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EIRA winners to compete at INFR in Las Vegas

EIRA Finals05
Budha Jumper competes in barrel racing during the Eastern Indian Rodeo Association regional finals Sept. 26 at the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena in Brighton.

BRIGHTON — Tribal rodeo riders competed in the Eastern Indian Rodeo Association (EIRA) regional finals Sept. 26 in Brighton, trying to secure their spot in the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR). Regionals featured the 30 competitors with the highest accumulated scores during EIRA’s six-rodeo season, which ran February to July.

When the doubleheader at the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena ended, 16 Seminoles learned they will head to Las Vegas to compete against other Native Americans from throughout Indian Country Nov. 3-7 at the South Point Equestrian Center.

The regional finals were highly competitive because only the top contenders participated. In the team roping event, header Justin Gopher competed on two teams; one with Jobe Johns, the other with Naha Jumper. The team of Gopher and Jumper won in both rodeos and will compete at INFR.

Johns lassoed the highest score in men’s all-around points for the season, 187, and will compete at INFR in the team roping and calf roping events.

In calf roping, Logan Hyatt placed first and second in the two rodeos, which was enough to send him to Las Vegas. Ladies breakaway roping was a close contest. Trina Bowers-Hipp squeaked past Leanna Billie to earn her place at INFR. Billie will also compete in Las Vegas based on her ladies all-around season score of 64.5, highest in the EIRA this year.

Bull riding is often referred to as the eight most dangerous seconds in sports, and four brave cowboys tried their best to hang on to bucking, stomping, angry bulls. Only Dyami Nelson succeeded and stayed on the bull, but he was still one point short of qualifying for the INFR. Kelton Smedley’s 30-point bull riding season score wrangled him a place in the INFR arena.

Ladies barrel racing drew the largest field of competitors, 13, but only two qualified for INFR. Loretta Peterson and Ashley Parks had the top scores in barrels for the season, 101 and 66, respectively, and will compete in the adult category.

Ahnie Jumper, who competed as an adult in ladies barrel racing at the regional finals, also participated in the youth rodeo throughout the season. Her season-long performance earned her a spot in the junior breakaway and junior barrel racing in Las Vegas.

Daniel Rodriguez will compete in INFR in the junior breakaway and junior bull riding.

Jaylen Baker qualified for INFR and will compete in junior bull riding. Junior barrel racers in Las Vegas will include Budha Jumper and Madisyn Osceola.

Jacoby Johns, who spent the season on the INFR Tour Rodeo, will also compete. Wrapping up the Tribe’s presence at INFR will be Norman Johns in the senior breakaway roping event.

Between the two rodeos, Randee Osceola and Madisyn Osceola were crowned 2015-16 EIRA Senior Rodeo Queen and Junior Rodeo Queen, respectively, after a competition in which four contestants demonstrated horsemanship, submitted essays and answered questions from judges.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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