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EAST HELENA — Helena teenager Jhet Murphy took the first-day steer wrestling lead of the 56th annual East Helena NRA Rodeo on Friday, bulldogging his steer to the ground in 4.5 seconds.

Another Helena cowboy, Kolby Bignell, is sitting second at 4.5, at the proceedings at the EH Rodeo Arena.

"It was an awesome run, I love East Helena and performing in front of the hometown crowd, even though it was kind of a strong steer," said Bignell, whose cousin is PRCA world-leader Ty Erickson. "I was riding my old horse 'Yes Sir,' who I sold to Gavin Duncan (Belgrade) last year ... but I try to get on him every chance I get, whenever we're entered up together."

Bignell related that his traveling partner is Riley Joyce of Geraldine, who posted a 5.8 on Friday.

"Jhet did my hazing, and his 4.5 was amazing," Bignell said. "He's very talented, we practice together a couple times a week out at his place in the Helena Valley. Jhet's a great kid and I predict he's going to go places."

Murphy came into the rodeo ranked No. 2 in the NRA standings, with earnings of $1,043, while Bignell is close behind in fourth place at $813.

Murphy's Helena Rodeo Club teammember Mikayla Witter is tied for second with Danielle Peterson (Belgrade) in the breakaway roping, with a run of 3.2 seconds. Ryan Tracey of Victor took the first-day lead at 3.1.

Witter, aboard her mount "Sundae," set a career PR of 2.3 last week when she captured the Ennis Rodeo. She entered the weekend sitting No. 4 in breakaway roping with earnings of $1,466.

Murphy and Witter are both headed for the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming, July 14-20.

Rounding out EH's first-day leaders are Brice Patterson (Bozeman) in the bareback bronc riding with 62 points, Tyler Friend (Arlee) in saddle bronc with a 79-point ride, Shai McDonald (Gardiner) in ladies barrel racing circling the cans in 18.03, and Kevin Peterson (Belgrade) with a 10.8 in tie-down roping.

In team roping, Gavin Duncan/Trace Fuller (Bozeman) share the lead with Garrett Duncan/Cody King (Dillon) at 10.3, while bull rider Cole Wagner (Valier) paces the field with a score of 81.

In the junior circuit, Paige Palin sits atop the barrels, and Payton Levine is ahead in the breakaway.

The East Helena NRA Rodeo concludes on Saturday night, beginning at 7 p.m.

Curt Synness can be reached at 594-2878 or curt52synnes@gmail.com. He's also on Twitter @curtsynness_IR

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Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at curt.synness@lee.net or curt52synness@gmail.com

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