COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In his 10th year of ProRodeo competition, bareback rider Richmond Champion checked the Dixie National Rodeo off his list with a record-tying 91-point ride on Brookman Rodeo's Famous Dex in Jackson, Mississippi, Feb. 19.
"This is maybe the second check I've ever won here in 10 years," Champion laughed. "It's a tough rodeo and it has so many good horses and good guys. In this event, you have to have the horsepower and make it count. I knew when I drew Famous Dex that this is an opportunity a guy wants. He definitely showed his stuff today."
The bar was set high at Jackson earlier in the week when Shane O'Connell made a 90-point ride on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo's Wilson Sanchez.
"There were a lot of good rides, and we were keeping up with The Cowboy Channel all week," Champion, of Stevensville, said. "Tanner Aus had my horse earlier and was 88, but I didn't think Famous Dex had his day with him. He got the rust knocked off and then had the week off with the weather delays. He's one everyone wants to get on, and I'd been waiting for my time."
Champion witnessed Orin Larsen's 92.5-point ride on Famous Dex to win the Yellowstone Riggin' Rally in Darby in September. Champion was also there when Tim O'Connell posted an 87-point ride on Famous Dex during Round 5 of the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
When he finally got his turn on the horse, Champion kicked up plenty of dust during an intense ride that ended in a dismount reminiscent of an Olympic gymnast.
"When that whistle blew, he wasn't letting off the gas at all," Champion said. "The last thing I remember was seeing Too Tall (pickup man Shawn Calhoun) and his horse's back end."
Moments later Champion saw a 91 next to his name on the scoreboard. That put him alongside Justin McDaniel, who set Jackson's bareback riding record of 91 in 2009.
Champion's Jackson win was worth $4,286, which will launch him from 23rd to well within the Top 15 in the PRCA world standings.
"Between last year and this year, every rodeo is important where they're adding high dollars and bringing the top stock," Champion said. "If you get a good horse, you've got to seal the deal all year long and want to be up in the world standings so that you're in contention for the NFR and a world title. You have to make all the opportunities count."
Jackson was nearly a missed opportunity. The week's winter storm jumbled up a lot of schedules, but Champion and his traveling partners Caleb Bennett of Corvallis and Connor Hamilton of Calgary, Alberta, adjusted and made it to the Georgia National Rodeo in Perry, where Champion had an 86.5-point ride on Big Rafter Rodeo's Minnie Pearl, Feb. 18.
"We tried not to go stir crazy," Champion laughed. "We just moved our plans around and it was a little backwards, but we were a lot better off than a lot of other guys."
Champion, 28, competed at his sixth NFR (2014, 2016-20) and finished eighth in the world standings. He's seeking lucky No. 7.
"We've learned from last year to get started early with the ones that are still happening and put your name in the hat," Champion said. "I'm definitely banking on the summer and spring being more normal than last year. Having a good winter is important for getting to the NFR and makes the summer more of a breeze.
"That's the game plan, get to Perry and Kissimmee (Florida) and San Antonio, which leads right into The American. Just keep that momentum rolling and take all the opportunities you can."
Other winners at the $198,822 rodeo were steer wrestler Tyler Pearson (7.9 seconds on two head); team ropers Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves, 4.0 seconds; saddle bronc riders Wyatt Casper (88 points on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo's Palindrome) and Riggin Smith (88 points on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo's Border Town); tie-down roper Clint Robinson (15.7 seconds on two head); barrel racer Randee Prindle (13.89 seconds) and bull rider Trevor Kastner (91 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos' Gas Hog). Marcus Theriot won the all-around with $1,550 (tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping).