by Eric Salveggio
Cheyenne Frontier Days, dubbed the “Daddy of ’em All” once again lived up to its name. The dust, mud, heat, rain, and even injuries did not stop these men and women from giving it their all…it’s an event where you either “go big or go home,” or go big, and on your way home, stop by the emergency room.
The contestants this year had names we’ve seen before—Kimzey, Brazile, Darling, and Wright—plus many making their first-time appearance to the biggest, baddest rodeo outside of the NFR.
Baylor Roche of Tremonton, Utah (steer wrestling), and Stevi Hillman of Weatherford, Texas (barrel racing), were the two highest money winners at the 121st Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, which ended on Sunday, July 30.
After winning the first round and placing third in the second, Roche, in his sixth appearance at the CFD, and a two-time qualifier for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, was the final contestant of the 12 steer wrestlers who competed Sunday. While his time of 10.4 seconds was the fourth-fastest of the finals, he still won the championship by an overall 2.8 seconds. Last year’s CFD champion J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., clocked a time of 8.2 to win the final round itself.
Stevi Hillman, a petite blonde who let her horse and time speak for itself, came into the Sunday events with an overall lead of only one-hundredth of a second—not much, one would think, but when the times separating first and second place is measured this closely, you can tell the competition was fierce. Hillman and her horse, Sharpie, ran third in the final event, but their time of 17.33 seconds, when combined with her previous scores, and stacked against the others, won the event by a mere 31 hundredths of a second. As a comparison, their total score of 52.44 for three runs was only 44 hundredths faster than the second-fastest total.
Of course, it can’t be the CFD if it didn’t rain, and rain it did. Between massive showers late at night, and rain in the late afternoon during the events, those who counted on the ground for timed events were a bit concerned. Wet ground caused many contestants to slow down a bit so as not to hurt themselves or their horses. Overall, though it was business as usual. The broncs and bulls threw their riders with similar disdain, and the steer wrestlers came up looking like they had taken a mud bath, clothes and all. I’m sure many later pulled mud from orifices not originally intended to be packed with mud. The winners in both the events and the all-around category ran the gamut from repeat champions to first-timers.
One such newcomer, a young saddle bronc rider from Hillsdale, Wyo., named Brody Cress, rode Charlie’s Angel of the Rafter G Rodeo string for a disappointing 79.5 points, but then he was given the option of a re-ride. Trailing the leader Jake Wright by half a point going into the event, he knew he did not have enough to win the championship, so Cress decided to go big, take a risk, and accept the re-ride option. As Cress’s second horse was being prepared, the event rose to a fever pitch when Jake Wright jumped out with a score of 84 points giving him an overall score of 252, which now meant Cress needed to score 84.5 points to tie and 85 to win the title. When Cress finished his second ride with a score of 88.5, the roaring crowd of over 12,000 was on its feet on both sides of the stadium, screaming, cheering, and waving and throwing their hats. This was the first time a hometown Wyoming boy took the Saddle Bronc trophy home since Kaycee’s Craig Latham did the same in 1995.
The team roping event ended in a tie between team Erich Rogers of Round Rock, Ariz., and Cory Petska of Marana, Ariz., who were ranked seventh coming into the finals, and team Brandon Webb of Carrizo Springs, Texas, and Kollin VonAhn of Blanchard, Okla. Rogers and Petska’s time of 9.4 seconds was the fastest of the day, and their total time matched that of Webb and VonAhn. VonAhn had won this event before with a different team member, Rogers and Petska are NFR veterans, but it was Webb’s first pro season after running his oilfield business for seven years.
The current bareback world champion Tim O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa, can now add a CFD championship to his wall of trophies. Coming into Sunday’s events in third place, O’Connell came out of the chute on fire, taking the championship after scoring 87 points on Brookman Rodeo’s Continental Divide.
Clayton Foltyn, a bull rider of Winnie, Texas, left the CFD with a huge smile. The three-time NFR qualifier earned his second Cheyenne Frontier Days championship as one of only two men to ride all three bulls on Sunday, and having the highest combined total at 255.5 points. Slinging mud and slappin’ spurs, Foltyn rode Dakota Rodeo’s Cheese Bandit like he stole him to win the final round Sunday with a decisive 87-point effort.
In honor of Harry Vold, “The Duke of the Chutes” (1924-2017), organizers held a moment of silence followed by an amazing saddle bronc ride with the rider wearing “woolies” Sunday. , Vold was a bucking stock contractor to the CFD and 11 other leading U.S. rodeos for over 60 of his 93 years, and only one of two to provide animals for every National Finals Rodeo. His stock saw such great riders as Ty Murray, Harry Tompkins, Larry Mahan and the legendary Jim Shoulders. Sealing every deal with a handshake, Vold was among the last of a dying breed that lived by their word, and not merely a paper contract. His accomplishments included being named “Stock Contractor of the Year” for eight consecutive years, 1985 PRCA Man of the Year, and being inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1994. He was especially proud of two of his animals being world champions: Bobby Joe Skoal, a bucking horse and 777, a bull.
2017 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Champions
Bareback Riding – Tim O’Connell, Zwingle, IA, 254 points
Steer Wrestling – Baylor Roche, Tremonton, UT, 26.1 seconds
Team Roping TIE – (header) Brandon Webb, Carrizo Springs, TX, 28.4 seconds
(heeler) Kollin VonAhn, Blanchard, OK
(header) Erich Rogers, Round Rock, AZ., 28.4 seconds
(heeler) Cory Petska, Marana, AZ
Saddle Bronc Riding – Brody Cress, Hillsdale, WY, 256 points
Tie-Down Roping – Lane Livingston, Seymour, TX, 38.0 seconds
Barrel Racing – Stevi Hillman, Weatherford, TX, 52.44 seconds
Bull Riding – Clayton Foltyn, Winnie, TX, 255.5 points
Steer Roping – Brady Garten, Chelsea, OK., 51.6 seconds
All-Around – Trevor Brazile, Decatur, TX, competing in tie-down, team and steer roping
(Pictures by Eric and Karie Salveggio of E Bar K Photography)