Rodeo: Jake Wright, Allen just miss National Finals berth
If baseball is a game of inches, rodeo is a game of nickels and dimes.
Utah saddle bronc riders Jake Wright of Milford and Rusty Allen of Eagle Mountain learned that painful lesson when the 2011 season standings were declared official by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
The top 15 money-winners in each event qualify for the Wrangler National Finals on Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas.
Six Utahns qualified, but Wright and Allen barely missed the cut.
Wright finished 16th in the saddle bronc standings with earnings of $44,056 only $85 behind Jesse Kruse of Great Falls, Mont.
Kruse claimed the final berth in the National Finals with earnings of $44,141.
The 22-year-old Wright, who was 47th in the world last year, enjoyed his best season. He won at Colorado Springs, Barstow, Calif., and Logan.
Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to secure his first trip to the NFR.
Allen, meanwhile, finished 17th with earnings $43,663.
Despite wins at Window Rock, Ariz., Cedar City and Tooele, Allen fell $478 short from making his sixth appearance at the National Finals.
"It was a decent season [but] I'm not real happy with it," said Allen. "I just struggled with consistency. I'd get going a little bit and then make a few mistakes. That kills you at this level."
Still, Allen nearly qualified.
"It's a hard deal ... sickening," he said. "It's only 400 bucks. That's the difference between a fifth- and sixth-place check at a small rodeo. But it might as well be 40,000 if you're on the wrong side of the line."
Allen missed two weeks in July while recuperating after a horse fell on him in Reno.
The time off probably cost him a trip to the National Finals.
The six Utahns who qualified for the NFR included Kaycee Feild of Payson in bareback, Jody Sheffield of South Ogden in barrel racing, Wesley Wilcox of Santaquin and Steve Woolsey of Payson in bull riding and two other Wright brothers.
Cody Wright and Jesse Wright placed second and fifth, respectively, in the saddle bronc standings behind Taos Muncy of Corona, N.M.
Cody Wright earned $147,940 after high-profile wins at Caldwell, Idaho, Fort Worth, Salinas, Calif., and the Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City.
He will make the ninth National Finals appearance of his career in search of his third world championship in the last four years.
Jesse Wright, Jake's twin, earned $80,413 during the season. He will make his second trip to the NFR.
Last year, he placed 16th on the money list and qualified only because of an injury to one of the top-15 finishers.
Despite fracturing his ankle on opening night, Jesse Wright continued to compete, earned $92,927 at the National Finals and finished fifth in the world standings.
In bareback, Feild enters the NFR ranked No. 1. He earned $140,660 despite taking a three-week break around the Fourth of July to visit U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations around the world.
In barrel racing, Sheffield ended up eighth on the money list with earnings of $68,313 in only 44 events. She was one of only two top-15 barrel racers who competed in less than 50 rodeos.
In bull riding, Silcox seeks his second world title. He finished third in the season standings with $101,130 to stay within striking distance of Shane Proctor ($171,178) and defending world champion J.W. Harris ($131,044).
Utah competitors who have qualified for the 2011 National Finals Rodeo at Las Vegas on Dec. 1-10:
Bareback: Kaycee Feild (Payson)
Saddle Bronc: Cody Wright (Milford), Jesse Wright (Milford)
Barrel racing: Jody Sheffield (South Ogden)
Bull riding: Wesley Silcox (Santaquin), Steve Woolsey (Payson)