Young cowboys work for bid to INFR

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

BREAD SPRINGS, N.M., May 31, 2012

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(Courtesy photo)

TOP: Wheatfields, Ariz., tie-down roper Roessell Jackson manages to get his rope around his calf at the Jacob's Custom Rodeo held on May 26 in Bread Springs, N.M. Jackson is hoping to make the Indian National Finals Rodeo for the third straight year in the tie-down event.

SECOND FROM THE TOP: Jacob Antone, the two-time Indian National Finals Rodeo steer wrestling champion, gets a hold of the steer's horn at the Jacob's Custom Rodeo in Bread Springs, N.M. Antone won the event with a 7.2-second run.

T here is no easy road to the Indian National Finals Rodeo especially for the upcoming talent since most of the veterans they compete against are already established winners.

But for the last two years, Roessell Jackson has managed to do just enough to qualify for the INFR in the tie-down event.

"You have to battle some of the older guys just to get there," said Jackson, 23, from Wheatfields, Ariz. "They're like wolves and they're really hard to beat. It always comes down to the (regional) finals."

Over the weekend, Jackson closed the gap on his push at an INFR bid as he finished first with a time of 11.4 seconds during the Jacob's Custom Leather Rodeo in Bread Springs.

"For my first two rodeos I think the best I did was finish in fifth place," he said, adding that his first-place win should put him somewhere in the top five in the year-end standings within the Navajo Nation Rodeo Association, the local affiliate of the INFR.

At press time, the standings were unavailable, but Jackson said he is looking forward to the Treaty Days Rodeo in Window Rock this weekend, which is an INFR tour event.

"You have a better chance of getting qualified by going with the tour," he said. "There are more rodeos to compete in but most of those rodeos are held up north."

Still, he said his win over the weekend puts him in contention as a qualifier within the NNRA.

"I just have to keep it up," he said, adding that he's been jelling with his new horse called Manuelito.

"I just bought him...and he's got some horsepower in him," Jackson said. "He's working real good for me."

Not too far behind Jackson was Tohatchi, N.M., cowboy Kyle Dennison as the veteran tie-down roper got his calf tied in 11.9 seconds.

With a time of 12.1, Michael Bates finished third ahead of Kenny Glasses, who turned in a 12.5 run.

Chinle cowboy Jacob Antone nabbed the steer-wrestling title with a 7.2 run and finished ahead of his son Ashkie Antone as the younger Antone stopped the clock in 7.6 seconds.

Garrison Begay picked up third place honors with a 7.7 while Sheridan Jodie came in fourth with a 12.1 run.

In the team-roping event, James Begay Jr. of Teesto, Ariz., left the arena with the most points as he finished first and second.

He won the event with Victor Begay as the pair recorded a 5.7 run. James Begay Jr. then teamed up with Cody Hunter and after stretching their draw they turned in a 6.0 run.

In a tie for third and fourth, the team-roping combo of Grant Skeet and Aaron Chee and Kesley Phillips and Kevin Yazzie both recorded runs of 6.2 seconds.

With a time of 8.0 seconds, Victor Begay picked up another first-place finish in the senior team roping as he recorded that time with partner Leonard Williams Sr.

Unlike the competitive field in the open team roping, the junior breakaway event had a bevy of ropers missing their draws. In the end, it was Shiprock's Tee O'Brien Jim who picked up the first-place prize as roped his calf in 2.9 seconds.

"It kind of freaked me out that every one was missing," Jim said when asked if the windy conditions contributed to a high number of no times. "It bothered me a bit but then again my rope was heavy and I had the confidence to go out there and rope."

Braydon Boyd and Dean Holyan were the only other ropers to record a time as Boyd finished a distant second with an 11.1-second run while Holyan was clocked in at 13.3 seconds.

In the girls' breakaway, Vanessa Paul posted the fastest run of the rodeo with a 2.7. Robbie Whitehair came in next with a 4.1, finishing ahead of Serena Dahozy (5.4 seconds) and Renee Tolino (6.4 seconds).

In the senior breakaway, Art Sells topped the field with a 2.9 ahead of Victor Begay, who recorded a 3.8 run.

With a 70-point score, the saddle-bronc crown went to T.O. Yazzie as he finished six points ahead of Robert Burbank.

Cotah Nakai beat out Jacob Todacheenie for the steer-riding title as Nakai posted a 66-point ride. Todacheenie, meanwhile, was judged in at 64 points.

In the other two riding events, Bryan Bitsui was the only contestant to get a qualified ride. He posted an 83-point ride while the bareback event failed to produce a score.

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