CHEYENNE - Steer roper Jarrett Blessing had to ride two-thirds of the way down one of the world's longest rodeo arenas to get the job done, but still managed to turn in the fastest time at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo on Monday.
Blessing, of Paradise, Texas, advanced to second place overall with his time of 18.4 seconds and two-round aggregate of 21.7. The top 15 in the aggregate qualify for Sunday's finals.
While all rodeo cowboys try to win as much money as they can, Blessing, a middle-school agriculture teacher, has felt pressure to win enough to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo before the school year starts next month.
"I try to win as much as I can over the summer. If I have a good year, I make the finals. And if I don't, I go back to work," he said. "As good as it pays, if you can have a good Cheyenne then that helps out a lot. You don't have to go to as many rodeos."
Blessing was ranked ninth in the world heading into Frontier Days, and steer roping pays out a total of $137,500 at this year's Frontier Days.
Out of the gate, it didn't seem like Blessing was going to have much help from the steer he drew, which easily had the most spunk of any in the afternoon. "I didn't know he was going to run like that," Blessing said.
But Blessing caught up after a long, fast ride, and tied the animal up with no trouble. And he obviously knew he had done well, throwing up his arms in a triumphant flourish.
Shandon Stalls, of Mclean, Texas, came in second for the day in 20.5, followed by Will Yoakum, of Llano, Texas, in 22.09.
The 109th Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo continues each day this week with performances starting at 1 p.m.