HERMISTON — It was quite the night for Steven Dent at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo on Thursday night.
Dent, from Mullen, Nebraska, made the trip back to Hermiston after a one-year hiatus and left town sitting in first place in both bareback and saddle bronc after a pair of big rides. He started off the night with an 85.5-point ride on Zulu Warrior from Calgary Stampede, holding off Richmand Champion (The Woodlands, Texas) and his 84.5 and edging Clayton Biglow’s 85 points from Wednesday.
“Man, that horse was really good,” Dent said. “Kind of bucky once you set your feet, but the right kind, and a good horse to get a lot of points on.”
Later in the evening in saddle bronc, Dent scored 84.5 points on Bookmark from Kesler Rodeo to jump to the top of the leaderboard as well.
“I knew I drew good coming in,” Dent said after his bronc ride. “And I’d been riding good recently and usually that is a good combination.”
Dent’s 84.5 points in saddle bronc wasn’t good enough to win the night or take first place outright, though, as Desdemona, Texas, cowboy Isaac Diaz scored 84.5 points as well, riding Kesler Rodeo’s Nickles & Dimes on the last ride of the night. Diaz said he’s been on that horse once before and actually received the same exact score.
Diaz also said that he enjoyed being last in the round, just as most riders do.
“Not only does it give you more time to pull your saddle tight,” he said, “you get to see who’s in front of you, too. And it just seems like the higher scores are towards the end. It’s probably all in our heads, but we like being last.”
Thursday night’s barrel racing event was off to rough start as several competitors incurred 5-second penalties for knocking down barrels.
“No more barrels down tonight — you hear me Jordan?” said announcer Randy Corely as Hermiston native Jordan Minor geared up to start her race.
It was a close competition, but Minor was victorious with a time of 17.19 seconds, tailed by Cheyenne Allan of Mabton, Washington with 17.22 seconds, and Teri Bangart of Olympia with 17.34 seconds.
Minor comes from a family of rodeo athletes, including her husband Riley and her two sisters Jade and Callahan. Minor has been involved in the rodeo for as long as she can remember, and was happy to win in front of her hometown.
“It’s fun when it works — I’ve been riding here for at least seven years, and you don’t always win,” she said.
Minor currently holds the No. 3 spot on the Columbia River Circuit. Tonight, she edged out the No. 1 and No. 2 contenders Allan and Bangart.
“I wish it was over already,” she said. “The competition is tough. You can’t get your hopes up. There’s always room for improvement.”
Minor isn’t the only one in the family who will ride on Farm-City grounds this weekend — her cousins Mary Shae Hays and Blake Knowles compete on Friday night, and her husband and his brother Brady will team rope on Saturday.
“I’m sure they’re just as excited about my win tonight as I am,” she said. “It’s a big family deal.”
Brady Portenier came to the Farm-City Pro Rodeo on Thursday in search of a good ride and a good payout, as the Idaho bull rider is 23rd in the world standings and more than $18,000 out of the final NFR qualifying spot.
He likely got just what he came for as he rode Flight Plan from Kesler Rodeo for 85.5 points, shooting him to the top of the leaderboard and earning him the $100 bonus and bottle of Chute 8 whiskey. However, Portenier leaves Hermiston with something he didn’t want: a likely concussion.
As the eight-second horn sounded, Portenier, a Caldwell, Idaho native, slid down in his stance and got bucked off kind of awkwardly and slammed down to the ground. As he lay on the ground, he narrowly missed the back hooves of the bull stomping down as the bull fighters stepped in to help, though his coveted cowboy hat did take a bit of a beating.
“I just kind of slid down in the well, what we call it, in the center of the ride,” Portenier said. “And then I just hit the ground pretty hard and rung my bell.”
Portenier held off Walla Walla rider Derek Kolbaba and Garrett Smith of Rexburg, Idaho, both of whom rode for 84.5 points to tie for second place on the night and for the round so far.
Ty Harris won a bottle of Chute 8 whiskey for winning the night’s tie-down roping event, even if he isn’t old enough to drink it yet.
At just 20 years old, the San Angelo, Texas cowboy is already the 2018 college national champion, and tied down his Farm-City calf in just 8.6 seconds — the only contestant of the night to finish with a sub-10-second time. Runners-up included Seth Hopper of Stanfield in 10.0 seconds and Colton Farquer of Oakdale, California in 10.2 seconds.
After getting no time in that afternoon’s slack, Harris is much happier with his results in the main event.
“This season hasn’t quite been what I wanted it to be,” he said. “But it feels great to be here, and I’m glad to be in the company of good friends and given the chance to win.”
Most cowboys who Harris competed alongside are much older than him, and he’s taking the opportunity to learn as much as he can from them.
“These guys are pros,” he said. “They can do it just as fast as I can, it just depends on the experience and the draw.”
When he’s not touring the country competing in rodeos, Harris attends Cisco College in Texas, where he’ll be a sophomore this fall. He says he hope he’s making his friends and family back home proud.
“They’ve seen the hours I put in,” he said. “My mom, dad, sibilings, and granny are all home watching. I want to be able to ride as I long as I can. I’m grateful I can do what I love.”
Farquer and Hopper now sit No. 1-2 in the average standings with times of 20.4 and 20.7, respectively.
Eastern Oregon has been nice to Texas cowboy Clayton Hass over the past few years.
In 2016, Hass won the steer wrestling title at Farm-City and in 2017 Hass won the all-around titles at both Farm-City and the Pendleton Round-Up right down the road. On Thursday night, Hass added to his successes by winning the steer wrestling performance with a time of 4.2 seconds to take home the $100 bonus and bottle of Chute 8 whiskey.
“Maybe it’s because it’s so dang hot around here, makes me feel like I’m home in Texas,” Hass joked. “I was home for a few days and I thought it felt hotter here today. But I’ve had some success here throughout my career in Hermiston, I guess these steers just set up and fit my style.”
Hass’ time puts him in a tie for fifth in the round. He also turned in a time of 4.7 seconds in slack earlier in the day, giving him an average of 8.9 seconds that places him in third overall. Those times give him a good chance for a good payout, which he needs as he currently sits 26th in the world standings more than $14,000 below the cutoff line to qualify for the NFR.
“I’m kind of in a spot where I don’t need to be, chasing,” he said, “but hopefully a good few weeks and I can get back in the mix of it.”
Stanfield’s Travis Taruscio finished with the second-best score of the night with 4.3 seconds.
After a lackluster first night with only one qualified time, team roping competition heated up on Thursday.
The team of Blake Teixeira (Tres Pinos, California) and Jordan Ketscher (Squaw Valley, California) set the bar for the night at 5.2 seconds as the first team out of the gates, and their score held up to earn the nightly $100 bonus and bottle of Chute 8 whiskey.
The duo barely beat out the team of Dillon Holyfield (Lewiston, Idaho) and Hermiston’s BJ Roberts’ 5.3 seconds. Holyfield and Roberts are one of only two teams so far to have qualifying times on two head, and sit second in the average standings with 16.4 seconds on two. The top team in the average also went on Thursday, with Chris McKoen (Merrill, Oregon) and Quade Patzke (Klamath Falls, Oregon) scoring 6.1 seconds in the nightly performance and 6.0 seconds in slack for an average of 12.1 on two.