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Annual Northern Bull Riding Tour mixes with high school bronc riding in Philip

Make-A-Wish ... Bull rider Myles Cuka, Wagner, was probably making a real serious wish as he hit the ground and tried to get away from the bull that just threw him. With the help of the other cowboys in the arena, he made it to the fence uninjured. Only seven riders make their eight seconds in the first round, and only three made in the short-go at the Philip Roping Arena.

The Northern Bull Riding Tour again was a major draw during the Haakon/Jackson County Fair and Achievement Days.

Beginning at 7:00 Saturday evening, August 7, at the Philip Roping Arena, the full activities lasted until after 10:00 p.m.

All proceeds from this bull riding event go to the Make-A-Wish weekend at the Northern Bull Riding Tour finals at the Sioux Falls arena September 25. Paul Gropper was the main man behind the minute-to-minute operation of the evening's bull riding event. Gropper said, "Near as I can tell, before they close the books, is we've raised about $7,500 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. It takes about $24,000 for all the rooms and meals and everything for over 50 families for the weekend."

After the first round of bull riding, eight cowboys made it into the short-go round. Of those qualifiers, the top scoring ride came from Tyson Donovan, Rapid City, who earned a score of 75. Andy Smith, Hartington, NE, was a close second with a 74. Newell cowboy Taygen Schuelke had earned 71 points, with Logan Beckett, Rapid City, ended up right behind with 70. Charlie Zoss, Forestburg, came out of the first round with a 68. Luke Meeks, Interior, decided to not take an option and held on to his 62 score. Having stayed on for eight seconds, Dillon Anderson, Rosholt, made it into the short-go with a score of 45. Out of the remaining cowboys who were thrown by the bulls that evening, Kyle Hapney, Harrold, came back into the competition with his time of seven-point-something seconds before the bull sent him flying. The bulls were provided by Bierema Rodeo Company, Steinfurth Bucking Bulls, Moore Bulls and Ron Volmer.

As an extra feature, between the rounds of professional bull riding, 16 West River high school bronc riding cowboys also competed in their own event. Most, if not all, have ridden in competition for the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association state finals. They were competing for an all-or-nothing, first-place-only prize of a bronc saddle to be custom-made by Philip's Irvin Jones.

Travis Nelson, Philip, topped the rest to qualify as one of the four riders for the short go. He earned from the judges a score of 76. Jace Nelson and Wyatt Kammerer, both also from Philip, tied with scores of 66. A tied score of 65 went to Schuelke and Trey Fortune, Philip, thus causing the top four qualifiers to be the top five qualifiers for the short-go.

The final round for the bull riding ended with five clear no scores. Donavan earned a 69, but saw higher scores by other cowboys and accepted his option. He finished his evening with the bull winning. Schuelke stayed on for his eight seconds and came away with a 75. Smith, though, claimed the evening's win with a resounding score of 86.

The final go for the bronc riders had only one no score. T. Nelson, high scorer in the earlier round, just couldn't stay the ride this time. Fortune earned a 62, which was just barely topped by Schuelke's 63. Kammerer impressed the grandstands with a 74. Taking the evening's bragging rights and the future custom-made saddle was J. Nelson who ended his eight seconds with a winning score of 76.

Branden West, coordinator of high school bronc riding event, said, "Western South Dakota has produced some of the best bronc riders in the world. This is where it all starts for some of them."