By Ddee Haynes
The AT&T Stadium, home of America’s team the Dallas Cowboys, recently became host to the world’s richest one-day rodeo, the American. The American is not only one of the most anticipated rodeos around, it is also one of the most unique.
It is unique in the fact that the American has reigning world champions, rising superstars and Hall of Fame rodeo athletes competing alongside one another for a piece of the $2 million purse, a gold buckle, bragging rights and a chance to put their name in the history books of rodeo.
This year marked the fourth year for the American. While some of the contestants earned an invitation based on their past accomplishments, most have had to fight their way through the qualifier system for their chance to compete on one of the brightest stages of rodeo.
Thousands of cowboys and cowgirls battled their way down to a group of 600 by the Semi-Finals, held just a few days prior to the American at the historic Cowtown Coliseum located in Fort Worth, Texas. This year the American Semi-Finals paid out a record $1 million to the winners.
The rodeo athletes who were talented and lucky enough to advance to the American stood boot-to-boot with some of the biggest names and rodeo superstars in the sport. The winners of each of the seven events were awarded $100,000 while the second-place winner earned a cool $25,000.
The contestants who battled their way through the qualifiers and semi-finals to earn a spot at the American were eligible for an additional $1 million. If only one cowgirl or cowboy accomplished this feat, as Richmond Champion did in 2014, they would keep the entire $1 million.
This was the first year for my family and I to attend the American, and I will be the first to say it was the most thrilling and unpredictable rodeos I have ever had the privilege to attend!
Of course, I had my favorite athletes to watch: tie down roper Cole Bailey, bull rider Sage Kimzey, World Champion barrel racer Mary Burger and the young saddle bronc rider Rusty Wright.
When it was all said and done the winners of each event were as follows:
Bareback – Tim O’Connell; Team Roping brothers Riley and Brady Minor; Tie-down – Marty Yates; Steer Wrestling – Clayton Hass; Saddle Bronc – Cody DeMoss; Barrel Racing –Hailey Kinsel and Bull Riding – Sage Kimzey.
The million was split among three well-deserving athletes: saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss, bull rider Sage Kimzey and the young barrel racer Hailey Kinsel. Kinsel stole everyone’s heart when asked what she would do with her winnings in an interview and she replied, “I don’t know! I have to ask my dad!”
Two seasoned pros and one unknown laid it all on the line and when the dust had settled they were the ones to write their names in the history book of rodeo.