DUNCAN, Okla. – In his eight-year ProRodeo career, Jared Keylon has missed the regional year-end championship just once. That was last year.
The Uniontown, Kan., bareback rider has Destination Duncan on his mind, a return to the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for Oct. 18-20 at the Stephens County Expo Center. It’s one of many goals the 27-year-old cowboy has for 2012.
He’s well on his way. So far this season, Keylon has won seven event titles in the last three weeks. In fact, he won three rodeos last weekend – Garden City, Kan.; Merrill, Wis.; and Gladewater, Texas. He also has added championships at four other rodeos in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska season – at Bennington and Strong City in Kansas and Claremore and Hugo in Oklahoma.
“My goal this year is to definitely make the NFR,” he said of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s championship event for which only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify when the 2012 season concludes the end of September. “My main goal is to just keep eating at them, winning $1,000 and $2,000 a week right now, then work for the $5,000s over the summer when I have to knock heads with all the best guys.”
Keylon’s big weekend moved him from 13th to ninth in the bareback riding world standings with $26,769 in earnings so far this year. Of that, $5,600 counts toward the circuit standings – the Arkansas-born cowboy is No. 1 in the region, about $1,450 ahead of the No. 2 man, 2008 world champion Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla.
Of course, it’s critical in that top spot when the season concludes after the circuit finale, but Keylon knows that better than most – he won Prairie Circuit bareback riding titles in 2008 and 2009.
“I’m excited about Duncan hosting the circuit finals,” he said. “I like that facility they have down there. It’s small, and they draw a good crowd every time I’ve been down there just for the rodeo.
“I liked it when our circuit finals was in Kansas City, but I think if I could’ve picked another place, then I would’ve picked it to be there.”
Ty Clearwater is excited to see what might happen in Duncan, too. The LaCynge, Kan., bull rider won the circuit finals a year ago; now he wants to win the championship outright.
“I’m living in Texas now, so I’m going to have to hit more rodeos to make the finals,” Clearwater said. “I’m planning on winning the circuit. With as many rodeos I have to go to now, I should. I think if a guy goes to that many rodeos, he ought to win the year-end title. That’s one of my goals.”
Clearwater, who won the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla., over Memorial Day weekend, leads the bull riding standings with $6,019. His lead is nearly $2,000 over the current runner-up, Chris McCombs of Duncan.
Clearwater and Keylon are just two of the leaders in the Prairie Circuit standings through the middle part of June. The others include steer wrestler Sean Mulligan of Coleman, Okla., $4,583; header Nick Sartain of Dover, Okla., $6,432; heeler Kollin VonAhn of Durant, Okla., $6,432; saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby of Dodge City, Kan., $3,146; tie-down roper Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla., $11,495; steer roper Cody Scheck of Ellinwood, Kan., $8,858; and barrel racer Tana Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla., $5,982.
Scheck, who won the second round in Ada, posted a world-record time of 7.7 seconds while competing at Fort Smith a few days later.
Will Howell isn’t among the standings leaders, but he’s making a big push to move up the money list anyway. Over Memorial Day weekend, Howell won event titles at Oklahoma rodeos in Poteau and Claremore. He’s third in the tie-down roping standings with $4,078.
Oh, and he’s competing this week at the College National Finals Rodeo after finishing his freshman season at Northwestern Oklahoma State University as one of the top three tie-down ropers in the Central Plains Region. He’ll be back competing for the circuit title soon enough.
“I really like competing on this level,” Howell said. “I’ve had a lot of success. I think I’m gong to make a long-term career out of it.”
He’s doing pretty well so far. But there are a number of top level athletes who are making their mark in the circuit. Kirby, who won the average title at the 2009 Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, skipped into first place after a strong finish Memorial Day weekend. He placed in Claremore and won Hinton in that stretch. Since then, he added a paycheck from Ada, Okla.
“I think the key is just trying to place consistently and riding consistently throughout the year,” Kirby said. “I think it’s important to have fun, and if the good run comes, it comes. You try to ride every horse the best you can and let the judges decide if I make it or not.”