Local cowboys qualify for mountain finals | VailDaily.com

Local cowboys qualify for mountain finals

Steven Sekelik
Special to the Daily Margie Ward competed in barrell racing at the Mountain State Circuit Finals in Denver.

Like most of us, circuit cowboys – sometimes called weekend warriors – have regular jobs. But when the weekend arrives, they pack up their gear and hit the road to compete in regional pro rodeos. This year, local pros Jesse Echtler, Jerad Schlegel and Margie Ward finished off an impressive season by qualifying for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Mountain State Circuit Finals held in Denver in November.Echtler qualified in team roping, Schlegel in bareback riding, and Ward in barrel racing.

Thirty years ago, the pro cowboys association created the circuit system, which consists of 12 geographic regions, as place to compete for riders who didn’t qualify for national rodeos.Cowboys in each region compete for points throughout the year. Points earned within a circuit are applied toward the standings. Echtler, Schlegel, and Ward were all top 12 money earners on the Mountain States Circuit, which comprises Colorado and Wyoming.In addition to being among the top money earners, cowboys must compete in a minimum of 15 rodeos in Colorado or Wyoming to qualify for the circuit finals.In team roping finals, Echtler, the “heeler,” and his partner Josh Love, a “header,” placed 5th, 11th, and 4th in the three rounds of competition.

The header tries to rope the steer around the horns while the heeler, once the steer is caught, attempts to rope its hind legs.”We had a good finals. It was fun being there,” says Echtler, 23, who lives in Eagle. “If you make the finals, you’re doing something right. You’re definitely competing at a higher level.”Schlegel, from Burns, performed well in the bareback finals, finishing first in the first round and fourth overall. He is the 2004 Colorado State High School Rodeo Association champion all-around cowboy and a Colorado State High School Rodeo Association champion bareback rider.

Schlegel has been riding a horse by himself since he was 2 and learned to swing a rope shortly thereafter. He also won the Little Britches junior all-around world championship in 2000.Ward, who lives in Eagle, entered the barrel racing competition ranked seventh and finished with the fourth highest average score overall. Barrel racing is the only event a woman can qualify in at a pro rodeo.Last year, Ward also qualified for the regional finals and was ranked 10th out of 12 going into the finals.Ward has been riding horses since she was 3 and has been competing in rodeos since she was 12. Two weeks prior to the regional finals, she competed in the barrel racing at the Woman’s Professional Rodeo Association finals in Forth Worth, Texas.

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