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If you’ve never been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, this is an event you must attend, at least once in a lifetime. NFR 2017 marks the 33rd year for the Wrangler NFR to be held in Las Vegas
It’s not so easy anymore for Ryder Wright to get lost in the sea of Stetsons and Justin Boots at the rodeo arena — no matter if he’s close to home in Beaver County or not.
The fans of professional NFR 2017 know his face. That’s what a breakout performance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will do for a cowboy.
“I was just so busy yesterday,” Wright said, explaining why it took him more than a day to find time for an interview with The Spectrum & Daily News.
“Then today I had to sign autographs.”
His signature is worth a lot more these days, too. The 18-year-old from Utah’s first family of rodeo captured the attention of the rodeo world in December with an historic performance at his first NFR, winning five of 10 rounds in saddle bronc riding and collecting some $141,000 over the 10 days to finish fourth in the world.
Along the way, Wright joined Hall of Fame saddle bronc rider Robert Etbauer as the only cowboy in the 58-year history of the national finals to win four consecutive rounds.
Less than 24 hours after an 85-point performance on Wednesday night at the Wrangler Champions Challenge in the shadow of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota — a ride that earned him second place and nearly doubled his 2017 winnings to $6,820 — Wright could only describe his NFR odyssey as “unreal.”
Pro rodeo: Utah dominates NFR saddle bronc riding
He won the opening four rounds inside the Thomas & Mack Center, catapulting from 14th in the standings to within a few dollars of the world lead. The sport humbled Wright over the next four rounds, though, as he failed to score another point. His ninth-go win was sandwiched by victories by his dad, Cody, a two-time world champion whose success on a bucking horse put Milford on the rodeo map.
With his eyes on a return trip to the bright lights of Las Vegas, Wright said he’s focused on everything but the hype generated by his success — “I try not to think about that too much,” he said — and determined to maintain the head-down approach that helped him emerge as one of the sport’s top contestants.
“I definitely have goals set (to get back to the NFR), because if you don’t know what you’re chasing, how do you know when you get there?” Wright said.
Wright’s sponsors are Wrangler, Stetson, Yeti and Performance Diesel.
Kanarraville’s Coronado earns TV time
There will be about 200 cowgirls circling the barrels later this month at The American Semi-Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
McKenna Coronado just might the only 15-year-old in the bunch.
The Kanarraville cowgirl, a sophomore at Cedar High School and one of Utah’s top high school contestants, will be riding her prized horse, Irish, at the nationally-televised, $1 million event inside the Cowtown Coliseum, the oldest indoor rodeo arena in the United States.
McKenna Coronado and her horse, Irish, will compete
McKenna Coronado and her horse, Irish, will compete in the nationally-televised American Semi-Finals later this month in Texas. (Photo: Jordan Allred / The Spectrum & Daily News)
“It’s exciting,” Coronado said with a nervous smile, “but it’s also intimidating.”
The American isn’t a youth rodeo. The barrel racing field will largely feature seasoned and professional cowgirls – including one of Coronado’s mentors and role models, Danyelle Campbell, a three-time NFR qualifier – who earned spots through qualifying events across the country.
Coronado qualified last August at the Southwest Desert Classic Summer Saddle Series in Salina, where she finished in second place.
That ride followed a tremendous rookie season on the state high school circuit, where she qualified for the National High Schools Finals Rodeo and helped the Utah girls win their second straight national championship.
While Coronado competes in every possible event for a cowgirl on the high school circuit — “Except queening,” she said with a laugh. “I won’t do queening” — barrel racing is her favorite.
“It definitely gives you an adrenaline rush,” Coronado said. “You’re just going as fast you can, then turning as fast as you can (around the barrels).”
The Feb. 14-17 American will be televised on RFD-TV, a cable channel dedicated to rural issues and interests. The channel can be found on DirecTV (345) and DISH Network (231) in Cedar City and St. George, as well as Central TelCom (71) and Charter (74) in Iron County.