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GUTHRIE, Okla. ‚Äď The first time Jerome Schneeberger qualified for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, he was a 21-year-old young gun fresh off his inaugural appearance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Much has changed since 1998, but the Ponca City, Okla., cowboy remains one of the greatest tie-down ropers in the Prairie Circuit, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association‚Äôs region made up of contestants and rodeos primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. In fact, no other cowboy in the history of the circuit has won more year-end tie-down roping championships than Schneeberger, who secured his eighth title last season.
That means he returns for the ninth time for this year‚Äôs National Championship, scheduled for 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10; 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 11; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the Lazy E Arena.
Schneeberger, who won the NFR average championship in 2001, is one of the numerous NFR qualifiers competing at the RNCFR, joining Coloradoan Josh Peek, Utah cowboy Clint Robinson and Texans Justin Maass and Adam Gray.
Now Schneeberger focuses his rodeo career on the circuit system. He hasn‚Äôt qualified for the NFR in three years, and he‚Äôs OK with it. Now he‚Äôd like to add the National Championship to his powerful resume. Maybe this is the year.
In his initial appearance on ‚ÄúThe Amazing Race‚ÄĚ four years ago, Cord McCoy created a catch phrase that took the reality TV show‚Äôs audience by storm.
His ‚ÄúOh, my gravy‚ÄĚ commentary may have been trumped during Sunday night‚Äôs fourth episode of Season 24, when the youngest of the two brothers on the show uttered a new tag line: ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre like butter; we‚Äôre on a roll.‚ÄĚ
Jet and Cord McCoy are hot, highlighted by their victory in the fourth leg of the race around the world for $1 million. The tandem used a considerable amount of energy and a handy dose of mixology while traipsing across Malaysia. For finishing first, The Cowboys scored a trip for two to London.
‚ÄúWe could not be more excited to be on our way to a Pit Stop,‚ÄĚ Jet McCoy said as the two shared a cab ride from the final challenge to the Leg 4 finish in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre thinking this could mean first place for us.‚ÄĚ
But Cord stopped his older brother, saying, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been wrong before.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe were wrong for a million dollars once, as a matter of fact,‚ÄĚ Jet said, referring to the brothers‚Äô second-place finish during Season 16, the first of three times the Oklahoma cowboys have been on the CBS-TV reality series.
The McCoys began Sunday in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, two minutes behind the leaders, the father-son tandem of Dave and Connor O‚ÄôLeary. Their first challenge, the Road Block, took place in Knota Kinabalu‚Äôs Prince Phillip Park, where one member of each team had to jump on a bamboo trampoline high enough to grab a flag hanging above them.
Cord tackled the task for The Cowboys, but he struggled. The brothers were the first to arrive at the park, but they were quickly passed by the O‚ÄôLearys and the cousin team of Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran. In fact, it took Cord 47 attempts before he reached the flag; no team could obtain the next clue until finishing that job.
‚ÄúThe problem was that task required a lot of Cord-nation,‚ÄĚ Jet said, joking about his brother‚Äôs struggle on the tramp.
Said Cord, ‚ÄúYou just have to gather up all your energy and put it out on the line ‚Ä¶ again and again and again.‚ÄĚ
The teams then made their way to the Kota Kinabalu airport, where the first three teams were to board the first plane to Kuala Lumpur. The McCoys joined the O‚ÄôLearys and The Afghanamals on the first of three flights. The other teams, because of a flight delay, arrived about an hour and 15 minutes behind the leaders.
‚ÄúI would say I‚Äôm jumping for joy,‚ÄĚ Cord said about making the first flight, ‚Äúbut I‚Äôm out of hops.‚ÄĚ
Once in Kuala Lumpor, all the teams made their way to a night club for the Detour: Either learning an elaborate disc jockey mix involving a scratching code or mixing an elaborate drink. The first three teams tried the drink, which proved to be more difficult given the balancing and pouring from a stack of glasses into martini glasses. What made it tougher was making sure none of the colors mixed from the stack to the specific martini glasses that were placed in the form of a seven-cup pyramid.
‚ÄúWe wouldn‚Äôt make good bartenders,‚ÄĚ Jet said. ‚ÄúBetween what we broke and spilled, we would owe them.‚ÄĚ
The McCoys fared better than the others who tried. In fact, the cousins, Temory and Zadran, switched midway through the Detour to try their hand at scratching. Jet secured the right mix on the brothers‚Äô 10th try. Once they received their next clue, The Cowboys made their way to a Hindu temple at the Batu Caves, where they met up with host Phil Keoghn and learned of their winning fate.
Sunday‚Äôs episode marked the second time in four legs that the McCoys won. They were followed by the O‚ÄôLearys, who finished just ahead of The Afghanamals. The husband-wife tandem of Brendon Villegas and Rachel Reilly finished last in the non-elimination leg of the race, but they will have to endure a Speed Bump at some point in the show‚Äôs future.
The brothers still own their Express Pass, which gives them the chance to skip a challenge at any point in the race; it was their prize for winning the opening leg. That could come in handy at any point in the race should the McCoys find themselves behind the field.
That didn‚Äôt happen in the fourth episode. The Cowboys stayed in or near the lead throughout the show. It‚Äôs where they like to be.
GUYMON, Okla. ‚Äď Forgive Tyler Smith if he is a little greedy when he arrives in the Oklahoma Panhandle in a month and a half.
Smith, a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bull rider from Fruita, Colo., owns two Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo trophy belts; he‚Äôd like to win a third during the 2014 edition, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
Smith, who won his first championship in 2010 ‚Äď the same year he first qualified for the NFR ‚Äď earned his second belt last May, when he rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo‚Äôs Rio Bravo for 93 points. With that, he earned $3,790, which helped propel him back to Las Vegas this past December, where he surely wore that coveted leather trophy and finished the season No. 3 in the world standings with more than $156,000 in earnings.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been good luck,‚ÄĚ he said about Pioneer Days Rodeo. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve had real good luck here. I love coming here.‚ÄĚ
So do most of the top contestants in ProRodeo, nearly 1,000 of who find their way to Texas County every spring to compete at one of the most prestigious events on the circuit. In all, nine champions were crowned last spring. They know defending their titles will be tough. Take Rocky Patterson, the three-time steer roping world champion from Pratt, Kan., who claimed his second Pioneer Days title a season ago.
‚ÄúThis is pretty big because it‚Äôs a circuit rodeo, No. 1,‚ÄĚ Patterson said, referring to the Prairie Circuit, made up of rodeos and contestants primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. ‚ÄúNo. 2, it‚Äôs just a great rodeo. The committee here does such a great job.‚ÄĚ
The Kansan left town with the biggest payday of all contestants in the field, earning $8,347.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a rodeo with a lot of tradition, and it‚Äôs a nice one to win.‚ÄĚ
Patterson is an alumnus of Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which is 10 miles southeast in the community of Goodwell. He is one of two former Panhandle State rodeo team members to earn Guymon titles, joining bareback rider Seth Hardwick of Laramie, Wyo.; he rode Pete Carr‚Äôs Night Bells for 88 points to earn the trophy belt.
‚ÄúGuymon is like a hometown rodeo for me,‚ÄĚ said Hardwick, who pocketed $4,147 in Texas County money last spring. ‚ÄúIt feels great to be able to win this rodeo in front of those people. It‚Äôs one of the best rides I‚Äôve ever had.‚ÄĚ
Each of the roughstock events featured high-marked rides. Heith DeMoss, a five-time NFR qualifier from Heflin, La., matched moves with Pete Carr‚Äôs Spur Strap for 87 points to win saddle bronc riding.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm so excited it‚Äôs ridiculous,‚ÄĚ DeMoss said. ‚ÄúTo be winning something at this rodeo is awesome. It‚Äôs a great rodeo. It‚Äôs a bronc riding-type nation around here, and I‚Äôm thrilled.‚ÄĚ