For rodeo cowboys, goal is to stay No. 1 to the end

The top-ranked cowboys have their eyes on the end of the season

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanJuly 18, 2013 

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The 98th Snake River Stampede Tuesday July 16, 2013 at the Idaho Center in Nampa.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

NAMPA — Being No. 1 during the rodeo season is an envied position, but it means little unless that top ranking stands when all is said and done in December.

The first three events of Wednesday's second night of the Snake River Stampede at the Idaho Center featured the current top-ranked competitors in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings.

For each one, to be on top is worthy of a smile when it is brought up, but the night-in, night-out grind of their sport means it is a tenuous position.

“It’s a good feeling, but you can’t feel too gratified, because someone’s always wanting to get ahead of you — and the most important thing is being No. 1 at the very end, because otherwise, being on top and not finishing there isn’t anything to brag about,” bareback leader Kaycee Feild said.

Here is a look at the competitors, and their thoughts on being No. 1:

KAYCEE FEILD, BAREBACK

“This place has been pretty good to me,” Feild said Tuesday after scoring an 80. Feild, who won at the Caldwell Night Rodeo last year, also won at the Snake River Stampede in 2009.

He is the two-time defending world champion in the bareback, where he leads so far this season with $70,768 in earnings.

“You try not to pay attention to it, because there’s a lot of time left — but it’s good in a way because you’re one step closer to the big goal,” Feild said.

While he is quick to point out that the riders are all close, often traveling to the same rodeos, competing against one another dozens of times per year, it’s also every man for himself.

“Every one of them is gunning for you, and I want to kick each and every one of their (butts) every day,” Feild said. “They know it, you hear them announce it when you’re in the chute, so there’s some pressure, but it’s just you out there — the horse is going to try to buck you off if you’re in first or last.”

CASEY MARTIN, STEER WRESTLING

Being on top is new for Martin, who took down his steer in 3.7 seconds, good for second on the night, and has earned $53,787 this season.

The Louisiana native finished second in the world last year after a strong finish to his year, and has carried that momentum into an even better 2013.

"It's kind of been rolling ever since," Martin said. "It's great to see your name on top of the standings, but everyone's chasing you all the time, when you're competing, or when you're not — they're like 'oh, you're No. 1, guess we know who's buying dinner.'"

Martin has appreciated his position, but has tried to keep in perspective, saying with a laugh that he didn't really set a goal of being No. 1 "now — but in December, sure."

"I try to stay focused, not worry about what's going on in the rankings or what is down the road," Martin said. "You just have to worry about scoring well on that next one, then those rankings will take care of itself."

TRAVIS GRAVES AND KALEB DRIGGERS, TEAM ROPING

The new partnership between Graves and Driggers paid immediate dividends.

"Our first rodeo, we won, and it's just gone from there," Graves said of the Walker County Fair and Rodeo in Hunstville, Texas in April.

Graves, who teamed the past three years with Clay Tryan, is in his first season with Driggers, who won last year's Snake River Stampede with Jade Corkill. Their 6.0-second mark tied for third on Wednesday.

The pair has earned more than $70,000 each thus far, with Graves as the header and Driggers as the heeler.

"It's hard not to be aware of it, and we want to go in (to the finals) on top, so we've got to keep doing what we've been doing," Graves said.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT RECAP

Helena, Mont.'s Chase Erickson scored an 87 in the bareback, one shy of the top mark from last year's Stampede. Other top performers on Wednesday were Taylor Toves (84 points in bullring), Bryson Sechrist (10.3 seconds in tie-down roping), Shada Brazile (15.87 seconds in barrel racing), Joaquin Real (85 points in saddle bronc), Tom Lewis (3.5 seconds in steer wrestling) and Bryce Palmer and Garrett Rogers (5.0 seconds in team roping).

TOUGH GIG

In Wednesday's Idaho Statesman, we featured the Stampede's rodeo clowns and their roles in entertaining while keeping riders safe. They often put themselves in harm's way — and that was on display Wednesday night when a bull crashed into bullfighter Will O'Connell's knee as he jumped onto a gate.

Medical personnel at the Idaho Center said the preliminary findings indicated a torn medial collateral ligament.

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