Justin Thigpen will enter the final round of the 2019 Cinch Timed Event Championship with a 76.8-second lead over five-time Timed Event Champ KC Jones, in what is possibly the largest margin in the 35-year-history of the Lazy E's premiere event.
Thigpen will enter Sunday's 1 p.m. CST final round with a time of 261.8 seconds on 20 head.
The Georgia all-around hand only had two bobbles in Saturday night's fourth round, including a missed dally in the heeling to stop the clock in 7.6-seconds.
"The heeling was a train wreck!" a relieved Thigpen said. "I'm glad it come tight. I kind of got in my own way. I hit my coils when I came to the horn and then after that it was just fighting it out. I sucked the coils down on the horn, and I was like oh well we'll take it."
In addition to a 9.2 in the heading, a 12.1 in the calf roping and a 5.5 in the bull dogging, Thigpen survived a 27.0-second steer roping run that required him to lay a second trip.
"I thought I had a good trip laid the first time, and then it come off the top," Thigpen said. "I was disappointed in that. I've done worse and it came out better than that. But I rode back in there, and everybody was laughing at my dismount. I'm still too green!"
This is Thigpen's first appearance at the Cinch Timed Event Championship. The only Timed Event rookie to win the title in his first appearance was Mike Beers in 1986. Thigpen already won second in the first and second rounds and won the third round, worth $7,000 so far.
Jones—a 51-year-old Cinch Timed Event Championship legend who last won the event in 2012—is the closest man to Thigpen with a time of 338.6 seconds on 20 head.
"I got in shape for it this year," Jones said. "Sometimes you've got work and the weather, and it gets me. I went to South Georgia to practice this year so the weather wouldn't be as much of a factor. I have a connection down there. A friend of mine manages a place and they said I could come practice. That's made all the difference."
Jones injured his shoulder at the Cinch Timed Event Championship in 2018, but didn't let that stop him from finishing.
"I could barely swing my rope the last two rounds last year, but dang if I was going to let that stop me from finishing it," Jones said.
Rhen Richard won the go-round and $3,000, and in a round that saw lots of 60s, Richard moved into the seventh-place hole with a time of 360.0 seconds on 20 head.
"That was the best all-around round I've ever put together," Richard said. "I've had a good round started three or four times, and I finally finished a round so that feels good." TRJ
1. Justin Thigpen, 261.8 seconds; 2. K.C. Jones, 338.6; 3. Cody Doescher, 345.1; 4. Jess Tierney, 348.8; 5. Cash Myers, 359.1; 6. Rhen Richard, 360.0; 7. Erich Rogers, 370.2; 8. Paul David Tierney, 387.7.