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Rodeo contestants travel hundreds of miles for Polson rodeo

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POLSON — Rodeo competitors from across the United States and Canada saddled up and rode into Polson this past weekend for the Flathead River Rodeo. 

Competitors were looking to win their share of the more than $5,000 in prize money and an automatic bid into the Indian National Finals Rodeo held in October.

“This is an important stop on the INFR tour,” said rodeo announcer Ray Champ during Saturday’s rodeo. “The Flathead River Rodeo is one of only seven one-time qualifier events on the tour this year. Winners tonight automatically advance directly into the INFR finals held in Las Vegas.”

The three-day event was held at the Polson Fairground’s Les Baldwin Arena and featured eight major rodeo events. The top 12 contestants from each event battled it out for an automatic ticket to Las Vegas. “There was far more than just a ticket to Vegas at stake,” said Champ. “Especially for the guys who are sitting in the top 15.” 

Champ explained that since there were no regional rodeos this year, due to a format change, the INFR was giving the top 15 winners out of each event a spot at the Las Vegas finals. “With just a few sanctioned tour rodeos left, it’s very important to get the tour points,” Champ said. “There are still valuable points up for grabs.” 

Headed into Saturday’s rodeo, ranked in the top 25 in the standings, local bulldogger Tyler Houle kept his Vegas hopes alive and also made a move up in the points standings by placing seventh overall.

On Saturday night, championship spurs were handed out along with the trips to Las Vegas.

PJ Fox, of Cardston, Canada, took the top spot in the breakaway event. Jay Joaquin, of Sacaton, Arizona, took home the spurs in the saddle bronc event.

Tuck Johnson, of Browning, won the steer wrestling event. Keira Simonson, of Loring, topped the ladies barrel racing, and local barrel racer Maddy Clary placed fifth.

In tie-down roping, Nolan Conway, of Cut Bank, took the championship spurs. Jhett Knight, of Rushville, Nebraska, claimed the bareback event. In the team roping event, header Erich Rodgers and Aaron Tsiniqine earned the top spot. On Saturday, Browning bull rider Preston Louis placed tops in the bull riding event with an 80 point ride.

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