.
The three-time Montana State High School Rodeo Association bull riding champion has come up short in each of his previous three trips to the NHSFR.
Lockwood also is motivated after failing to repeat as the Montana state champion last month.
“I was really pissed about it at first, but then I got to thinking that it is nothing,” Lockwood said. “It would have been nice to have won it four times, but one of my good buddies won it so I was happy for him. It is in the past though and I am just focusing on the nationals.”
Lockwood then said with a laugh that he has Cody Lambert and Justin McBride on his case about winning a national title.
“Yeah that and Cody Lambert and McBride are on me about it,” Lockwood said. “They are saying don’t buck off and make us look stupid.
‘Yeah, no problem guys.’
Prior to heading to Wyoming, Lockwood joined Lambert, McBride and J.W. Harris as instructors at PBR Academy last week. Lockwood, who did an open workout to teach the kids in attendance the importance of training, said spending time with the two PBR Ring of Honor members and four-time PRCA champion really helped get him in the right mindset for nationals.
“I was really glad to have that Academy deal before nationals,” Lockwood said. “It refreshed everything, listening to Cody and all of those guys talk. Now that I live there, it is like my second home, Lambert doesn’t tell me that stuff every day. It is just bull riding talk.”
Lockwood took a big step toward finally claiming that illustrious national championship on Sunday night.
He used an 82-point to win the first performance of the first go-round. He is next scheduled to ride on Saturday morning.
It was the first time he eclipsed 80 points during his career at the NHSFR.
“Yeah I hadn’t put up an 80 at the high school finals, so I guess it is pretty nice to finally get that done on my last year,” Lockwood said.
According to the NHSFR rulebook, “National High School Rodeo Association contestants may belong to and participate in professional or non-professional organizations.”
Lockwood added that his partially torn right MCL is feeling much better since aggravating the injury in Bismark, North Dakota, at the 16th annual Dakota Community Bank and Trust BlueDEF Tour event. He also is completely healthy after busting open his head attempting to ride After Party in Bismarck.
“It doesn’t bother me too much,” he said. “Once in while if I keep it bent for too long, it will get kind of sore, but I just had them tape it last night and look at it. They said it is pretty much as strong as the other one now and healed up. I did a bunch of physical therapy at home on it and I got it feeling really good and I am just doing stuff to get it back up. I was ready to get on.”
Depending on how the rest of the first performance goes between now and Friday, there is a chance Lockwood could be leading the bull riding heading into Saturday’s final two rounds of competition.
Lockwood was leading the NHSFR his freshman year and bucked off in the championship round. He then had the same ill-fate last year.
If he can break through in his final attempt at winning a national title, he would join Chase Outlaw (2009) as the only two riders on the Built Ford Tough Series with a national title on his resume. Joseph McConnel, who used to compete full time on the BFTS, won a national title in 2012. Lane Frost won the 1981 national title.
“I have come close two out of the three years,” Lockwood said. “I figure I am bound to get a short round bull rode and I am just hoping it is this year.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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