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Starting on a good note: Cowboys, cowgirls have solid showing on first day of Roughrider Days Rodeo

Press Photos by Royal McGregor Above, Bryce Miller of Nelson, Neb., completes his saddle bronc ride during the first day of the Roughriders Days Rodeo on Friday at the DSU Outdoor Arena. Miller finished with the top score in the event at 78 points. Below, Carmel Wright of Roy, Mont., rides in the barrel racing. Wright had the top time in the first day at 16.79 seconds.1 / 2
Carmel Wright of Roy, Mont., rides in the barrel racing during the first day of the Roughriders Days Rodeo on Friday at the DSU Outdoor Arena. Wright had the top time in the first day at 16.79 seconds.2 / 2

Eli Lord is new to professional rodeo.

At just 20 years old, the Sturgis, South Dakota native made his Roughrider Days Rodeo debut on Friday in steer wrestling and team roping. He didn’t disappoint in the latter.

Alongside partner Jess Morgan from Ada, Okla., the duo set the standard with six seconds flat at the DSU Outdoor Arena.

Last weekend in Grassy Butte, Lord failed to rope the head of his steer but was given a second chance Friday when drew the same one.

“We kind of made a game plan before and we knew he was a little stronger and it went like we planned,” Lord said. “My partner did a great job heeling it.”

Though Lord is new to the PRCA, he is no stranger to rodeo itself. He comes from a family of ropers, who even competed right after him. Brother Levi and father J.B. competed as a team, but failed to make a time.

While adjusting to the professional ranks has been different, Eli said competing with his dad has helped make the transition smoother.

“It’s great to be able to rodeo especially with dad because he’s been doing it for so long,” Eli said with a smile. “He knows all the little things about every place you go, every rodeo and it really helps to have that there.”

Where there were newcomers like Eli Lord, there were also plenty of seasoned riders.

In the first event — bareback riding — two-time defending Badlands Circuit champion Mac Erickson finished his ride with 74 points. Erickson is tied with John Addison of Midland, S.D., for the top spot.

The Sundance, Wyo., rider was hoping for a better perfmance on his bronc — Corn Creek Curtis — but he understands with two days left in the rodeo anything can happen.

“It is what it is,” Erickson said. “It’d be nice to be a bunch more and then guarantee some money, but you got to take them when you get it. I guess it’s tough to beat 74 on some of these horses as it is to beat 84. Got to do what you can.”

In the final event — bull riding — Killdeer’s Riley Blankenship started off with a strong ride and posted a 73. His scored stayed strong until the second to last ride of the night as Joe Bertus from Avon, S.D., took the lead by one point.

“It was a really good bull riding,” Bertus said. “He just jumped out there on the left kind of blew up and had me hustling the whole time.”

As the start of Cowboy Christmas gets underway, Bertus isn’t wasting anytime and will get back on the road to compete in Clear Lake, S.D., today.

With his performance over and the lead in his hands, Bertus said his score gives him a boost of confidence for the rest of the weekend.

“It just sets it up to keep rolling,” he said.

It was the first-ever Roughrider Days Rodeo for Bertus and Blankenship.

Despite the second-place score, Blankenship said it was nice to be home for the first time in a while and compete in front of a familiar crowd.

“I’ve been away from home for a while and my family and friends are here so it’s pretty nice to be at home right now,” said Blankenship, who competes in bull riding for the Black Hills State (S.D.) men’s rodeo team.

“Right now right now we’re on our Cowboy Christmas run so I’ve been traveling a lot lately and now I get to come home for a couple days, so it’s pretty nice. One of my days here and then start back up again in Killdeer next week.”

Other leaders on the night included Carmel Wright from Roy, Mont., in barrel racing after finishing the course in 16.76 seconds and Colt Floyd from Buffalo S.D., with an impressive steer wrestling time of 4.4 seconds.

Beau Franzen leads in tie down roping at 10 seconds and Bryce Miller made the most of his long trip from Nelson Neb., and took the top spot in saddlebronc with 78 points.

The Roughrider Days Rodeo continues for the second of three days at 6:30 p.m. today.

Roughrider Days Rodeo

At DSU Outdoor Arena

Bareback riding: 1 (tie), Mac Erickson, Sundance, Wyo., 74; John Addison, Midland, S.D. 3, Jake Smith, Whitewood, S.D., 67. 4, Patrick Burkinshaw, Hermosa, S.D., 64.

Barrel racing: 1, Carmel Wright, Roy, Mont., 16.76. 2, Lindsay Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., 16.90. 3 (tie), Heather Knerr, Grass Range, Mont., 17.40; Becky Fuson, Conrad, Mont. 5, Shelly Christensen, Sturgis, S.D., 17.45. 6, Wendy Greenough, Buffalo, Wyo., 17.61. 7 (tie), Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 17.67; Bailee Murnion, Buffalo, S.D. 9, Allene Nelson, Grassy Butte, 17.86. 10, Jody Hinz, Grassy Butte, 22.90. 11, Reann Crane, Whitewood, S.D., 22.98.

Bull riding: 1, Joe Bertus, Avon, S.D., 74. 2, Riley Blankenship, Killdeer, 73.

Saddle bronc: 1, Bryce Miller, Nelson, Neb., 78. 2, Kirk Thompson, Brandon, Mant., 76. 3, Jeremy Meeks, Belle Fourche, S.D., 74. 4, Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 69. 5, Dusty Hausauer, Dickinson, 67. 6, Rhett Fitzpatrick, Opheim, Mont., 65. 7, Taos Muncy, Corona, NM, 64. 8 (tie) Wade Yost, Ree Heights, S.D., 62; Cody Ahlgren, Grass Range, Mont. 10, Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., 60.

Steer wrestling: 1, Colt Floyd, Buffalo, S.D., 4.4. 2, Austin Maier, Elgin, 6.0. 3, Sam Olson, Buffalo, S.D., 7.5. 4, Justice Johnson, Bismarck, 15.4.

Team roping: 1, Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D., Jess Morgan, Ada, Okla., 6.0. 2, Tucker Dale, Timber Lake, S.D., Sloan Hendley, Abilene, Texas, 6.8. 3, Beau Franzen, Sidney, Mont., Tim Franzen, Sidney, Mont., 11.9.

Tie-down roping: 1, Beau Franzen, Sidney, Mont., 10. 2, Daine A. McNenny, Sturgis, S.D., 12.6. 3, Austin Ameel, Oxbow, Sask., 18.4. 4, Scott Hoovestol, Almont, 18.6. 5, John Pfaff, Almont, 19.6. 6, Tanner Wznick, Dickinson, 21.2.

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.