By BRAD KEITH
(December 8, 2014) — Tarleton State University cowboy Richie Champion gave himself an early birthday present Monday night.
Champion posted a whopping 88.5 aboard 2014 PRCA Bucking Horse of the Year Dirty Jacket in the bareback riding, winning the first event of the fifth performance in the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Eight days before his 22nd birthday, Champion earned a $19,002.40 pay day.
It’s the first WNFR for Champion, who is originally from Orange County, Calif. and lists his current residence as The Woodlands. He’s only three years removed from winning the Texas high school bareback riding championship, and has reached the College NFR as a member of the Tarleton rodeo team.
Champion leaped to sixth in the average with the best individual bareback score through all five rounds. He split the sixth-place money in Sunday’s fourth go-round.
While Champion celebrated his victory, other local cowboys took their turns to shine.
Stephenville heeler Jake Long partnered with header Coleman Proctor to win the team roping in 4.1 seconds. Long won $19,002.40.
Huckabay’s Charly Crawford and former Dublin resident Shay Carroll were second in 4.3 seconds. They made $15,018.03 each.
Legendary Hico tie-down roper Cody Ohl is still seeking his record-tying 51st go-round victory, but he did add $7,968.75 to his pocket book by placing fourth in 8.20 seconds Monday night.
Ryan Watkins of Bluff Dale placed sixth in 9.40 and earned $3,064.90.
A night after winning for the second time in his first WNFR, Stephenville’s Marty Yates missed on his calf, part of a rough night for the world’s best in the event Only two runs were completed in under eight seconds.
Brittany Diaz of Desdemona split third and fourth in the round five barrel race in 13.88. She won $9,654.44. Stephenville’s Carlee Pierce was sixth in 13.93, earning $3,064.90.
In all, local competitors won more than $90,000 in round five alone, pushing their total to more than $550,000. Round six is Tuesday night, and like all rounds, will be televised by CBS Sports.