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Oelrichs' Chad Ferley riding high in saddle bronc standings

Fortified by a big win this past weekend at Salina, CA, Oelrichs cowboy Chad Ferley is riding high in the Professional Cowboys Associations' saddle bronc standings.

Ferley tied for top honors in the first go-round of his pet event at Salinas last week by scoring 83 points on Russell Rodeo' Fancy Pants and then won the title Sunday when he rang up a rodeo-best 86 on a South Dakota horse, Korkow Rodeo's Queeny. His victory was worth $8,814, giving him earnings of more than $73,000 for the year.

His total PRCA earnings entering this year were about $75,000.

Prior to the Salinas championship, Ferley had won $64,644 to rank third in the PRCS saddle bronc standings. This means he is well on his way to being among the top 15 qualifiers for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.

"He's really riding well and so far he's stayed healthy, " said Ferley's mother, LeAnn.

Staying healthy has made a big difference to the 26-year-old bronc rider. Two years ago, he broke his right ankle while riding at Reno, NV, and eight months later he broke both bones in his lower right leg at Odessa, Texas, effectively knocking him out of the running for the NFR two years in a row.

"He's gotten even with both of those rodeos this year by winning them," said LeAnn, who as a teen-ager was one of the three Putnam sisters who were trick-riders at dozens of rodeos in the region.

In January, Ferley scored 166 points on two saddle broncs to win first place at Odessa, and then in June tallied 247 points on three head at Reno. The latter victory paid $9,819, vaulting Ferley into third place in the pro standings.

This year, he's also been the saddle bronc champ at Fargo, ND, and San Angelo, TX, and shared first place at Valley City, ND, and San Antonio, TX.

"Chad rides exactly like his dad did," LeAnn said. "Both were pretty determined to stay on." She added that as far as she knows, her son has not been bucked off this year in 40-plus rodeos.

He competed in rodeo events at high school rodeos. While he's still listed as just 5'7", 145 pounds, a mini-growth spurt between his junior and senior years at Oelrichs High School helped launch his career. His parents agreed he was big enough to ride broncs.

In 1998, Ferley placed fourth in the South Dakota High School saddle bronc standings to qualify for nationals. He also qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo while attending Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City, but broke his right hand two weeks before the finals. He switched to his left hand so he could still compete, but he wasn't able to place.

Since joining the PRCA, Ferley has won some big rodeos. In 2003, he won aggregate title at the Badlands Circuit Finals in Deadwood and took the first go-round in Salinas. The next year he won the Beef Empire Days Rodeo at Garden City, KS, the Dixie National Rodeo in Jackson, MS, and the first go-round at the Dodge National Circuit Finals in Pocatello, ID, before breaking his ankle at Reno.

In 2005 after recovering from the broken leg suffered in Odessa, he won his pet event at the Roughrider Days Rodeo in Dickinson, ND, and at the Independence Day Stampede at Freeley, CO, but he had missed too much of the year to make it to Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, another South Dakotan and one of Ferley's travel partners, Jeffery Willert of Belvidere, struck it rich at Las Vegas last December. He won $118,629 at the National Finals to go with the $159,539 he'd earned during the regular season and captured the saddle bronc title with about $40,000 to spare.

Through the years South Dakota has produced as many saddle bronc greats as any state. Casey Tibbs of Pierre, Billy and Robert Etbauer of Ree Heights, Tom Reeves of Eagle Butte, Bud Longbrake of Dupree, Clint Johnson of Spearfish and Tom Miller of Faith were all national champions before Willert. Most of them have done it more than once.

Wouldn't it be something if a cowboy from Oelrichs was someday added to that list? The way Chad Ferley is riding this year, it could happen.

Ferley is the grandson of Glen and Esther Ferley of Philip.