The PRCA's newest tour, the Heartland ProRodeo Series, culminated in October with seven cowboys earning titles at the Heart O' Texas Fair complex in Waco, Texas.
Tie-down roper Stran Smith headlined the list of champions with an 8.3-second run in the final round of an elimination-style tournament much like Dodge National Circuit Finals or the Ariat Playoff stops.
"Winning is a good shot in the arm this time of year," said Stran Smith of Childress, Texas, who won the tie-down roping title. "To win a check like that, you have to win a major rodeo and do really well. So to win that $7,500 at the end of the night, you'd have to be at a Dallas, Omaha (Neb.) or a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo."
The Heartland ProRodeo Series was designed as a way to stimulate interest in smaller purse rodeos by creating a series culmination for any rodeo with a $30,000 or smaller purse. In 2008, 260 rodeos qualified. Cowboys earn points at those rodeos that can qualify them to the $482,000 championship in Waco.
"Waco has always been great to me," Smith said. "I've won a lot of stuff here. I made the (Wrangler National) Finals from here once. I won an eight-man match here. I won the Texas Circuit all-around and calf roping here once. This has been a good spot for me."
In sum, Smith took $12,394 from the rodeo.
Team ropers Bubba Bohac and Twister Cain survived 30 other teams in pool play to advance to a final-round winner-take-all performance with four other teams. Once there, a 5.7-second final-round run netted the two Texas cowboys $10,346 each.
In the saddle bronc riding, Kobyn Williams scratched out the only qualified ride in the final round-a 67 aboard Rafter G Rodeo's Billings-for the win.
Williams, of DeBerry, Texas, won $9,873, the most he has ever won in his career at the Heartland ProRodeo Championships.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," Williams said. "It's just amazing. I barely slipped into the finals. I just kept chipping away and here I am holding the gold buckle."
In the bareback riding Dave Worsfold won his event with an 89-point score aboard Classic ProRodeo's Goodtime Charlie. Arkansas cowboy Rodney Burks turfed his final-round steer in 3.7 seconds for the win and $9,846. Bobby Welsh came away as the top bull rider through a series of unusual tiebreakers and qualification requirements.