By BRAD KEITH
(March 29, 2015) — Marty Yates is a national champion. As in Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion.
Yates, 21, set the Silver Spurs Arena and RNCFR records in Kissimmee, Florida, Saturday, roping and tying his calf in 6.9 seconds to win the tie-down roping, a championship that includes $25,000, a $20,000 voucher toward a new RAM pick-up and a Polaris.
The money and prizes don’t count toward the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association standings, where Yates is fourth with already more than $23,000 after he reached the National Finals Rodeo and finished sixth with more than $140,000 last year. But Saturday’s National Circuit Finals proved to be one of the largest single paydays in the career of the young Erath County cowboy.
He also labeled it as one of his greatest accomplishments.
“This is kind of the next biggest thing to the NFR. It’s the big finals for all the guys who don’t get to rodeo all throughout the year,” said Yates in a Sunday phone interview. “It was cool for me just to represent our circuit in a field made of all but two guys that have been in the NFR, and eight or nine of them were in the NFR last year. To win out there, it was pretty special.”
The Finals and Silver Spurs Arena record had been tied then fallen earlier in the week, and was 7.2 before Yates shattered it Saturday.
“It’s always a great feeling to break a record, they’re meant to be broken,” said Yates. “I was just trying to make a great run, and it all came together. It was awesome, a great feeling for sure.”
The circuit system may not count toward the NFR, but it is part of the PRCA. Developed in 1975, the circuit system awards points to cowboys who pick a home circuit or are given one based on address at the beginning of the season. Athletes compete for points at regional rodeos in hopes of reaching their respective circuit finals, according to Pro Rodeo Sports News Mag.
Two cowboys in each event represent the circuit in the national finals – the regular season points leader and the circuit finals winner. Six of the top seven tie-down ropers in the 2014 world standings are in Texas, making it difficult for even the top Texas tie-down ropers to even reach the national finals.
With his success in both events counting toward the NFR and those that don’t, Yates has earned some time off following his next competition in the Wrangler Champions’ Challenge, part of the Clark County Fair and Rodeo in Logandale, Nevada, April 8-11.
“I’m going to compete in that, but I’m not making the California run this spring,” Yates said of his upcoming schedule. “It’s good to have a good winter, because now I don’t have to rodeo quite as hard in the spring. I want to keep my horse fresh and have a fresh start in the summer, because when we leave for the summer tour, we leave for three months. That takes a lot of toll on us and our horses.”
Yates will continue competing in Texas events, such as the overlapping Buc Days Pro Rodeo in Corpus Christi (April 23-26) and the Angelina County Benefit Rodeo in Lufkin (April 22-25).
Primarily, he will be focused on gearing up for the rest of the year, and that includes breaking in a second horse.
“I have to get another horse going so I have a good horse to work with while keeping ‘Chicken’ fresh,” said Yates. Chicken is the 2014 reserve grand champion quarter-horse of the year. “I’d like to keep him fresh and not use him until May.”
It’s all in preparation for Yates to make a run at the ultimate prize – the gold buckle awarded to the world champion.
“I’m in good position to have two horses ready and to be fresh when we get going full-time in the summer, because that’s where it’s at,” said Yates. “That’s when the real grind gets here when you’re driving from rodeo to rodeo and competing, trying to get back to the NFR and get in position to compete for the world title.”