Brave cowboys dream big at Battle to Reno rodeo

Young cowboys hopped on raging, bucking bulls July 28 at the Battle to Reno qualifier at Stark County Fair Grounds. The top three riders from each age division will have a chance to compete at the IMBA (International Miniature Bull Riders Association) World Finals in Reno, Nevada November 9.

bull ride edit.jpg
Nearly 20 young cowboys competed in the Battle to Reno for a shot to progress to the IMBA World Finals.
Photo by Amber I. Neate
We are part of The Trust Project.

DICKINSON — Cowboys ages 5-17 took their shot at an eight-second ride in the evening bull ride double header. In the five and under age range, brothers Eric and Oscar Dewitt both had qualified rides. They left the arena with about $100 each for their 1st and 2nd place performances.

In the 6-8 age group six-year-old Cruz Lee put up a 58-point ride on a bull named “203 Mr. Terminator” in round one. He also took 1st place in round two and earned a $150 check.

Some of the youngest cowboys started riding bulls when they were four years old.
Photo by Amber I. Neate

Lee has been riding bulls since he was four. He says the more he rides, the more familiar he becomes with the bulls and their level of difficulty.

“My dad taught me to look down on the bump on the bull’s back and keep my hand high in the air,” Lee said.

Croy FitzPatrick took the gold in the 9-11 age bracket with a clean, 60-point ride on “Tigger” in round one but couldn’t make the eight-second count in round two. Bentley Gay stole the show on the second go with a 62-pointer on “Little Bad Boy.”


The Road to Reno was a double header qualifier rodeo for youth ages 5-17.
Photo by Amber I. Neate

Teytum Bullinger busted out of the gates on “222-Dagger,” raising his hand high for an eight-count in the 12-14 age group in round one. His performance earned him $300. Out of the six contestants in the age group, none made an eight-second ride in the second round.

Fifteen-year-old Ryder Keck was the one and only competitor in the 15-17 age division. His round one ride on “Gambler” didn’t get him any points but he made up for it with a qualified ride in round two on “78-Shark Week” with a 69-point ride, one of his highest point totals to date.

“My first round didn’t go as I wanted, I lost my foot and went over the front,” Keck said. “The second round I came up with one of the greatest rides I’ve ever had. I strapped on him and kept my head down…I was all over the place, but we made it, so that’s all that matters.”

Keck started amateur bull riding in January of this year. He says he loves the atmosphere and adrenaline rush that runs through his body when he rides bulls. Throughout his seven-month bull riding career, his most accomplished ride was a 74-pointer.

“My dream is to go to college and hopefully get to the College National Finals and one day, win the NFR (National Finals Rodeo),” Keck said.

The third and final round of the Battle to Reno will be held August 4 in Killdeer, ND. Rough stock was provided courtesy of K8 Bucking Bulls. For entries, contact Hunter Kluver at 612-223-0759.

edit bull.jpg
Fifteen-year-old Ryder Keck put up a qualifying ride in round two, that he says was one of his best rides yet.
Photo by Amber I. Neate
Cowgirls and cowboys put on a stellar show in the blazing heat

Amber Neate grew up in rural Skull Valley, Arizona. Her passion of covering sports of all types, including personal favorites wrestling, hockey, rodeo and football, began at an early age.

She obtained her Associate of Arts Degree from Yavapai Community College before attending Northern Arizona University for a three-year journalism program. While at NAU, Neate worked as an Assistant Sports Editor for the Lumberjack Newspaper as well as a hockey commentator for KJACK Radio.

Gaining her experience working for a small community paper, The Wickenburg Sun, as a general news and features reporter, her love for sports and a small-town community brings her to Dickinson to cover southwest North Dakota sports.

What to read next
Recently ordained priest Fr. Grant Dvorak of Bismarck will serve Trinity Catholic Schools as a high school teacher and chaplain. We spoke with Dvorak to learn more about what drew him to a life dedicated to serving God.