The young guns Riley Kittle and Jace Helton walked away from the 2023 Rodeo Corpus Christi as the champs, but not before the Triple Crown of Rodeo Round got a little unconventional.
The round started with the NFR team of Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins. Hawkins was Triple Crown of Rodeo-eligible, needing two more major WCRA event wins to take home the $1 million. Sadly, the Triple Crown journey came to a heartbreaking end with a time of 10.25 when Hawkins slipped a leg.
Southeastern Circuit cowboys Kaston Peavy and Shane Edmonson followed. Peavy had a slick head catch, but freak things happen. Edmonson’s rope caught on something, hindering him from getting his rope up with ease, and they were unable to connect. It all came down to the college boys: Kittle, 21, and Helton, 20.
The team drew a stronger steer. Kittle made sure to get it caught, but not without having to reach a little.
“Well, in this little building, you can’t really back off much,” said Kittle, a junior at Cisco College. “Our steer was a little stronger than I thought she was going to be, and I just went and caught her. Luckily, it was fast enough.”
Helton, a junior from Weatherford College, stuck to the same plan he had all week. But that night, Saturday, May 13, saw a different result, only catching the inside leg.
“Needless to say, Riley did all the work there,” Helton said with a laugh. “I had the same game plan we’ve had on every other steer. I know he is going to handle them good, so I just got to trust him and stay up around them. I thought I took a 100%-shot. It turns out, it wasn’t. I got a leg, but it was fast enough.”
With the leg, Kittle and Helton were 10.16 seconds, beating out Ward and Hawkins by a slim margin. Helton’s never-back-down attitude paid off, despite the less-than-perfect finish.
“I knew I wanted to stay hooked and make the same kind of run we’ve been making,” Helton said. “I’m not really one to back off in the short round. I felt like I set everything up the same way I have on every other steer. Riley, he set the steer up the same way. I just wanted to keep everything the same and just not back down.”
While the waves were wild in the Triple Crown of Rodeo Round for Kittle and Helton, the rest of the week had been smooth sailing.
The Texas transplants—Kittle from Alabama and Helton from California originally—started the week with two fourth-place finishes in the Qualifying Rounds on May 8. They were 6.79 on their first steer and 5.99 on their second to win the average with a 12.78 on two head.
That win advanced them to the Progressive Rounds, where they drew up Thursday, May 11. They continued their winning streak with a 4.41-second run to win their set and move on to Saturday’s Showdown Round.
They never weakened and took home yet another round win. The duo went 5.21 seconds against some wolfy teams to win the Showdown Round.
The $15K way
Aside from the coveted Rodeo Corpus Christi surfboards, Kittle and Helton each took home $15,000. An altering amount for anyone, you can imagine how that changes things for two college boys.
“Oh, $15,000 is awesome,” Kittle said. “Big thanks to the WCRA for getting that money up there.”
The large chunk of change comes right at a good time, according to Helton.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Helton said. “We’re getting ready to go circuit rodeo and amateur rodeo all summer. Basically, from this week on, we’re going to be gone a lot. Every other year, I’ve started the summer off broke, so this is a lot better start.”
Both Kittle and Helton nominated Rodeo Corpus Christi in hopes of continuing their WCRA journey at Rodeo Carolina in October.
- Riley Kittle/Jace Helton, 5.21, $1,000
- Kaston Peavy/Shane Edmonson, 5.71, $1,000
- Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins, 5.96, $1,000
Triple Crown of Rodeo Round
- Riley Kittle/Jace Helton, 10.16, $14,000
- Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins, 10.25, $5,500
- Kaston Peavy/Shane Edmonson, 100, $1,500