By: Susan Kanode
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Cheyenne Frontier Days is known for taking rodeo contestants out of their comfort zones.
Frontier Days boasts a big arena and animals have a lot of ground to cover. Nowhere is that more evident than in the timed events and it often takes a “never quit” mentality to get the job done. No one knows that better than Kyle Whitaker who has been a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association since 1995. Whitaker moved to the top of the leaderboard in steer wrestling with a 7.1-second run and is moving onto the Semi Finals.
The Nebraska native has been coming to Cheyenne nearly every year since then and in the early days would also enter the tie-down roping and saddle bronc riding. His prowess in rough stock and timed events has earned him the prestigious Linderman Award a record six times.
Now when he competes, he specializes in steer wrestling and that paid off for him here. He now lives in Bozeman, Montana, where he works as the rodeo coach at Montana State University. If his success here continues, he could win his first championship at the “Daddy of ‘em All.”
Tuesday’s saddle bronc riding competition was extremely competitive with a star-studded field, but the riders had their challenges in the big arena as well. Shorty Garrett, from Eagle Butte, South Dakota, ended up at the top of the board with 85.5-point ride on his second horse of the day. He got on a re-ride after an equipment failure and made the best of it. His success came aboard Stace Smith Rodeo’s horse named Levi the Boss.
Lefty Holman from Visalia, California, and Orin Larsen from Inglis, Manitoba, both kept their momentum going here. Last Sunday, Holman was crowned bareback champion and Larsen won the saddle bronc riding at California Rodeo Salinas. They both will be advancing to the Semi Finals here after finishing second in their respective events.
The bareback riding winner was Bill Tutor from Huntsville, Texas, who has one Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification to his credit. Tutor was one-half point ahead of Larsen at 85 on Rocky Mountain Rodeo’s Cracked Pepper. Larsen also won the bareback riding in Frontier Park in 2016.
Taycie Matthews from Wynne, Arkansas is another Salinas champion who competed here today. The reigning National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association champion is loving being in Wyoming again. She won her college title in Casper last month. Matthews, who is a junior at the University of West Alabama, was 11th in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world standings in mid-July and is hoping to secure her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification. A win here would certainly help her do that.
Quarter Finals 5 begins on Wednesday at 12:45 where new contestants in every event will be vying for their spots in the Semi Finals.