by nathan oster
It wasn’t the hometown boy’s day, but the first Flying B Invitational junior bull riding competition held in conjunction with the Days of ’49 on Saturday afternoon didn’t disappoint, attracting 35 of the top young riders in the region.
The event was one of 38 qualifiers on this year’s Junior World Finals bull riding schedule. At season’s end, the top point-scorers will earn trips to Las Vegas for the Junior World Finals, which is Dec. 5-14.
The 35 contestants who gathered in Greybull on Saturday competed in four divisions: junior mini bulls (10-11), senior mini bulls (12-13), junior bullriding (14-15) and senior bullriding (16-18). The long round began at 2 and the top performers returned for the short go at 6 p.m.
All eyes were on the local rider, Jayce Sorensen. The biggest cheers of the day went up when his name was announced before his ride. The soon-to-be eighth grader at GMS gave it his all, but got bucked off and didn’t post a score. He didn’t make the short go.
“It was just one of those days,” said Jayce, taking it in stride. “He was a big, heavy bull … I just didn’t get my feet reset and move my hand out.”
Brenson Bartlett of Cheyenne was the senior mini bull riding average champion. Other winners on Saturday included Strat Youngberg of Lyman (junior mini bulls), Ben Tracey of Rexburg, Idaho (junior bull riding) and Andrew Rutherford of Penrose, Colo., (senior bull riding).
Becky Sorensen said Jayce drew a tough bull, “but that’s part of it … the luck of the draw. Sometimes you will draw ones that are easier to get by; sometimes you are going to draw tougher ones.
“I know he was super disappointed. He was in his hometown and people had come to watch him. So I know it was a pretty hard pill for him to swallow. But you need to remember — in bullriding, if a person rides 30 percent of his bulls, he’s doing pretty well. He’s been riding around 80 percent of his bulls, so his riding percentage is way up there.”
Becky said she believes the event went well. Temporary fencing and bucking chutes were brought in to reduce the size of the arena and bring spectators closer to the action and the admission fee was waived. Prior to the short go, there was a fireworks show, courtesy of Mike and Andrea Laird.
“We just wanted people to come and watch … that was the most important thing,” she said, adding that “some great sponsorships” provided by local residents and businesses helped offset the costs.
“Like any event, especially for the first time, I think there are some things we’re going to tweak a little bit to make it go better,” said Becky. “But the overall production was good, the sound was good and the kids had a great time.
“I wish the weather would have been better. I think more people would have come.”
Spectators who attended Saturday’s competition might be wondering about the young riders who required medical attention. Both who were injured in the long round were transported, but they were well enough to return for the evening’s short go. One of them even competed in it, said Becky.
As for Jayce, he’s scheduled to ride again this weekend in West Yellowstone. Next up will be Laramie on July 10.