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George Gillespie IV won the bareback riding title with a score of 85 points Saturday at Chief Joseph Days. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
JOSEPH — On the final night of Chief Joseph Days, it was an Eastern Oregon University graduate who shined the brightest among some of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s best talent.
George Gillespie IV of Placerville, Calif., won the bareback riding title after riding Wild Blue for a score of 85 points.
The win, coupled with Gillespie’s performance at the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, Elgin Stampede and St. Paul Rodeo earlier this year, earned him the Harley Tucker Rodeo Series Award.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Gillespie said. “I’m pretty excited. This rodeo actually means quite a bit more to me than even some of the bigger ones. I remember coming to this rodeo with my grandparents when I was a kid and watching it.”
Gillespie started off Saturday’s performance with a bang.
He was the first rider out of the chute and was able to post his mark of 85 points, earning him $1,824 for his first-place finish. Gillespie earned an additional $1,500 and a gold buckle for winning the Harley Tucker Award, named after the longtime rodeo contractor who helped start Chief Joseph Days in 1946.
“It actually ended up working out well,” Gillespie said of his 85-point ride. “I knew that horse was awesome before I got here. I’ve seen him a couple times, but I’ve never got to get on him.”
Bobby Mote, currently ranked No. 3 in the world standings in bareback riding, rode Wild Blue for 90 points last year in
Gillespie witnessed that ride in person, and had it in his mind as he slid into the chute Saturday.
“I slid up and nodded, and the gate didn’t come open for some reason,” Gillespie said. “The horse heard it and he started spooking around. Luckily, I didn’t slide back off my rigging because all of a sudden the gate did open. I got my mark out. I started him, and then he got real nice after that. He felt
Gillespie said he knew as soon as he made it to the 8-second whistle that he had posted a good score.
“I knew it was going to be a pretty decent score,” Gillespie said.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be. But, I knew I had a pretty good chance at winning it.”
Bend’s Wyatt Bloom finished second in the bareback riding with a score of 83 points, while Ryan Gray of Cheney, Wash., currently the No. 4 rider in the world standings, finished third with a score of 80.
Joe Harper of Goodwell, Okla., took first place in the saddle bronc riding after posting a score of 80 points on top of Smooth Sailing.
Nick Laduke of Livermore, Calif., and Ben Londo of Pendleton tied for second at 77 points.
Joe Melling of Battle Ground, Wash., rode Golden Rule for 88 points to finish in first place in the bull riding. Dalee Mason of Weiser, Idaho, placed second at 85 points, and Francis Marchand of Omak, Wash., placed third at 81 points.
Andy Weldon of Greenleaf, Idaho, was the top man in the steer wrestling with a two-head time of 9.4 seconds, while Bradley Bynum of Sterling City, Texas, was the high man in the tie-down roping with an aggregate time of 18.6 seconds on two runs.
Brandon Beers of Powell Butte and Jim Ross Cooper of Monument, N.M., won the team roping with a combined time of 10.9 seconds.
Prineville’s Tami Semas out-raced the competition to win the barrel racing with a time of 17.63 seconds.