Excitement builds as National Finals Rodeo nears

JOYCE WHITIS Correspondent
Stephenville's Marty Yates will make his first appearance in Las Vegas in December, when he will compete in the National Finals Rodeo.

This year Stephenville will surely show the whole world that it deserves to be called the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” The proof, if any is needed, is the list of top contestants; professional cowboys that live in this area, who have performed well enough to be listed among the Top 15 cowboys in the world in each of eight rodeo events and the top cowgirl barrel racers as determined by the WPRA.

Looking at the latest Windham Weaponry High Performance 2014 PRCA World Standings, 22 area cowboys and barrel racers have qualified for that trip to Las Vegas.

Kenny Petit, arena performer and his amazing rodeo monkey, Whiplash, will also be there riding his trusty Border Collie.

Two of the three AQHA/PRCA roping horses of the year are from Stephenville. No. 2 is Chicken, trained by James Barton of Stephenville and owned and ridden by Marty Yates, who is ranked No. 5 among the top 15 tie-down ropers in the country on his first trip as an NFR qualifier. Yates, 20, will be followed by the whole herd of Hamptons including his mother, aunts, uncles, grandmother and great-grandmother.

"I am just so proud of Marty and the hard work he has put in to get to the Finals," said his grandmother Barbara Hampton. "Competing in the NFR is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of his and ours as well. Traveling with him on this journey has been exciting.”

No. 3 Roping Horse of the Year is Pearl, owned by Sid Miller of Stephenville and ridden by Cody Ohl of Hico with six world titles and 20 NFR qualifications. Ohl holds the arena record of 6.3 in tie-down roping.

Pearl was No. 1 in 2013 and 2009. Sadly, she won’t be traveling to Las Vegas this year. Pearl is in rehab nursing an injury that happened at an event earlier this year.

Dudley Barker of Stephenville was chosen “Photographer of the Year” in 2009 and has been selected to the Rodeo Cowboys Hall of Fame. Barker will be there with camera in hand looking for that perfect moment to snap a prize-winning photo.

In addition to approximately 20 NFR qualifying cowboys and cowgirls living in the area, we also claim two specialty acts - Samantha Lyne and her amazing riding while carrying a flag around the arena, and Kenny Petit and his trained monkey, Whiplash, and his border collie.

Erath County is also home to a successful roping horse trainer in James Barton who will have three or four horses at the Finals this December.

Besides training Chicken for Marty Yates, James has trained Topaz for World Champion Tie-Down Roper Tuf Cooper, Chuck for Matt Shiozawa and Flyswatter for Ryan Watkins. All will be competing in the WNFR.

Here’s the best list that we could put together naming professionals that live in this area and have worked hard enough to qualify for the trip.

Bareback Riding

6.Bobby Mote of Huckabay

7. Richmond Champion of Stephenville

Team Roping (Header)

1. Clay Tryan of Lipan

6. Kaleb Driggers of Huckabay

12. Charly Crawford of Huckabay

13. Turtle Powell of Stephenville

Team Roping (Heeler)

1. Jade Corkill of Huckabay

3. Travis Graves of Morgan Mill

6. Patrick Smith of Lipan

7. Jim Ross Cooper of Huckabay

9. Jake Long of Stephenville

10. Shay Carroll of Dublin

11. Kollin VonAhn of Huckabay

12. Dakota Kirchenschlager of Morgan Mill

Saddle Bronc Riding

5. Jacobs Crawley of Stephenville

Tie-Down Roping

5. Marty Yates of Stephenville

12. Ryan Watkins of Bluff Dale

14. Cody Ohl of Hico

2014 Barrel Racing WPRA

5. Britany Diaz of Desdemona

12. Carlee Pierce of Stephenville

14. Samantha Lyne of Stephenville

Trailers will be pulling out soon, headed across the rest of Texas, all of New Mexico, Arizona and into Las Vegas, Nevada. Others will board a plane and still others will drive their pickups and SUV’s across the miles. Those who remain at home can watch the action on TV every night beginning Dec. 4 on DirectTV channel 158 and Dish Network on channel 221.

Telecasts will continue through Dec. 14.