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Tanner Aus improved his standing in the top 15, Leon Fountain inched closer to his first NFR qualification and the Daily Record Bares & Broncs came back from a COVID-19 shutdown with a vengeance.

The Bares & Broncs filled as many seats as possible as allowed by state restrictions. About 2,200 fans — possibly more — attended both nights. Fans in the stands saw up-and-coming stock take on some of the world’s best bareback and saddle bronc athletes.

Friday’s performance saw Orin Larsen take the bareback lead with an 87 on Summit Pro Rodeo’s Bald Mountain, however, Austin Foss and later Aus supplanted Larsen’s 87 with loftier scores during Saturday’s performance. Aus won the coveted leather Bares & Broncs buckle with an 88 on Summit’s Game Trail for $3,751. It pushed the Minnesota rider to eighth in this week’s rankings.

It was the same case in the bronc riding as two-time world champion Zeke Thurston led all riders with an 82.5 on Summit’s Goodnight Trail after the first night. Fountain took control of the lead on Saturday with his 87 on Summit’s Spanish Nights for $4,033.

Fountain had two wins on the weekend. In addition to the win in Ellensburg, he picked up another $1,072 for his work in Mercedes, Texas. He’s now 21st in the world, some $4,300 behind Short Garrett who sits in the 15th and last hole to make the National Finals.

Garrett had a decent weekend in Ellensburg as well. The South Dakota cowboy picked up $2,285 for his 81.5 points on Western Rodeo’s Jet Liner.

“There are a lot of good horses. These horses are pretty young, but some of these horses have seen the bright lights and noise and things like that,” Garrett said after his ride on Saturday. “My horse knew the drill and knew what to do beforehand. We had a little bit of an advantage.”

Like Fountain, Garrett won money elsewhere, picking up $1,822 in Miles City, Montana, another stand-alone roughstock event.

“You want to go to every bronc riding there is,” he said. “That’s what we live for. We’ll go to a lot of rodeos, but we’re dang sure gonna enter every Xtreme Bronc tour stop too.”

Foss is going to enter up in pretty much everything he can on the schedule. The Oregon bareback rider is shooting for his fifth National Finals Rodeo qualification but was out of the top 50 in the world until picking up $2,875 for his 87.5 on Summit’s Pretty Face. He’s now 47th in the world this week.

“Some are young, some are old. But they all buck,” Foss said of the stock provided. “To be able to draw one that’s on top of the heap is pretty awesome.”

Foss said entering the Bares & Broncs didn’t take any thought when he realized there was $10,000 in added money.

“Absolutely, and heck it’s four hours from my house,” he said. “It’s really different this year for me because I’ve only been to a few of the winter rodeos and a lot of stuff has been canceled so I’ve only been to maybe 10 rodeos this year. Instead of finding out if I’m making the Finals, I’m just starting out to try and make the Finals.”

The Bares & Broncs paid out a shade less than $26,000 in it’s first year of PRCA sanctioning. The rodeo paid eight spots in both bareback and saddle bronc.

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