Elite contestants ready to return home

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Anderson, Lowe grew up at the American Royal and hope to win it this September

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jeanne Anderson can’t remember the first time she attended the American Royal.

“I grew up as a little kid playing in the stockyard,” said Anderson, a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from White City, Kan. “I went to the quarter horse show because my parents showed horses.”

Jeanne Anderson
Jeanne Anderson

Anderson was raised on the famous Benjamin Ranch in Kansas City, where she comes from a long line of horsemen and horsewomen. She first began racing horses around the cloverleaf barrel pattern as a youngster; now she hopes to make a triumphant return to her hometown competing at the American Royal Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at Hale Arena in the American Royal complex.

“They used to have an invitational barrel race for years, and I think you had to be 16 years old to enter it,” she said. “I remember being so excited that I finally got old enough to run at it.

“I’ve been going to the American Royal forever. I always like going to it.”

She’s just one elite ProRodeo contestant who will be part of the renewed and revamped American Royal Rodeo. She’ll be joined by other NFR qualifiers like Tyson Durfey, who grew up in Savannah, Mo., and Will Lowe, who grew up near Olathe, Kan., and graduated from Spring Hill High School.

For ProRodeo’s best, their formative years were spent at the West Bottoms watching their heroes. In fact, it’s those types of experiences that led Lowe into the profession. It’s a good thing, too. Since he first started riding full size bucking horses 15 years ago, he’s been one of the very best bareback riders in the game – he owns three world championships, earned in 2002, ’05 and ’06.

Will Lowe
Will Lowe

“It’s a big rodeo for all of us,” said Lowe, who has been at or near the top of the world standings much of the 2012 season. “It’s different this year because now that it’s in September, it’s the end of the season again, and that’s a big deal. When the season ended in October, the American Royal was always that rodeo at the end of the year everybody was trying to get to.”

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association moved its regular season to Oct. 1-Sept. 30 beginning in 2006. The American Royal adjusted by hosting the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo for three seasons, providing a showcase event for the top qualifiers from the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region. The last two years, the rodeo has been one of the first large events of the new season – the rodeo that took place last October counted toward the 2012 season standings.

Now it returns to a season-ending event with high stakes for contestants hoping to close out a solid 2012 campaign.

“It’s the last big rodeo of the season, so there are a lot of guys that will be in there trying to get those last spots for the finals,” Lowe said, referring to the NFR, which will feature only the top 15 contestants in each event at the conclusion of the regular season. “There’s a lot of money you can win there, so that’s definitely one everybody will want to get to.”

In rodeo, points equal dollars. Not only do paychecks help make ends meet for contestants, money is how titles are won. The cowboy and/or cowgirl in each event with the money won at the conclusion of the season will be crowned world champion.

“The money is good, and that’s always a big deal for us,” Anderson said. “I’m just happy to have it this close to home.”


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