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It wasn’t entirely a case of “the rich get richer,” but some of the biggest names in the business earned some of the biggest checks of the weekend as the Ellensburg Rodeo completed with short round checks and average paydays on Monday.

Take Tilden Hooper for example. The second-ranked bareback rider in the world came into the short round fourth in the average after his 83.5 in the long go for $1,387. Then the Texas bareback rider — known for his incredible hair that flows in the wind during each ride — covered Calgary Stampede’s Agent Lynx for 89.5 to not only win the short round for $1,650, but also take the average with 173 on two for another $3,783.

“There was one or two of them in that pen there that I need to get on to win first and I was excited to have him,” the elated Hooper said.

If the $6,820 doesn’t cover the entire gap between he and world leader Tim O’Connell, it’ll get him to within a payday of catching the former world champion, yet he wasn’t concerned about that on Monday afternoon.

“Heck no. This is where we all want to be on this day every year,” he said. “I’ve been coming to this rodeo for about 13 years now and it’s always been one of my favorites and I’m just extremely excited to finally win it.”

Like Hooper, Jordon Briggs was another one who’s had the National Finals Rodeo made for more than a month, but the Texas barrel racer knew she had to come to Ellensburg, even though with more than $90,000 in earnings and a No. 3 world ranking she didn’t need to be here to make the NFR.

“I had a phenomenal week in Kansas the first week of August and I sealed my fate to the NFR. I was already entered here, but after the Kansas rodeos I quit entering and I was just going to finish out strong with these rodeos,” she said. “I loved coming up here the other year when I came up here and won Ellensburg (in 2009).”

Add another victory. Briggs is 2-for-2 with her Ellensburg trips. Briggs’ 16.93-second pattern on Monday was .05 better than her Sunday run and just .02 off Sydni Blanchard’s arena record. She won the average with a 51.37-second aggregate on three, nearly a half-second better than Stevi Hillman’s 51.8.

“I was just very calm and focused to make my run in the short round. My horse’s run was exceptional. He’s amazing,” she said of Rolo.

While Briggs didn’t rewrite the record books, she’s the only barrel racer to ever run two sub-17-second runs in the same year at the Ellensburg Rodeo. She totaled $8,850 for her work in the arena dirt.

Briggs clearly took the average for herself, but in the case of saddle bronc and steer wrestling, there was company at the top. Both events crowned dual champions.

Chase Brooks had to make up a little ground as he was tied for fourth after the long round with an 86, 1.5 points behind Brody Cress (who split the win with Sage Newman). Brooks covered Calgary’s Stampede Warrior for the short round-winning 89 points (and $1,650), while Cress’ 87.5 on Corey and Lange’s Monster ($1,250) kept him at the top. The two finished with 175 on two for $3,174 each. Cress finished with $7,598. Brooks left Ellensburg with $5,543. Both have the Finals made (they’re ranked in the top five in the world), but a payday is a payday.

“Winning something like this, this is one of those bucket list rodeos I’ve been watching since I was a kid,” Brooks said. “I’ve always wanted to win it.”

Cress echoed the sentiment about the culture of Ellensburg.

“Being able to come to a rodeo that has this amazing fan base, and they bring in great horses, riding against the top guys in the world. I love that atmosphere.”

And Cody Cabral loves Ellensburg. The 6-6 bulldogger split the steer wrestling win with Cody Devers, both turfing their steers in 13.1 seconds over the course of three rounds this weekend. Cabral placed in the sixth and final hole in the short round with a 4.9-second steer (Dakota Eldridge won the round and $1,650 with a 4.1).

Devers came into the round splitting the lead in the average with Dirk Tavenner with 8.1-second averages, and while he was out of the money in the short round, his five-second steer helped him match Cabral on three.

Cabral is out of the top 50 in the world but is focused on earning enough money to try and easily enter the winter rodeos which base their entries on the prior year’s standings. NFR or not, money is good in Ellensburg.

“Oh yeah, it’s amazing,” he said of winning $5,354 here. “This is such an iconic, historical rodeo, even just competing in it is a great feeling too, but actually being able to win it is a different level.”

Devers was 19th in the world standings before the weekend, some $7,100 out of the top 15. His $5,373 gets him closer.

Stetson Vest is in a similar position as Cabral as the Texas calf roper is 36th in the world standings, some $33,000 out of the top 15 cutoff for the Finals. But winning keeps a guy on the road.

“It does. I’ve been thinking about going home the past couple of weeks, but I’ve been kind of going along and trying to get into the tour finale in Salinas (Calif.) and this right here will put me up there in the tour standings,” he said. “It’s a long shot for me to make the Finals, but you can make a living roping well in the Northwest.”

Well, he made a pile of money in Ellensburg, tallying up to $9,787. Vest won go-round money in both the first and second rounds and realized he needed to make a businessman’s run in the short round as the round saw a few barrier penalties and no-times. His 9.3-second run on Monday was good for third and $950 (Adam Gray won the round with an 8.9 and $1,650) to push the tie-down roper to 26.8 aggregate on three.

“I had a pretty good calf, and it wasn’t real tough today and I just went out there and did my job and tied ‘er down. I had a little cushion, and I just used my horse and it worked out.”

Like Vest, Matt Palmer is out of bull riding’s top 15, but Monday’s win gets him a bit closer. Palmer was about $23,000 out of the NFR cutoff, but his $5,856 cuts into that a bit and he can thank Corey and Lange’s Freaky Friday for the help. Palmer covered the bull for a go-round winning 88.5 for $1,800 to push the cowboy to 171.5 on two, narrowly edging Creek Young by one point in the two-round average.

“I knew he was gonna be a handful and he was that’s for sure,” Palmer said. “He sets guys up to the right and then comes around to the left, so I knew to not take the fake, ‘cause he was gonna come up around the other way.”

This doesn’t seal up the NFR by any means, but it does help.

“This is definitely a boost of confidence. I’ve been somewhat consistent, but you’ve got to get the money. You’ve got to capitalize and that’s what I haven’t been doing. And I finally got ‘er done.”

That’s exactly what Jake Cooper Clay and Billie Jack Saebens did in team roping. Both cowboys are well out of the top 15, but by the way they roped during the weekend, you could mistake them for a top five team.

The duo roped a 4.9-second steer in the short round, then watched as Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira, Coy Rahlmann/Douglas Rich and Kal Fuller/Cullen Teller all either rope legs or suffer no times. Once the dust settled, their 4.9 won the short round for $1,000 each and pushed them to the average win with a 15.8 on three for another $4,525. In all they won $7,165 on the week in Ellensburg.

Monday’s steer shot out and angled toward the left wall, but Clay said that wasn’t a factor.

“You know it’s there,” he said of the wall, “but I’m not looking for it. My horse did really good today.”

Saebens just wrapped up the run with a solid heel catch.

“I had to make sure to keep things in check and just slow down,” he said.

Samantha Fulton’s 2.8-second run won Ellensburg’s breakaway roping for $1,924.

Rhen Richard won the All-Around title once again at Ellensburg, winning $1,925 between tie-down and team roping. Both Stetson Wright ($6,207 in bulls, nothing in saddle bronc) and Clay Smith ($3,659 in steer roping, nothing in team roping) won more money than Richard, but they only won money in one event while Richard won checks in both events he entered.

Ellensburg’s payout was $364,764. Including the $115,150 for Saturday’s Xtreme Bulls and $168,000 for the WestStar Best of the Best roping (which doesn’t count toward PRCA standings) the rodeo wrote out nearly $648,000 in checks over the course of a week.

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