CLOVIS, N.M. – Once he realized he would not be qualifying for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the first time in nine years, Austin Meier decided to immediately turn the page toward 2015 and recharge.
He has spent the past 27 days resting and letting his body heal after competing on Oct. 4 at the Locust Grove, Oklahoma, Touring Pro Division event.
The goal was to return to action at the start of the 2015 season at full strength, and that is exactly what Meier did on Friday night at the fourth annual L.J. Jenkins Invitational on inside the Curry County Events Center.
Meier rode Spotted Velvet for 89.5 points to win Round 1 to take the lead at the $50,000-added BlueDEF Velocity Tour event, which concludes on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. MT, and can be viewed exclusively on PBR LIVE. Points earned at PBR events in November and December count toward the 2015 standings.
“He was kind of gunning it to the left and into the latch,” Meier said. “He kind of tried to suck me down into the well at first. Part of me kind of went like, ‘Oh, crap,’ but then I just went to hustling. I went to what I know and that is scrambling and making moves. I scratched and crawled out of there and once I got out of there, the bull fit me pretty good.”
Brady Sims sits in second place thanks to his 89-point ride on Crazy Days and Bonner Bolton is currently third after an 88-point effort aboard Dirt Devil.
There were a total of 13 qualified rides in Round 1. The event winner will get a chance to take on Joe’s Boot Shop Shattered Dreams on Saturday night in a special $10,000 bonus ride.
The L.J. Jenkins Invitational is the first marquee event of the 2015 season and featured a handful of riders that qualified for last week’s 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals, including Fabiano Vieira, Cody Nance, Marco Eguchi and L.J. Jenkins.
Meier had seen Spotted Velvet at past events and even watched a couple videos of the bull on ProBullStats.com before attempting the bovine. The 27-year-old doesn’t like to go into a ride with a game plan, because normally that backfires, he said. However, after seeing videos of Spotted Velvet turning back to the right, Meier said that he was prepared for the bull to do just that on Friday.
The Kinta, Oklahoma, native also credited his somewhat-new Brazilian-style bull rope from Bryan Franks that he began using toward the end of the summer. Meier said that since switching to the rope – which has a softer handle – he has been able to crawl up his rope when necessary during an 8-second ride, like he did against Spotted Velvet.
“A lot of it, I think, is a credit to the bull rope I started using during the summer,” Meier explained. “The softer handle helps me get to the front easier and it just fit me good. That is a big part of our game – you being comfortable with your equipment.”
Meier has lost 15 pounds since the end of August and is beginning to regain his groove in time for the start of the 2015 season. He has now ridden at least one bull in his past five TPD events.
“I am glad my plan paid off and what I did during that month worked like I wanted to,” Meier said. “It clicked and I felt great health-wise and mentally. When I nodded my head, I was ready to do what I had been doing before the break. I just felt healthier doing it.”
It is no secret that 2014 was a tough season for Meier. He was cut from the Built Ford Tough Series during the summer break and finished a career-low 48th in the world standings after dealing with a slew of injuries, including his shoulder. Meier rode just 6-of-28 bulls on the BFTS in 2014 (21.43 percent) – a year after he finished 36th in the world.
Regardless, Meier said he enjoyed being home with his 10-month old daughter Kasey Hunter, whom of has him motivated to get back on tour next year.
“It really stinks not making the Finals for 2014, but at the end of the day, I had so many blessings being at home with our little girl and getting to see her first steps and her first words and stuff like that,” Meier said. “No Finals can compare to that, and I think every parent and Dad knows how that feels. Also, aside from those blessings, it really made me hungry to be back there in 2015.”
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