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Staying in the Conversation: Rodeo Corpus Champs Kittle, Helton Advance to Final Round of 2023 Rodeo Carolina 
Riley Kittle and Jace Helton already have one WCRA Triple Crown of Rodeo event win under their belts with 2023 Rodeo Corpus Christi, and they’re looking for two in Rodeo Carolina.
Riley Kittle turning a steer for Jace Helton to win Progressive Round 2 of 2023 WCRA Rodeo Carolina.
Riley Kittle and Jace Helton want to remain Triple Crown of Rode eligible, and they proved so by roping their second-round steer in 5.03 seconds. | Photo by Bullstock Media courtesy WCRA

Riley Kittle and Jace Helton took the 2023 Rodeo Corpus Christi win back in May, making them Triple Crown of Rodeo eligible, and they’re keeping that dream alive at Rodeo Carolina.

Kittle and Helton made a 5.03-second run to win the second Progressive Round in North Carolina to advance them to Sunday’s Triple Crown of Rodeo Round. With their win in Corpus, Kittle and Riley are one-third of the way to the $1-million Triple Crown of Rodeo bonus. And while there is a lot riding on tomorrow’s run, the college boys are keeping their cool.

“I don’t think it should change anything,” Kittle, 22, said. “I mean, at the end of the day it’s just team roping. We go do our jobs and let it work out how it’s supposed to.”

Knowing exactly what they need to be to win in the final round of Rodeo Carolina would also aid in the task.

“Hopefully we’ll be towards the end, and we’ll get to watch some people go,” Kittle said. “Hopefully we’ll know how fast we have to be because the winner takes all.”

Helton, the 20-year-old California native now making his home in Tolar, Texas, is following his gut.

“I’m just following him, so whenever it feels right, I put it down,” Helton said with a laugh.

Progressive Round action

Kittle and Helton were out of the money in the first round, but with a 5.86-second run they were still solid in the race. In Round 2 they knew they had a chance to win, and they game-planned accordingly.

“We saw the video and saw her over here, too,” Helton said. “Slower steer, kind of fought its head a little bit in the Qualifying Round, so I just knew I wanted to do a better job hazing than I’ve done and then make sure I got back to the inside. I kind of had to take an extra swing and let her get out in front of me. I went and caught her faster than I thought we had. So, I was pumped.”

The 2022 College National Finals Rodeo champs bested the field with their 5.03 to both pocket $1,500. Kittle credits Helton for their success.

“We drew a really nice steer, and I almost messed her up,” Kittle said. “But I owe it mostly to Jace; he cleaned it up. We saw her go over here in the Qualifying Round, and we knew she was slow, so I just needed to get out. Get her legal for Jace.”

Kittle also had to adjust his game plan to make the winning run.

“Well, before I was trying to see about point around the end of the gate,” Kittle said. “On ours tonight, I tried to see a little more.”

They also had to amp it up just a notch as the field was full of good, clean runs.

“Honestly, I did not think that there were going to be this many clean runs in the Progressive Round,” Helton admitted. “We had to be just a touch more aggressive than I thought we were going to be, which doesn’t really affect me as much. It’s all on him really.”

Kittle and Helton also picked up a win in the second Qualifying Round. Despite already having a spot for the Progressive Rounds locked in, they decided to take their shot at even more money, and it paid off.

“We were already seeded into the perfs, so we were roping in the Qualifying Rounds for money, just trying to make two good runs,” Helton said. “We had some trouble on the first one, so we wanted to win good in the second round, and we actually won the second round.”

The Horses

Kittle was paired up with a 9-year-old gelding he calls Big Time.

“I’ve had him almost two years now,” Kittle said. “He did good tonight. He scored good and let me get a good start.”

As for Helton, he called upon his Rodeo Corpus Christi mount, 12-year-old Dracula.

“He did really good,” Helton said. “He did everything I asked him to right there when I had to take another swing. He stayed with the steer but let me get a little bit more separation and just made it easy for me.”

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