Bull rider Mike Lee stole the show Saturday night, winning more than $10,000 at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge.
The 30-year-old from Decatur, currently ranked fifth in the world, toughed it out for the hometown crowd, riding Bruiser in the opening round for 91 points and David’s Dream for 88 points. Those were the two highest scores of the night.
“We all think this year’s event, start to finish, top to bottom, was the best one yet,” said Andrew Rottner with WC Challenger Charities, which puts on the event with bull rider J.W. Hart.
A standing room-only crowd was not only treated to remarkable rides by Lee, but also a showdown between PBR world champion J.B. Mauney and PRCA bull riding champion J.W. Harris – plus a celebrity steer riding event featuring six local men.
In the most hyped event of the night, Mauney and Harris faced off in a winner-take-all $25,000 challenge, but both left empty-handed.
The 27-year-old Mauney, who became the PBR’s champion last year by riding 47 of his 90 bulls at 26 events and winning $1.81 million, climbed on Asteroid. He was thrown off in 2 seconds flat.
Harris, also 27, is making the transition to the PBR after capturing the PRCA title last year. He held on to Shepherd Hills Tested for 6.17 seconds – after breaking his nose riding Crazy Trip earlier in the night.
The local celebrities fared a bit better in the steer riding competition, reporting only one injury. J.D. Clark of Chico dislocated his shoulder.
Clark, Wade Watson, Beau Bell, Fernando Escobar, Jeff Sicking and Joe Neil Henderson, all took to the ring to win $500 for their charity of choice and were surprised to learn that enough money had been raised to award them each $500.
Henderson, who won the steer riding, said that was the best part of the night.
“It was just a neat fraternity of guys to get to do this with,” he said. “We hammed it up and gave each other a hard time … but above all else, the fact that we got to give a donation to all of our charities – that was fantastic!”
Henderson, 46, claimed to have been training with P90X, but he said workouts hadn’t gone as well as he hoped. He attributed his success to prayer.
“(Marianne and I) prayed it out that day, and we just felt confident going into it.
“I had done it 33 years ago and thought maybe one or two of those skills I had learned as a kid would come through that night,” he said with a laugh.
Henderson said each rider had his own cheering section, which made it even more fun.
Clark earned an additional $500 from a local business owner, who wanted to match his “earnings” since he was injured.
Charities benefiting from the celebrity steer riding included Wise Regional Health Foundation, Wise Hope/Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force, Wise County Meals on Wheels, Wise County Christian Counseling and Decatur Cares.
During the event, 1,000 Miles Till Home, in partnership with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, gave away homes to two veterans. Recipients were 1st Lt. John Elkins, U.S. Army, and Retired Cpl. Steven Sanchez, U.S. Marine Corps.
Elkins, his wife, Megan, and 2-year-old son Jack received a home in San Antonio while Sanchez, who is currently living in San Antonio, received a home in Tucson, Ariz. His family includes wife Christina and children Cayla, 10; Christopher, 7; Emree, 5; Gloria “Sable,” 4; and Shelby, 1.
There was also a moment of silence for WC Challenger founder Roy Young and Dane Lancaster, a Montague County boy who seriously injured in a roping accident the week before.
Rottner said plans are already underway for next year, and he and co-organizers Calvin Jackson, Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions look forward to planning an even more spectacular event.
“Physically, with the facility we currently have, we’ve maxed it out,” he said.
He expressed appreciation to the county’s public works department for support and maintenance of the grounds.
“It’s the best it’s ever looked in the 11 years we’ve been doing this,” he said. “There’s a lot of great people in this community that are making this event happen year after year, and when you look at the return to the charities, the community and the exposure it gives Decatur, that’s why you keep doing it.”
BBQ CHALLENGE DRAWS 98 TEAMS
The first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge may have set an IBCA record, drawing 98 teams.
Organizer Randy Burkhart of Decatur said Saturday’s cookoff may have been the largest ever first-time IBCA Texas State Championship event, and it’s definitely the biggest first-time event this calendar year.
“We were more than surprised,” he said. “We were thinking 60 to 70 tops … 98 … we never dreamed of that.”
Grand champion was awarded to Jamie Geer, Jambo Pits; and reserve champion went to Kevin Riley, Circle R Cookers.
Other winners included Mary Caraway, beans; Jeff Hall, Peacemaker BBQ, chicken; Riley, ribs; and Blake Stolz, Blast Pit BBQ, brisket. The top 10 places in each category received payouts.
The cookoff was planned just a few months ago, and Burkhart said he thought word-of-mouth, in addition to the unique payout structure, drew many of the cookers to the Reunion Grounds for the contest. Two hundred people volunteered to judge.
Burkhart cooks competitively and has passed out fliers at every event he’s attended since March.
“We reached out pretty good,” he said.
Burkhart said the cookoff will become an annual event, and he anticipates it will grow.
“We’re just going to try to make it bigger and better next year – add to it, not take away from it,” he said. “If we can do something like that on a whim, I’m sure we can handle whatever they throw at us next year.”