DUNCAN, Okla. – While rodeo is nothing new in this neck of the woods, there’s something quite special when rodeo hits the Stephens County Arena in October.
That’s because Duncan is home to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21. It’s not just another rodeo, though.
This is the championship for the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region, and that means the best of the best earn their way to Stephens County every fall. How good are these cowboys and cowgirls? More than two dozen of those that are expected to compete have all played or will play on the grandest stage of theme all: The National Finals.
“The thing about our circuit is that we have so many of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the world competing at our circuit finals,” said Joe Henderson, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual finale. “People around here know rodeo, but they don’t get to see the caliber of contestants that will be here for the circuit finals.”
The largest contingent is in steer roping, where eight cowboys have been part of the mix at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. From four-time world champion Rocky Patterson to multiple-time qualifiers Chet Herren, J.P. Wickett, Mike Chase and C.A. Lauer, the field for the Prairie Circuit’s steer roping championship is stacked. Also in the mix are NFSR qualifiers Cody Scheck, Shorty Garten and Ralph Williams.
Steer wrestling will feature a quartet of NFR qualifiers, including seven-time finalist and Prairie Circuit champion Stockton Graves. He will be joined by three-time qualifier Jule Hazen and two cowboys who appeared in Vegas for the first time last year: J.D. Struxness and Riley Duvall.
The team roping tandem of Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens – who lead their respective events in the circuit – also have NFR experience. Saebens is heading to Vegas for the second time, while this will mark Proctor’s fourth straight run for the gold.
In bareback riding, seven-time NFR qualifier Steven Dent leads the standings, while fellow NFR qualifier Jared Keylon is set to return to the circuit finals. Keylon is a former circuit champ. The bronc riding field will include NFR veterans Cort Scheer and Tyrel Larsen, while Hardy Braden is set to compete in Vegas for the first time this December.
“When you look at the list of contestants we have every year, this is really a great preview for the NFR,” Henderson said. “You’re not going to go to any place this close to home where you can see this many NFR cowboys and cowgirls competing in one building for three straight days. That’s what sets our rodeo apart from all the others.”
Local cowboy Ryan Jarrett of nearby Comanche, Okla., leads the tie-down roping race, but also in the mix are nine-time circuit champ and 11-time NFR qualifier Jerome Schneeberger and one-time finalist Trent Creager. Bull riding should feature three-time qualifiers Trevor Kastner and Brennon Eldred.
In barrel racing, two-time national finalist Jane Melby comes in toward the top of the circuit standings. She will be joined by her daughter, Cayla Small, a 2016 qualifier, and Jean Winters, who made the NFR in 2014.
“The great thing we have in our circuit is not only some of the best in all of rodeo, but we have some great races that are going to come down to Saturday night before we decide our year-end champions,” Henderson said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and very exciting.”