Bringing in world-class bronc riders
At the 58th annual Champions Ride at Home on the Range in Sentinel Butte, competing saddle bronc riders are treated like kings.
Saddle bronc legend Brad Gjermundson, who is in charge of getting the best cowboys and bucking horses, made sure to pull out all the stops each year to try and get the best possible talent for the Champions Ride he can.
“There’s a lot of rodeos going on this time of year so there’s a lot of top guys rodeoing hard that can’t make it, they’re up somewhere else,” Gjermundson said. “We run an airplane from Dodge City, Kan., up here and back to Phillipsburg, Kan., and Dodge City trying to get some of those best riders to come. It works, we fill the plane.”
Gjermundson is no stranger to the Champions Ride. The North Dakota native competed in the rodeo since 1980 as well as helping out in any way possible for the past 10-12 years. He has thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the rodeo, whether competing or coordinating because of what it stands for, raising money for the Home on the Range, as well as strive to keep the tradition and spirit of the rodeo alive and maintain its success.
When it comes to recruiting riders, Gjermundson tries to get a healthy combination of the top riders in the PRCA as well as local up and coming riders to give them a chance to get seasoned and win some big money.
Of the riders, two world champions will be in attendance, Jeff Willert who won in 2005 and Jesse Wright in 2012, as well as National Finals Rodeo qualifiers like J.J. and Cole Elshere, Isaac Diaz, Dickinson’s Dusty Hausauer and reigning Champions Ride winner Josh Reynolds.
A total of 32 riders from 10 different states are traveling to Home on the Range with a pair of cowboys who left last year’s rodeo just shy of winning. Diaz from Desdemona, Texas and Cole Elshere from Faith, S.D., tied as runner-ups for the Champions Ride, each scoring 84 points.
From his hometown, Elshere has to travel roughly three and a half hours to Sentinel Butte. Traveling on the road as much as he does, Elshere looks at the Champions Ride as a home coming.
“It’s always fun with good horses and (my) neighbors and usually my relatives come and watch and it’s almost kind of a family deal,” he said. “We go up there and hang out and my cousins will be in it. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Diaz has competed in the Champions Ride five times and will be competing in the rodeo for the fourth consecutive year.
There are several factors which factor into why Diaz, among other competitors keep coming back to Sentinel Butte.
“I love that deal,” Diaz said. “...It pays unbelievable, they take care of us getting us back down to these rodeos down here and make it easy for us to get back up and down and affordable. Plus, there’s also really good horses to get on and when you get on you feel good about yourself whenever you leave there.”
Diaz has placed every time he has competed in the rodeo, including coming runner-up two of the last three years. But as close as he has come, he is still yearning to get that overall win.
“I’m ready to win the deal,” he said. “It pays $10,000 to win it and I’ve come really close so hopefully this year we can get it done.”
MacDonald is a sports reporter for The Dickinson Press. Tweet her at MegtotheMac.