Some of the biggest crowds and one of the largest contestant draws in recent history turned out for the 79th Annual Durant Riding Club Rodeo, resulting in huge payouts to the competing cowboys and cowgirls.
A total of 670 competitors registered for the competition, leaving roughly 400 fighting through the slack competition on June 18 and the wee hours of the morning of June 19 before the regular two-night event ever commenced.
"We had competitors in the slack going until nearly 6 a.m. on Friday," coordinator Susan Edelen said. "It made for a short night."
A huge Friday-night crowd was dampened a bit by approximately two inches of rain that fell across the Durant area, but didn’t slow the cowboys who scored many of the highest point totals in spite of the conditions.
The evening of June 20 brought nearly perfect weather and a capacity crowd at the Riding Club Arena with the only downside being what appeared to be a serious injury sustained by Calera bull rider Brian Egan Jr., who was airlifted to a hospital in Plano. Egan, however, was released the next day and is on the road to recovery.
"We had one of the biggest crowds we have ever had on a Friday night and they stuck with us for quite a while even during the rain," Edelen commented. "Even though we lost some spectators, the cowboys are troopers and professionals and they kept the show going. Then, Saturday we sold out of tickets for the first time ever."
A nearly $57,000 total payout to contestants was one of the largest in recent memory, and Edelen was quick to express appreciation to all those who played a part in making this year’s rodeo a roaring success.
"I give a lot of credit to West Huggins, who has been our announcer for the last three years," she said. "He comes in early in the week and plays such a big part in how efficient things go.
"It takes so many people to help make it all happen and we have a great committee behind us. We really appreciate all of them."
The biggest money of the weekend came in team roping as the duo of Jake Clay from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and Martin Lucero out of Stephenville, Texas, each pocketed a cool $2,129.14 for their winning time of 4.50 seconds.
Cyle Denison and Lane Mitchell teamed for a 4.71 time and took home $1,824.97 apiece for second place. The pairing of Tanner Lutrell and Chris Young claimed $1,520.81 each on the way to a third place time of 5.00 even, while Peyton Walters and Pace Blanchard also had a big cash in placing fourth at 5.14 seconds for $1,216.65 each.
There were also big payouts in the barrels as four cowgirls pocketed over $1,000 for their weekend work. Lindsey McLeod, of Lane, Oklahoma, maneuvered through the course in a rapid 16.033 seconds for the $2,071.34 top prize.
Sadie Wolaver placed second at 16.079 seconds for $1,639.81 while Cindy Smith took home $1,380.90 for third in 16.215 seconds and Kara Kreder picked up $1,121.98 for a fourth place mark of 16.282.
Breakaway roping tallied just under $2,000 in top prize money as Shai Schaefer won the title in 2.45 seconds for the $1,957.68 payout.
Katie White was less than one-tenth of a second behind with a 2.51 for second and $1,549.83. J.J. Hampton ended up third at 2.60 seconds for the $1,305.12 in winnings.
Tie Down was another large prize competition as Shane Hanchey from Sulphur, Louisiana, took honors with a time of 7.93 and the $1,833.32 winning mark.
Hunter Herrin checked in second at 8.49 seconds for $1,517.23 and Ryan Franks ended third place and claimed $1,201.14 for an 8.65 finish.
Eight-second rides were tough to come by in the bull riding competition, including just one on Saturday, but Cushing, Oklahoma’s Rhett King made the most of his with a score of 83 points for the $981.04 grand prize.
Fulton Rutland and Colby Stelly tied for second with an 82 apiece and won $754.64 each.
In Ranch Bronc, Canyon Conley of LaDonia, Texas, posted a score of 77 on the first ride of the night Saturday and that stood up for the $477.40 top prize. Jesse Berrie and Garrett Heffner tied for second, each notching a 75.
Another Stephenville cowboy, Sterling Crawley, ran away with the Saddlebronc title with an 83 score and the $797.89 first place money.
Justin Lewis from Jasper, Texas, and Colton Onyett out of Rangely, Texas, each recorded scores of 79 and tied for the bareback crown as both took home $687.59.