At this point, even Tag Elliott has trouble keeping track of the the bulls he's covered at the College National Finals Rodeo.
"I lose track pretty fast," Elliott said. "I just try and ride them one at a time."
The number is 12 after the Utah Valley senior rode Ty Rinaldo's Frickin Wild for 84 points on Thursday at the Casper Events. The ride gave Elliott, a four-time CNFR competitor and former College of Southern Idaho cowboy, the lead in the third go-round and the average.
Elliott has covered two of three bulls this week, with four riders who have covered at least one set to ride on Friday, including Missouri Valley senior Will Crain. Elliott posted the top mark of the first go (83.5) and has a two-ride total of 167.5; Crain covered his first two bulls (154.5), with Wharton County sophomore Trey Benton and Missouri Valley junior Mason Ormesher (152 on three) tied for second in the average.
"We'll see how it all works out," said Elliott, who has finished second, fourth and third at previous CNFRs. "Just try and ride one more."
Elliott was one of three qualified rides in the third section of the third go. Treasure Valley sophomore Clayne Haight held on for a 65 to move into 11th in the average, and Laramie County sophomore Loncey Johnson survived a battering aboard Rinaldo's Smokin Ash. Johnson had his knee bashed in the chute, the bull crashed into the gate midway through, and finally, into the chutes as the horn sounded.
"It was just real gross on the whole ride," Johnson said. "I just rode him jump for jump as best I could."
Johnson was awarded a 58.5 and a reride option, but with the physical pounding he took, he elected to take a second qualified ride -- even if he wasn't real happy with it -- over the chance to improve his score.
"Consistency wins," said Johnson, who said he'll ice his knee and rest for Saturday's short go. "The guy that rides the most bulls is going to win."
Casper College freshman Zach Phillips notched a 75.5-point ride aboard Harry Vold's Little Miss to move into second place in the third go-round. Only two riders that started the week two-for-two rode in Thursday's performance, and of those two, only Miles CC sophomore Dillon Schroth (70.5) posted a qualified ride. Schroth moved into fifth in the average (196 on three); Jordan Corrigan (Missouri Valley) failed to mark out and missed his opportunity to cover a third ride of the week.
Walla Walla CC sophomore Bo Segerman leads the third go with a 78-point ride from Wednesday. His time was initially reported by officials as a 73.
Seven riders who opened the week 2-for-2 have yet to ride, including Vernon College's Ty Kirkland (154 on two), New Mexico States Cooper DeWitt (151 on two) and Fort Scott's Jade Blackwell (146.5 on two).
College of Southern Idaho sophomore Orin Larsen had the top ride on Thursday (77) to move into seventh in the average and a tie for fourth in the go. Sam Houston State junior Taylor Price took Triple V's Swan Lake for a 73-point dance to move into second place in the average (223.5).
Thursday featured five different cowboys making a move into the top-12 of the average: Tim O'Connell (Iowa Central) had a 75.5-point ride to move into fourth, while Bradley Dyck (College of Southern Idaho) and Blaine Davies (Feather River) had 73- and 73.5-point rides, respectively, to move into the top-12. The top four spots in the average are separated by just four points -- led by Tarleton State's Jacob Self (224.5 on three) -- with four cowboys who are 2-for-2 this week set to ride on Friday.
That group includes Missouri Valley's Tanner Aus (157 on two), Feather River's Grant Denny (142 on two), Tarleton State's Joel Schlegel (141.5 on two) and Odessa's Dustin Bowen (138 on two).