Published 6/8/2012 in Beef Empire Days-Sports
By BRETT MARSHALL
When Casey Colletti and his cowboy sidekicks rolled into Garden City at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the Pueblo, Colo., native and former Garden City Community College standout didn't need any directions to arrive at the Fairgrounds Arena for the opening night of the 2012 Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo.
Brad Nading/Telegram Bad Habit the bull makes quick work of bucking off Tate Smith, Litchville, N.D., Thursday during the first set of bull riding in the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds.
Brad Nading/Telegram Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., stays on Matrix for a full ride Thursday in the bareback riding competition during the first night performance of the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena. Colletti, a former Garden City Community College rodeo team member, scored an 82 on the ride.
And the former Broncbuster rodeo star didn't leave disappointed less than three hours later after riding Matrix to an 82-point score that left him tied for third after the first of three days of the Bareback Riding competition.
"It felt good, I'm pretty tickled," Colletti said. "I haven't done that good in years past."
But things are different for Colletti in 2012 than they were this time a year ago. Oh, yes. Things are much different for the 2006 GCCC grad.
He qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo last December and made the most of his rookie appearance at the big show, finishing fifth in the total average of 10 goes and setting the stage for what has thus far been a banner 2012 season. He currently sits in the No. 7-ranked spot of the bareback standings prior to this week's schedule of rodeos across the country.
"Oh man, it's really been amazing, unreal, kind of a whirlwind year," Colletti said. "Everything just seems like its starting to click."
Going back to his first big Tour win at Prescott, Ariz. last year, Colletti has seen incremental improvement as well as his confidence growing.
"It's still a little nerveracking, there's still pressure, but mostly it's my expectations are higher," Colletti said. "The people around me are great. I really wanted to come in here and do well for the home folks. So many good things happened to me in my earlier years here."
Colletti was back in Garden City this past February to lend a hand in a clinic conducted by GCCC coach Jim Boy Hash.
"It's just a way of helping out coach and giving something back," said Colletti, who won the Central Plains College Circuit title in 2006.
It was a short trip into what he calls his western Kansas hometown as he loaded his equipment back up, got in the truck and was driving to Denver. An early Friday flight was taking him to Sisters, Ore., where he competes Friday night. It's a whirlwind airline flight back to Denver on Saturday morning and then off to another rodeo on Sunday.
"It's just gotten that way as I can now travel to the good ones and see how I do," Colletti said. "I couldn't imagine all of this when I was here last year. It's been an amazing year to be honest."
Colletti said he felt he had improved his riding technique over the past year, thus the improved results.
"Last year, I was just hanging off to the side when I was riding," Colletti said. "Now, I'm more square on the horse and I'm using my spur strokes better. They're stronger, crisper. Tonight, when he broke out, I was just trying to get a bunch of points."
Colletti was tied with Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla., a former PRCA World Champion who rode Arabella. They were trailing Jared Keylon of Uniontown, Kan., who topped the list with 86 points while Winn Ratliff of Lessville, La., was in second with 85 points.
Keylon was thrilled with his ride and even more was just happy to be healthy again and able to ride.
He won this event at the Beef Empire Days in 2010 and then three weeks later broke his leg at Cheyenne, Wyo. in the Frontier Days Rodeo. Last year, he said, was just getting his health back and regaining the mental toughness necessary to compete at a high level.
"To be honest, this is just a real bonus," said Keyton, who is now married and has a young child back home in southeast Kansas. "I've got more reasons now with a family. It makes you focus and appreciate things."
Keyton said that he knew he had a good horse (Mean Jean) because his travel partner, Heath Ford, had ridden him to a 79-point performance at another rodeo last year.
"I thought if I got a good ride, I'd have a chance to get a pretty good score," Keyton said. "I couldn't have asked for a better horse. You can usually feel them out in the first couple of seconds and I could tell that we were gonna get on for a good one."
In the saddle bronc event, Tyrell Smith of Great Falls, Mont., had the night's best ride, scoring 82 points on Satin Sheets while Jeremy Ray Melancon of Huntsville, Texas, was in second with a score of 81 and Sterling Crawley of College Station, Texas, was third with 80.
In the featured Bull Riding event, there were 16 riders and only two of them managed to stay on the required eight seconds to record a score.
Josh Koschel of Nunn, Colo., and Danny Schlobohm of LaMonte, Mo., each scored 81 points on Model T and Banana Boat. The famed Korkow Rodeo bulls were up to the task of providing the remaining bull riders all the challenge they could ask for.
NFR bull Bad Habit and youthful Magnum Force took less than three seconds to dump Tate Smith of Litchville, N.D., and Dustin Elliott of North Platte, Neb. Top 100 bull Mortachi took just 1.5 seconds to spill Thunder Boomer of Interior, S.D.
"We're really pleased with our bulls, they've really shown they can perform and I know the riders will have their hands full," Korkow said prior to the start of the evening's competition. His words were prophetic.
With carryover results from Wednesday's slack competition, Chancy Larson of Manhattan continued to lead the Steer Wrestling with a time of 3.5 seconds and Wade Sumpter of Fowler, Colo., remained in second at 3.7 seconds. Jayce Johnson of Hemingford, Neb., took over the top position in the Tie Down Roping with a time of 8.9 seconds while first-day leader Cody McCartney of Temperance, Mich., dropped to second at 9.0 seconds.
Paul David Tierney of Oral, S.D., and Cody Doescher of Oklahoma City continued to be in first place in the Team Roping with a time of 4.7 seconds while Kaleb Driggers of Albany, Ga., and Jade Corkill of Fallon, Nev. stayed in second at 4.8 seconds.
Shada Brazile of Decatur, Texas, is still in first place for the Women's Barrel Race at 17.27 seconds and retained an 0.08 second lead over Jean Winters of Texline, Texas. Ginalee Tierney of Broken Bow, Neb., and Kirby Eppert of Central City, Neb., were tied for first in the Ladies Breakaway Roping with times of 3.1 seconds.
The second nightly performance for the 26th edition of the BED PRCA Rodeo will begin at 7 p.m. today at the Fairgrounds Arena with the third and final night set for Saturday, again with a 7 p.m. start.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.
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