The only thing better than winning RodeoHouston is doing it again.
Saddle Bronc rider Sage Newman and barrel runner Jordon Briggs both accomplished that feat, defending their championships in Houston and collecting their second $50,000 Shootout checks Sunday at NRG Stadium.
“I had some really great horses under me, they had some great days and it all worked out in my favor,” said Newman. “I love this rodeo, I love coming back every year, my plan was to do it again and I managed to do it.”
Championship Sunday at RodeoHouston featured five defending world champions and four defending champions from Houston, including bareback rider Jesse Pope, who captured both titles last year, and roped-roper Erin Johnson , who earned the right to defend her 2022 Houston championship by winning her wild card spin.
Unfortunately, Pope was the first defending champion ousted in the long rounds. Defending breakaway champion Erin Johnson also fell in the long round.
Newman, on the other hand, had no problems in either time out.
He took the 10-man set by 90 points on Hitman, then recorded a second score of 90 points on Womanizer in the shootout, giving him $56,750.
“You can’t beat him,” Newman said. “This is one of the best rodeos to go to all year round.”
Briggs and his horse, Rollo, are in full agreement.
The Texas native captured her second straight title in Houston and $58,000 in earnings with a time of 14.73 seconds in the shootout.
“It’s great to do it back-to-back,” Briggs said.
“I’m thankful for the money, but it also takes a lot of year-round stress trying to make it to the (National Finals Rodeo).”
Briggs also went 14.73 in the long round, a consistency she attributed to Rollo.
“We may not always set the fastest time, but he’s always super consistent, and with this kind of setup, you have to keep doing good racing to keep moving forward,” he said. “That’s the goal and that’s why it does well in these situations.”
Ky John Hamilton won a well deserved bull riding championship.
The Australian was the only rider to last 8 seconds in the 10-man round, making him the only winner of five rounds. No one booed in the shootout, forcing a race, and once again Hamilton was the only man to finish.
He walked away with a $62,000 rodeo winnings.
“You always have to show up thinking you’re the best,” Hamilton said. “You don’t have to tell anyone, but you definitely have to think it.”
Hali Williams ($53,750) won the second breakaway title in Houston history.
The 19-year-old advanced to the shootout with a tiebreaker, then posted a 3.6 in the first run of the round. “It’s amazing,” he said. “This is a winter rodeo we all dream of winning. It’s surreal to be honest.
Leighton Berry scored the biggest win of her career here for the third time.
The Texan took advantage of a rematch with Yippee Kibitz to score 90 points in the Shootout and raise $57,375. “I won the Ponoka Stampede in Alberta on that horse last year, so I knew I had a good chance,” he said. “And they won all the rodeos on her this year. So to get on top of another big bucking horse is awesome.
Riley Mason Webb ($55,625) and his new horse, Boots, secured the Houston team roping championship in 8.9 seconds in his first appearance here. “Everyone dreams of winning RodeoHouston, so to be able to do that, I’m still in shock,” he said. “I was the first roper out in the back four, and I had a calf running, so I ran him half the arena, and if you’ve ever been to NRG Stadium, you know it’s a long road.
“But it all worked out for me.”
It all worked out for steer wrestler Dalton Massey and team ropers Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler. Massey secured $54,250 with a 4.5 in the last run of his Shootout, and Richard and Buhler split $111,500 with a 5.5.
“When I hooked my nose and threw that steer, I looked back at the clock as the steer was hitting the ground, and when I saw 4.5 emotions just overwhelmed me,” said Massey.
“It was really great.”
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.