By: Kristian Limas
October 01, 2016
EUGENE, Ore. – Getting to Eugene, Oregon, can be a bit of an adventure. It is by no means isolated, but it’s one of those towns that requires an early morning flight, long layovers and several plane transfers before you can finally arrive in the mid-size town 110.9 miles south of Portland, Oregon.
After all that travel, it can be difficult to focus on anything other than just catching your breath and stretching out a bit, let alone get ready to ride an angry bull. So any rider than can get in fresh can definitely have an advantage.
For riders like Shane Proctor (Grand Coulee, Washington) and Derek Kolbaba (Walla Walla, Washington), the Wrangler Long Live Cowboys Classic at the University of Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena is essentially a home game, and having home court means they have the advantage.
You can tune in to Round 1 Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET on PBR LIVE.
The pair of Pacific Northwest cowboys live about five or six hours from Eugene so their travel plans are as simple packing up the car and taking a nice drive. It may not sound like a big deal, but logistics can matter.
“It’s almost relaxing because you’ll have so many people you know there,” Proctor said. “My whole family will be there and it just feels good to ride in these big events in front of them.”
Proctor, who is currently 10th in the world standings, is just starting to break out of a slump in the second half. He finished in seventh place last weekend in Colorado Springs and is 4-for-16 in the second half so far.
It was a good sign for Proctor who, until Tulsa, Oklahoma, this past August, had not covered a bull on the BFTS since winning Iron Cowboy back in February.
Part of that is workload. Proctor has been busy riding in PRCA events across the country as he makes a push to qualify for both the Built Ford Tough World Finals and the National Finals Rodeo. Proctor is currently 15th in the PRCA bull riding standings, having earned a total of $80,300.48.
A dose of home cooking is something that may very well help Proctor make a late-season push, and riding near home has been full of positive history.
Proctor won his first BFTS event in 2009 just up the road in Portland and he has always seemed to do well in the Pacific Northwest.
“The first event I won was in Portland,” Proctor said. “I know I have a lot of luck, especially in the Northwest for some reason I just ride better up there.”
Proctor will face Pink Cadillac in Round 1 before facing Bad Moon Rising in the 15/15 Bucking Battle, which will be broadcast by CBS Sports on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, check your local listings.
Kolbaba has also had some recent success in his domain. Kolbaba, who is currently 13th in the world standings, was the winner of the Pendleton, Oregon, BlueDEF Tour event late last month.
It was a particularly sweet victory for Kolbaba, who grew up attending the local rodeo when he was a kid. The win also came at a time where he was in the middle of his own slump, having only recorded two qualified rides on the BFTS since the start of the second half.
If Kolbaba is worried, you wouldn’t be able to tell. For a lot of riders in his position, as long as you stay healthy enough to get on a bull, eventually things will work out. Being close to home is good for his confidence as well.
“When it comes down to it’s just another bull,” Kolbaba said. “You just take it how it goes, stick to the basics and let everything else work itself out.”
Kolbaba, who spent his developmental years attending Proctor’s bull riding school back in Washington, he’s learned to alleviate any pressure that may come his way. For him, as long as he sticks to the process, the points will come eventually.
“You just have to focus on the process,” Kolbaba said. “It is kind of nice having my family there and whatnot, though.”
The rookie has been taking it back to basics recently, and it was a big reason he was able to pick up the win in Pendleton. Which means he will absolutely be looking to carry that over to Eugene.
“It’s just been about forgetting everything else,” Kolbaba said. “Forgetting last month, and whatever else happened and just focusing on getting them ridden and what it’s going to take to do that. That’s what I’m focusing on this week and for the rest of the year.”
Kolbaba will face Mortimer in Round 1 before taking on Spotted Demon in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
With only four events left until the Built Ford Tough World Finals, this home stretch of events is important for positioning before arriving in Las Vegas. With the massive amount of points up for grabs in Las Vegas, any rider within the Top 10 of the world standings can have a realistic shot at the gold buckle.
So while Proctor and Kolbaba won’t take the world standings lead with a good showing in Eugene, a strong performance can put them in great positon to strike once the stakes get much higher in a little less than a month from now.
So you better believe that the pair from Washington will do their best to leverage their home court advantage down the interstate in Oregon, and a little home cooking can work wonders for anybody.
“It puts a fire in me thinking about going to Finals,” Kolbaba said. “There’s a lot of points to be made there and there’s a lot of points to be made before the Finals, so it definitely lights a bit of a fire.”
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