DUNCAN, Okla. – The Prairie Circuit has a grand history in professional rodeo.
World champions from the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region dot the landscape, just as the tiny towns and larger communities: Shoulders, Duvall, Etbauer, Ferguson, Roberts, Ward and Gorsuch are just a few of those who have worn the coveted gold buckles.
Add Kimzey to that list.
Sage Kimzey is a 20-year-old bull rider who earned his first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championship this past December in what turned out to be an amazing performance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo by those representing the Prairie Circuit.
Kimzey, the 2013 circuit champ, entered the 10-day finale in Las Vegas as the No. 1 cowboy in the bull riding standings. He then put on an incredible performance inside the Thomas & Mack Center, riding eight bulls, winning the NFR average title and pocketing more than $175,00 in the Nevada desert alone.
He finished the season with more than $318,000. But he wasn’t alone in standing out under the brightest lights in the game. He was joined at the NFR by steer wrestler Kyle Irwin, saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell and header Coleman Proctor.
All four cowboys own at least one circuit championship: Irwin and Proctor won their respective average titles during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, which took place this past fall in Duncan, while Sundell claimed the year-end crown. The regional finale will return to the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in October.
Irwin – a Robertsdale, Ala., bulldogger who attended Western Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University on rodeo scholarships – wrestled 10 steers to the ground in a cumulative time of 60.7 seconds to finish fourth in the NFR average race. He earned nearly $88,000 in Las Vegas and finished the season as the No. 2 steer wrestler in the game.
Proctor, of Pryor, Okla., roped with longtime friend Jake Long to finish fourth at the NFR. Together they earned nearly $74,000 at the NFR. Proctor roped with year-end champion heeler Billie Saebens to win the circuit finals average title. It was a strong first NFR for Proctor, who finished fourth in the world standings.
Sundell, who had secured the year-end circuit title before he arrived in Duncan last October, had an incredible NFR, earning just shy of $97,000. He finished third in the world standings.
They weren’t the only Prairie Circuit representatives who found great success in Sin City in December. Lauren Heaton of Alva, Okla., became the first Oklahoma woman to win the Miss Rodeo America title.
“I am so proud to be the first Miss Rodeo Oklahoma to win the title,” said Heaton, who was part of the pageantry at the circuit finals. “I was raised in Oklahoma rodeo, and it gave me so much. I just want to take everything that the Oklahomans are with me as I travel the circuit. There is such a spirit in Oklahoma. It’s how I’ve created how much I am today.”
She was joined at the national pageant by Miss Rodeo Kansas Katera Harter and Miss Rodeo Nebraska Gina Jespersen.
“The Prairie Circuit was represented really well, with all three being in the top 10,” Heaton said of the Miss Rodeo America pageant. “I think that helps put the Prairie Circuit on the map.”
The circuit has been on the map. All three rodeo queens were part of the flair that was the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, but there were others, including bullfighters Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla., and Cody Webster of Wayne, Okla., and barrelman Justin Rumford of Ponca City, Okla.
“This has definitely been a great year for the Prairie Circuit,” Heaton said.