HELIX - Familiar faces ruled Quantum 9 Arena at the seventh Heart of the Country Rodeo Saturday.
Hermiston's Zac Compton captured the top bareback prize with two rides worth $1,341, and Blake West snagged the best saddle bronc payout of $1,348.
Both cowboys defended last year's title with the wins, and said coming back to Helix was a pleasure.
"They treat me pretty good here, so I think I'll keep coming back," West said. "I thought I could have rode a lot better, but I'll take it."
A new champion arose in the bull riding, but didn't capture the top money in the event.
Though Brian Marshall was one of only two qualified rides in the first round and hit the top score with an 81, he opted out of the second ride with a bad elbow.
Justin Bain, who failed to score the first time around, came back in round 2 and scored an 80 to lock in the top prize money of $2,200 compared to Marshall's $1,320.
"There wasn't too much pressure - I was just glad to draw something a little easier to ride," said Marshall, who was the first to tally a qualified ride. "I got to spurring him a little bit and he wasn't as much bull as I thought he would be, and he almost left me out there to dry."
Pendleton student Emily Sorey topped the 12-and-under barrel racing ranks with a 14.76 mark, followed closely by Bobby Correa at 15.05 and Dally Sue Smith at 15.14.
Pendleton rodeo team member R.C. Landingham finished second in the bareback ride but landed hard on the arena dirt and took a second to regain his bearings.
"He was going all over the place, and kid of got me off to the side a little bit," Landingham said. "When I came off he hit me right on the chin."
The Buckaroo said he was fine a few minutes after the fall and glad to have placed in his first showing at the small town rodeo.
The contestant numbers were lower than last year, which coordinator Mervin Swearingen attributed partly to a points rodeo in Coulee City Saturday, but he said it was nice to see Compton and West repeat in their events.
"Those boys are fun to watch, and they get the word out," he explained. "They're sure to come back, and a big reason is the trophies we give away. They're thankful for those."
Each event winner carried off a Montana Silversmith Statuette donated by the Roundup Athletic Club.
Other awards included the standard buckle for the top four finishers in each event and a halter for the bareback and saddle bronc champs.
Aside from the prizes, the Heart of the Country atmosphere also has a draw for the competitors.
"I still love this place because it's good ol' boys riding bucking horses and drinking beer - it's my kind of place," West said. "This is probably the best one for me. I've won a lot of money."
The saddle bronc champ also commended the rodeo for focusing on rough stock events, which shorten the day and, in his opinion, are "way more fun to watch."
1. Emily Sorey, 14.76
2. Bobby Correa, 15.05
3. Dally Sue Smith, 15.14
1. Zac Compton, $1,341
2. R.C. Landingham, $967
3. Noah Bayes, $519
1. Blake West, $1,348
2. Chance Milan, $1,051
3. Brendon Fitzgerald, $508
1. Justin Bain, $2,200
2. Brian Marshall, $1,320
3. Mason Michaels, $880