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.
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.
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.”
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.