Saddle bronc rider Will Stites had to remember to drive the speed limit while hurrying home on Sunday, hours after finally claiming his first career circuit championship.
It was a reflective and triumphant three-hour trek for the 32-year-old from Jonestown, Pa., and he was euphoric and relieved after winning the RAM First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo at Quillen Arena in Harrington, Del., more than a decade after first buying his PRCA card. Stites won the second round and cashed in the other two over the weekend to finish with 217 points on three head and edge Clovis Crane by three points en route to his first circuit triumph.
“It’s nice to finally get that win,” said Stites, who also won the circuit’s year-end crown after pocketing $5,090 at the circuit finals. “It’s like getting that monkey off your back and all that weight off your shoulders, and (the wait) makes it that much better. I think when I get home and can see my family, it’ll sink in a little bit more.”
He split third place with a 76 in the opening round, then won round two with a 77-point ride aboard Painted Pony Championship Rodeo’s Thomas N Mack before making the whistle in the third round. It was just enough to keep him ahead of Crane.
“It came down to me and Clovis on that last ride,” said Stites, who served as the circuit’s saddle bronc riding event director this year. “It makes it exciting when it’s close like that and you’re riding against all these good guys. I knew I had to go out there and give it all I had, no matter what, and see what I could do.”
For Stites, the victory was a long time coming. He originally bought his card in 2009, then opted for college at Murray (Ky.) State University after an inauspicious start to his pro career.
“I just wasn’t riding very good, and if you’re not consistent, it beats you up,” Stites said. “So, I went on to other parts of my life.”
Stites returned to ProRodeo in 2015 after finishing his degree in equine management – he’s a thoroughbred trainer – and started a family with wife, Tracy. They have a 7-year-old daughter, Kaylee, and a 3-year-old son, Cole, children they’ll likely be taking to Disney World when they head to Kissimmee, Fla., for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, April 9-11.
“They’ll have a blast,” Stites said.
Not only is Stites looking forward to taking his family to Florida next spring, but he’s excited to head there with buddies Tim Kent and Austin Beaty, who won the circuit’s bareback riding and bull riding titles, respectively.
“They’re two pretty good friends of mine, and it’s cool to be able to go down there with them,” Stites said. “I’m excited to go down there and ride against some of the big guys and to get to go there and represent the circuit.”
Other event winners from the three-day rodeo were: all-around cowboy Zane Kilgus ($9,929, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping); bareback rider Tim Kent (247 points on three head); steer wrestler John Leinaweaver (26.9 seconds on three head); team ropers Zane Kilgus and Scot Brown (33.0 seconds on three head); tie-down roper J.R. Myers (33.0 seconds on three head); barrel racer Christina Mulford (47.44 seconds on three runs); and bull rider Austin Beaty (162.5 points on two head).
For more coverage of the RAM First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo, check out the Oct. 30 edition of ProRodeo Sports News.
Courtesy of PRCA