WHOA CANADA! Thurston Becomes First Canadian to Win Champions Ride With an 87

NEAR SENTINEL BUTTE — One of rodeo’s freshest faces continued making a name for himself at one of the sport’s most tradition-laden events Saturday.

Zeke Thurston, who turned 22 years old in July, avoided disaster in the chute and then spurred retiring bucking horse Lynx Mountain to an 87-point ride in front of more than 3,000 fans to win the 60th annual Champions Ride Saddle Bronc Match at the Home on the Range.

The Big Valley, Alberta, cowboy became the first Canadian to win the Champions Ride and second international cowboy following Australian Glen O’Neill, who won in 1999 and 2000.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to have quite a bit of success early on in my career, and you know … you don’t get to go to very many events like this that are this prestigious,” Thurston said with a smile.

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Griemsman Sets Roughrider Days Barrel Racing Record

Tanner Aus, of Granite Falls, Minn., hangs on for an 85-point ride in the bareback riding on Flaxy Lady on Saturday in the Roughrider Days Rodeo at the Dickinson State Outdoor Arena.

When Jana Griemsman heard Dickinson received torrential rain on Friday night, she was discouraged.

The Piedmont, S.D., barrel racer said she and others scheduled to run Saturday evening at the Roughrider Days Rodeo were convinced they wouldn’t have much of a chance to finish in the money.

“We were all a little discouraged thinking we wouldn’t have a chance if the ground was wet,” Griemsman said. “But we got here, and we were all really impressed.”

Griemsman, however, was the one who left everyone dazzled. Three tight turns on a near-perfect path helped her set a Roughrider Days barrel racing record with a time of 15.51 seconds. Griemsman said her horse had struggled recently to make tight turns on the final barrel.

“I knew when she finished it tonight, my other two barrels were so close I knew I was going to have a good run,” Griemsman said. “I knew it was going to be good. I didn’t know I’d be winning it, but I was tickled when they announced my time.”

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‘REAL’ CHRISTMAS: Tradition, ‘the smell’ keep holiday shoppers coming back for live trees

John Kempenich and his daughter, Lexi, of Dickinson, check to see if the Christmas tree they picked out at the Dickinson State University Rodeo Club’s sale on Wednesday evening at the DSU Ag Building is the one they want.

For John Kempenich, it’s about tradition, family and, of course, the smell.

Kempenich spent several minutes Wednesday night at the Dickinson State University Agriculture Building carefully examining the fir trees lining the walls until he found one that caught his eye.

He fluffed the tree and inspected it some more. After seeking the advice of his daughters, who each performed the same meticulous study of the tree, the decision was made. The Kempenich family had found their Christmas tree.

They have been coming to DSU to pick out a Christmas tree sold as a fundraiser by the university’s rodeo club since before their 18-year-old daughter Lexi was born.

“It’s just one of them things that you like — that smell and the familiness of coming together and picking out a tree for the year,” Kempenich said as the smile on his face grew.
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Battling Bulls Again: Halliday’s bull rider returns to NHSFR a year wreck left him in 4-day coma

Camren DeCoteau remembers almost everything leading up to the moment that put him in a coma.

On July 20, 2011, DeCoteau did what he had done countless times before.

The reigning North Dakota state high school bull riding champion stepped into a chute and calmly set himself atop the bull. He gave a head nod, watched the chute gate open and held on tight.

This time, however, he never heard the eight-second time limit buzzer.

“I just remember hitting the (bull’s) horn. Then I was gone,” DeCoteau said. “I hit the horn and that hit the lights on me.

“They said if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I would have been dead.”

DeCoteau, a 2012 Halliday High School graduate, returns to the National High School Finals Rodeo this week, almost a year after the near-fatal accident that put him in a four-day medically induced coma but did not shake his spirit. to hold her breath for eight seconds every time her son gets on a bull. All she hopes is that he doesn’t have a repeat of what happened last year.

“It’s a long eight seconds, that’s for sure,” Fredericks said.

The night he was injured, Fredericks said DeCoteau and his bull were not in sync. As the animal attempted to buck him off, its head swung up and back, connecting with DeCoteau’s head. Once DeCoteau was bucked and in the dirt, the bull trampled him for a moment before being chased from the arena.

The NHSFR begins today at the Sweetwater Athletic Complex in Rock Springs, Wyo. DeCoteau is scheduled to ride in the Tuesday evening and Thursday morning performances.

Lori Fredericks, DeCoteau’s mother, said she fully intends

DeCoteau suffered skull fractures in 10 places and shearing of blood vessels near his brain, causing bleeding. Fredericks said doctors told her the vessels were sheared by whiplash and the blunt-force trauma of her son’s head connecting with the bull’s head and horn at a high rate of speed.

“The very first night, we didn’t know what was going to happen, if there was any brain damage, how much brain damage there was, or if he was even going to come out of it,” Fredericks said. “The first night was the scariest. After that, it got a little bit better.”

To make matters worse, DeCoteau had suffered a slight concussion after being bucked earlier in the day while competing in the morning performance.

“It dazed me pretty good,” he said, adding he never lost consciousness. “My parents wanted me to go to the hospital, but I said I was alright. I decided to get back on that night.”

DeCoteau said he doesn’t regret the decision to return for the evening performance despite being urged not to, adding he would make the same choice if he had to do it all over again.

“It’s kind of the way I was brought up,” he said. “Dad always told me if you get hurt and don’t feel like riding, don’t get on. If you feel like you’re capable of doing it, then go for it.”

By July 23, Fredericks said her son began to regain consciousness. His condition improved greatly over the next two days and he returned home July 25 after five days in the hospital.

Weston Hartman, a 16-year-old from Mandan who rides bareback broncs and bulls, is good friends with DeCoteau and watched his ill-fated ride at the NHSFR last year. He said seeing his friend lay unconscious at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Wyo., was scarier than the ride that put him there.

“You didn’t expect him to be in there that long,” Hartman said. “You just expect him to have a concussion and he had a lot more injuries than that.”

DeCoteau said he remembers nothing from his time in the hospital, saying the last thing he remembers from the rodeo was his final ride.

“I remember waking up at home. I don’t even remember the drive home,” DeCoteau said. “I woke up at home and kind of forgot all about nationals and my mom said, ‘You’re not riding anymore.’”

DeCoteau, about has hard-headed as the bull that knocked him out, didn’t take those words to heart.

A little over a month later, he was on the back of a bull at an amateur rodeo in Fort Totten.

“I’m not going to lie, I was pretty scared,” he said with a laugh.

He hung on for just under eight seconds before being thrown to the dirt.

“I just kind of stood there for a second. I didn’t even run,” DeCoteau said. “I walked away from him as he was chasing me all the way back. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve done.”

Neurologists cleared DeCoteau to ride bulls at North Dakota High School Rodeo Association events just in time for the spring high school season that begin at the end of April. He spent the fall team roping, an event he had never tried until then.

“That was something new for us, for the whole family,” Fredericks said with a laugh. “Usually we just throw the gear bag in the trunk and we’re off to the rodeo. Now we had to get the horse and the trailer. You learn all new things.”

DeCoteau got his only win of the year — a 73-point ride — at the spring opener in West Fargo on April 28. He logged a 70-point ride the following day.

DeCoteau said he is coming into this year’s NHSFR with a completely different outlook. Last year, DeCoteau felt he wasn’t riding his best leading up to nationals, which he said contributed to what happened the day he was injured.

“I got to thinking too much that I won state and that it’d be easy to go down there and win nationals,” he said.

This year, he has spent the summer riding bulls and has shrugged off a subpar performance at this year’s state high school finals that led him to finish third in the state standings behind champion Devin Boltz of Belfield and runner-up Coleman Entze of Dunn Center.

DeCoteau ranks second in the Western Edge Bull Riding standings with $1,500 earned over four rodeos and won $2,272 for a winning 76-point ride at the Wing Rodeo in June.

“I’ve been getting on anything that’s able to get on,” he said.

But there are always worries, Fredericks said.

“Even months after it happened, we still don’t know the long-term effects of a severe head injury,” Fredericks said.

Nonetheless, there’s little she can do to hold her son back.

“I think he’s more confident,” Fredericks said. “This is what he loves to do and he’s doing it.”

Heading in hot: Stroh hopes unbelievable September carries over into NFR

Shaun Stroh is a soft-spoken cowboy whose tones don’t differentiate much whether he’s ecstatic or irritated.

He’s an aw-shucks, church-going man with a loving wife who keeps him in line — even when he’s on the road and she’s thousands of miles away — and five kids who keep him hopping when he’s at home.

So, forgive the Dickinson saddle bronc rider if he brushes off his performance in September — perhaps the most astounding month any cowboy in any event on the professional rodeo circuit had this year — as nothing more than luck and timing.

Before Labor Day weekend, Stroh didn’t think qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo was a possibility.

On Thursday night, he’ll strap in at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas for his fourth career turn at rodeo’s Super Bowl hoping there’s still a little fire left in his hot streak.

“I was just truly blessed I guess would be the best way to put it,” Stroh said. “There’s too many things that had to go right in a certain order. It just doesn’t happen. Ever.”

Well it did happen, and to one of the more unassuming bronc riders on the circuit.

In early September, with less than a month remaining in the 2009 regular season, Stroh was 22nd in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s saddle bronc riding standings and his year looked to be wrapping up.

Before the end of month, he had won $48,356 on eight rides and moved to eighth in the standings with $82,159, effectively qualifying him for the NFR.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Dusty Hausauer, a professional saddle bronc rider from Dickinson and one of Stroh’s traveling partners.

Stroh’s astounding run began on Sept. 7 with an 88-point ride in at the prestigious Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo. That earned him $3,856. Four days later in Lewiston, Idaho, Stroh scored another 88 on Surprise Party, the 2008 bucking horse of the year. That pocketed him $4,075 and the chase for the NFR was back on.

Stroh squeaked into the final eight in Puyallup, Wash., only to win the semifinals, the finals and $15,138.

Still, he remained on the NFR bubble.

Stroh stayed hot and won money in the next four rodeos he entered: Salt Lake City ($127), Pendleton, Ore. ($4,520), Bowman ($1,062) and Albuquerque, N.M. ($1,956).

Yet he needed another big payday to secure his spot and hold off a tight chase that saw bronc riders between the Nos. 11 and 23 spots heading into September all vying for the final five of the NFR’s 15 qualifying spots.

“The numbers were so tight, money-wise, between so many guys that everybody had to go all the way to the end because nobody was really safe,” Stroh said.

So Stroh and several others positioned themselves for a final showdown the final weekend of September at the lucrative River City Roundup in Omaha Neb.

Stroh wavered a little, but not enough to slow him down.

He tied for second in the second round ($3,784) and tied for fifth in the average ($1,056), putting him into the semifinals and the shot at bigger payouts.

He won the semifinals ($6,160) and took third in the finals ($6,626), giving him a season-high $17,622 in earnings for the weekend.

“He really capitalized on the chances he had. He some good chances and he made ’em work,” Hausauer said. “It was phenomenal to watch. Just everywhere he went, if he had a chance, he won some money and that’s what you’ve got to do. That’s what separates him from a lot of guys is when he had the chance, he took advantage of it.”

Stroh wrapped up the month with a little panache too.

A bronc had mangled Stroh’s saddle following his win in the semifinals and forced him to borrow a saddle of Alberta cowboy Dustin Flaundra, ironically another bronc rider on the NFR bubble at the time.

Re-rides forced Stroh to get on three different broncs in the finals before he finally held on for an 83 on his third attempt.

The weekend put Stroh over the top while others weren’t so fortunate.

Hausauer, who was ranked as high as sixth during the regular season, dropped to 16th — one place out of the NFR — despite numerous attempts to qualify in the final days of the season.

Regardless of his finish, Hausauer said watching Stroh find his groove pushed him to keep working despite some tough luck.

“I had some trouble there at the end,” Hausauer said. “To watch him, that actually helped me out toward the end too. When somebody in the truck is doing that good, you don’t ever get down, and it was good to watch and it helped me out quite a bit too.”

Likewise, Stroh said he might not have kept fighting for the NFR had Hausauer not been at his side encouraging him to enter some of the lateseason events.

“I was down to four or five weeks and I was so far out, money-wise, that I didn’t really have a shot unless things went as good as they did, which doesn’t happen,” Stroh said. “Having Dusty as close as he was, that was the main reason I was still going. There was just two of us in the rig and he was going good so I was just going to stick with it until he was done. The coin kind of flipped and he started going the other way.”

Stroh’s finish was miles away from the rest of his summer. Early in the season, he knew things could be a little rough.

“When you show up and your buddies are laughing at you because you’re there, you know you didn’t get a very good one (bronc),” Stroh said.

He contemplated a layoff after injuring his leg when a horse blew up on him in the chute in mid-June at a rodeo in Livermore, Calif.

“I should have come home. I stayed out there and kept going and darn sure didn’t win anything,” Stroh said.

That all changed in September.

All signs point to money winnings leader Jesse Kruse of Great Falls, Mont., as the favorite to win the saddle bronc world title.

Stroh, because of his lateseason run, is more of a Cinderella. And he’s been to the NFR enough to know when the chute opens for the first time, the regular season doesn’t really matter.

“You don’t really change your game plan at all from day to day or month to month,” Stroh said. “You may be a little more excited getting on some of them when you know you’ve got a good horse drawn. But it still comes down to the basics — one horse at a time, one jump at a time.”