DUNCAN, Okla. – Call it a happy coincidence or a great opportunity, but winning the Prairie Circuit wasn’t exactly in the plans written by Corey Navarre and Caine Riddle.
Still, that’s the case for the brothers-in-law. Navarre, of Weatherford, Okla., has earned $10,455 this season and leads the bull riding standings as the top 12 contestants in each event make their plans to compete at the 2012 Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for set for Oct. 18-20 at the Stephens County Expo Center.
“It was never a priority for me to lead the standings, but it worked out that way,” said Navarre, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier who, in 1998 became the first cowboy in the history of the game to qualify for the NFR, the College National Finals Rodeo and the PBR World Finals in the same season, a feat he also accomplished in 1999. “I just happened to do good at Pretty Prairie (Kan.), Burwell (Neb.) and some other circuit rodeos.
“I didn’t have that great of the year, but it seems like the ones I did good at were in the circuit.”
Riddle, a second-generation bareback rider from Vernon, Texas, has had a solid season. In fact, he’s firmly in the top 20 in the world standings and is battling over the next 11 days to earn a spot in the top 15 in order to qualify for his first NFR.
“I’ve got my mind on other things right now, but it’s pretty neat that I’m in that position to win the circuit again,” said Riddle, who won circuit titles in 2006 and 2009. “It’ll be interesting to see the new place we’re having our circuit finals.”
The Chisholm Trail committee is bringing the circuit finals to Duncan for the first time in the event’s history. The Stephens County Expo Center has been host to some great events over the season, and now it will be home to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s regional championship.
An indication of just how prestigious the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals is can be seen in the list of world champions who have also won in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region: bareback riders Eric Mouton and Mark Gomes; steer wrestlers Roy Duvall, Ote Berry and Dean Gorsuch; team roper Nick Sartain; saddle bronc riders John McBeth, Robert Etbauer and Billy Etbauer; tie-down ropers Tom Ferguson and Roy Cooper; barrel racer Mary Burger; and bull riders Lane Frost, Terry Don West and Dustin Elliott.
There are a lot of contestants in the game who would love to add their names to that list. Riddle and Navarre are just two of the regular-season leaders; they’re joined by barrel racer Tana Renick of Kingston, Okla.; steer roper Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan.; tie-down roper Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla.; saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby of Dodge City, Kan.; team ropers Hunter Munsell of Arnett, Okla., and Braden Harmon of Mustang, Okla; and steer wrestler Chancey Larson of Manhattan, Kan.
“I’ve never won the circuit finals,” Navarre said. “Actually, I’ve only been to the circuit finals a handful of times. It seems like I was always rodeoing so hard outside the circuit that I didn’t have enough circuit rodeos to qualify. There were a lot of years that the circuit finals was at the same time as the PBR finals the years I did qualify for it, so I couldn’t go.”
In addition to winning the regional championship, there’s another level of incentive: The year-end and finals average winners qualify for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which will take place next spring in Oklahoma City. That’s the championship for the circuit system, and it allows even part-time cowboys and cowgirls the opportunity to win a national title.
“It’s exciting to have a chance to win the circuit, especially when you have a chance to go to Oklahoma City,” Navarre said. “That’s one of the events I haven’t qualified for yet, so it’d be nice to make it there.”
Riddle has been to there, but that was before it moved from Pocatello, Idaho, to Oklahoma’s capital city.
“My last goal this year was coming out and winning the circuit, but I’ll take it,” said Riddle, whose sister, Melissa, is a Prairie Circuit board member married to Navarre. “A lot of my wins were in the circuit, so it just added up.
“It’ll be nice to have the circuit finals an hour from my house.”
It doesn’t matter if the goal was to make the NFR, make a living on the rodeo trail or squeak into the circuit finals field, the top cowboys in the region are making their plans for Duncan, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved.
“I think it’s great that we have the finals in Duncan,” Navarre said. “I think that board in Duncan has been working hard to put on a good rodeo. I think it’ll be a good event.”