A Navajo Nation cowboy, who first began riding at 3 years of age in mutton bustin' events, emerged as the top money winner at the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo.
Spud Jones, 18, of Tohatchi, N.M., rode Ole Blue Eyes to a tally of 89 to win the bull riding event and $1,687 in prize money.
The closest any bull rider could come to the champion was an 82 turned in by Z De La Rosa of El Paso, Texas. For his second-place finish, De La Rosa pocketed $1,217.75.
While Jones took home a nice chunk of change from the Payson rodeo, it pales in comparison to the $10,000 he won as the 2007 CBR bull riding champion. He chalked up that impressive win last fall at the Navajo Nation Fair.
During Jones' ascension to the top of the bull-riding world, former four-time world champion Tuff Hedeman, who has tutored many of the young riders on the reservations, coached him.
Jones, who is rather tall and lanky for a bull rider, thrives on the back of bulls with faultless leg and arm movement and by staying centered on the animal.
Jones' and De La Rosa's winnings were part of the $22,044.25 in prize money that was doled out to the cowboys who competed in the rodeo held May 15 through May 17 in the Payson Event Center.
In the barrel racing, Sherry Cervi was out to improve on her sixth-place finish of last year and accomplished that goal by taking first in 17:59. For her efforts, she won $891.76.
Cervi, of Marana, has about $1.5 million in career earnings, is a two-time world champion (1995 and 1999) and a 10-time Wrangler NFL qualifier.
Cervi edged Prescott cowgirl Sarah Kieckhefer for the title. Kieckhefer finished second just .13 of a second behind Cervi.
The pioneer Kieckhefer family is no stranger to either of the Payson rodeos. In past years, family members have been frequent money winners especially in the roping events.
Other event winners were:
- Tim Robertson, steer wrestling, $1,130.50.
- Cliff Parson, tie-down roping, $1088.22.
- Dean Dally, saddle bronc riding, $1,045.00.
- Stetson Herrera, bareback riding, $988.00.
- Shain Sproul and Bobby Baize, team roping, $907.77 each.