Jeff Askey

Athens native Jeff Askey wrapped up his third run of bull riding at the National Finals Rodeo and finished 13th in the 2019 PRCA standings with a total of $157,329.

LAS VEGAS — Two fresh-faced rookies strapped on gold buckles last weekend at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

They were Haven Meged, 21, a Tarleton State senior who grew up in Montana, and Stetson Wright, 20, who is from Utah and a member of the famous bronc busting Wright family that recently was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” for their unusual accomplishments on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.

Meged clinched the PRCA’s 2019 world tie-down roping title, and Wright wrangled pro rodeo’s world all-around title as the 61st National Finals concluded its 10-day run Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus.

Meged has had a banner year. In June, he clinched the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) tie-down roping title for Tarleton State at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.

After lassoing the world tie-down roping title, Meged became the fourth person in the PRCA’s history to win an NIRA and a PRCA title in the same year. The others are Ty Murray (all-around in 1989), Matt Austin (bull riding in 2005) and Taos Muncy (saddle bronc riding in 2007).

“I’ve set big goals for myself ... to be able to achieve all of those goals is a dream come true,” Meged said.

Meged who is majoring in agriculture industries and agencies at Tarleton, said he plans on completing his degree during the spring semester and graduate in May. He said he also plans on competing on Tarleton’s men’s rodeo team throughout the 2020 spring semester.

During the 2019 NFR, Meged clinched the average title with a 10-run time of 85.7 seconds and earned $126,134 throughout the Dec. 5-14 Las Vegas championships. He edged second place finisher Shane Hanchey in the 2019 world title race, $246,013 to $244,831.

Wright, who competed at the NFR bull riding and also was a prize-winning saddle bronc rider during the 2019 regular season, became the first bucking stock rider to clinch the PRCA’s world all-around title since 1998 when Murray, a Stephenville cowboy, snared a then-record seventh all-around gold buckle. From 1999 through 2018, the world all-around title has been earned by timed event competitors such as Trevor Brazile who has a record 25 gold buckles.

Brazile, who lives in Decatur, went into semiretirement after clinching a record 14th world all-around title last year. With that in mind, fans came to the 2019 NFR looking for the sport’s next big star.

Wright said he’d like to be that guy.

“I hope to win a bunch more,” he said. “I’m going to try to have a full, healthy season next season. But I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Wright clinched the 2019 world all-around title after earning $297,923 throughout the regular season and at the 2019 NFR. Oklahoma cowboy Clay Smith, a roper, finished second with $279,672. Roper Tuf Cooper, the 2017 world all-around champion who has homes in Weatherford and Decatur, finished third with $265,794.

Smith clinched the team roping heading title on his way to finishing runner up in the world-around title race. He also clinched the team roping heading gold buckle last year.

Wesley Thorp, who claims Throckmorton where he grew up as his hometown in the PRCA world standings but actually lives in Stephenville, clinched the team roping heeling world title.

Hailey Kinsel, from Cotulla, earned a second consecutive Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racing gold buckle. Kinsel recently got married to Jess Lockwood, who clinched the Professional Bull Riders world title on Nov. 10 at the PBR’s World Finals in Las Vegas.

Sage Kimzey, who is from Strong City, Okla., clinched his sixth consecutive PRCA bull riding title at the 2019 NFR. He finished the year with $480,797, the most of any competitor this year in a single event on the PRCA circuit.

Clayton Biglow, a California cowboy, clinched the bareback riding world title after earning $243,891 at the NFR, the most of all competitors at the 10-day rodeo.

Ty Erickson, another Montana cowboy, snared his first steer wrestling world championship.

Zeke Thurston, an Alberta cowboy, clinched his second PRCA saddle bronc riding gold buckle. He also finished No. 1 in the title race in 2016.

Jeff Askey, who is from the Athens area, competed at the National Finals in bull riding for the third time. He earned $43,634 throughout the 2019 NFR and finished 13th in the PRCA’s 2019 bull riding title race with $157,329.

Cutting horse update

When Gary Bellenfant rode into the herd to compete in the National Cutting Horse Association World Championship Futurity on Sunday, Dec. 15, at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth, almost a quarter century had passed since the West Texan had won the sport’s most prestigious show.

Bellenfant snared the 1995 Futurity open division title aboard a stallion named Peptoboonsmal with a gritty final-round run. When the title was at stake during the 2019 Futurity, Bellenfant, 69, and a 3-year-old stallion named Metallic Rey Mink turned in a score of 226 and clinched the coveted open division title.

“There are horses in here that can outdo him, but he’s probably the most cow smart horse I’ve ever had,” said Bellenfant who is from Novice in the Abilene area.

The 2019 Futurity victory gave Metallic Rey Mink’s owner, Los Jaboncillos Ranch, Inc., of Premont, the $175,398 prize.

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