For Richmond Champion, 2014 was the year of continually filling his saddle bags with big bucks.
Champion kicked off the year by tying for first in bareback riding at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s National Western Stock Show Rodeo in Denver. Then, he placed at renowned stock show rodeos in Fort Worth and San Antonio.
However, Champion’s big break came last March when he won the $1.1 million bareback riding title at RFD-TV’s The American in March at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.
It didn’t stop there.
Champion helped Tarleton State finish second in the men’s team race at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s June College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
After that, Champion moved back onto the PRCA circuit and won the bareback riding titles at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming and the Dodge City Round Up in Kansas.
By early August, Champion had enough earnings to secure his first berth to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. And when he got to Vegas, Champion earned $108,140, which helped him finish third in the 2014 PRCA world bareback riding title race with $198,075.
“It was incredible,” Champion said of his success in 2014. “It’s kind of going to be hard to top that. It’s definitely something I’m going to remember forever.”
But that was last year.
The 22-year-old Champion, who has homes in the Stephenville area and in The Woodlands, is in Fort Worth this weekend to compete in the Stock Show Rodeo as he hit the road in search of his second consecutive NFR back number.
During Thursday night’s performance at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Champion turned in a solid first-round bareback riding score of 78. He will face his second-round bronc during Friday’s matinee show (2 p.m.) and his third-round horse during Friday night’s performance (7:30 p.m.).
Champion also is scheduled to compete in the 2015 edition of The American, which is scheduled for March 1 at AT&T Stadium.
“I’m looking for a repeat,” Champion said of The American. “I want to go back on that [winner’s] stage again.”
During the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo’s matinee barrel racing performance Thursday, Sarah Rose McDonald of Brunswick, Ga., took the lead in both the second round and the title race with a time of 16.37 seconds. She leads the average/aggregate race with a two-run time of 32.79.
McDonald, 22, is a fresh face on the circuit. Last year, she won the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s Rookie of the Year title. This year, she’s attempting to earn her first berth to the National Finals Rodeo.
“I grew up watching the NFR on TV every year, and so, to make it one year would be awesome,” McDonald said.
She can take a big step toward qualifying for the NFR if she can win the Fort Worth rodeo. She has all but clinched a berth in the final round, which is scheduled for Saturday night.
While competing at the Stock Show Rodeo, McDonald is riding her 8-year-old mare named Bling.
“She just has a really big heart,” McDonald said. “Every run, she runs with full speed, and she gets really low in her turns. She’s just a full package deal.”