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Getting the Gold: Badlands Circuit Finals Crowns Champions

Badlands Circuit Finals Champions are crowned in Minot, ND. Designations are made for NFR Open competitors.

MINOT, N.D. – When Chance Schott walks into the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, it’s like his mojo is back.

The McLaughlin, S.D. bull rider finished as the average champion at this year’s circuit finals, the PRCA’s regional championship rodeo for North Dakota and South Dakota.

He rode two of three bulls for 172.5 points on two rides, eight points ahead of the number two man, Jeff Bertus. No bull rider covered all three bulls.

Each of the four years he’s qualified for the circuit finals, he’s won either the year-end title (the most money won throughout the season) or the average title (the most points scored at the finals rodeo.)

“I love coming here for the circuit finals every year,” he said. “I did really great the first time I came here (in 2019), and I feel great whenever I walk into that locker room. I feel like this is my building and it’s where I capitalize.

Schott has a particular approach to his bull riding. “I’m keeping a clear mind, sliding and riding,” he said. “Stay calm, cool and collected for each bull, and it worked out, thankfully.”

But Schott has a long ways to go to supplant the number of championships Bertus has earned. Bertus, Avon, S.D., has won nine Badlands titles: four year-end finishes and five average finishes, from 2012 to 2019. At this year’s circuit finals, he was reserve year-end winner.

Rookie Jestyn Woodward won the year-end title, having won more than $26,000 throughout the season.

In the breakaway roping, two South Dakota cowgirls ended up as 2022 champs.

Sawyer Gilbert, Buffalo, S.D., finished the season with winnings of over $11,000. Samantha Fulton of Miller, S.D., earned the year-end title, and Syerra Christensen, Kennebec, S.D. finished as average champ (7.0 seconds on three head).

Breakaway roper Sawyer Gilbert won the year-end title at the 2022 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo. Photo by Alaina Stangle Photography.

Gilbert came into the Badlands Circuit Finals in second place behind Brandy Schaack, of Chadron, Neb. But when Schaack missed the calf in the second round, she was out of earning money for the average, opening the door for Gilbert.

“My whole goal, coming into the circuit finals, was to make businessman runs,” the twenty-year-old said. “Nothing too extreme. Don’t try to hit the barrier, just get them knocked down. It’s my third time (to circuit finals), and it always comes down to whoever makes the businessman runs.”

Gilbert had a bit of a revelation as she backed her nine-year-old bay mare into the roping box for the first night of the finals: it occurred to her that this was the first time the horse had competed in an indoor arena, where the noise, lights, and close quarters can sometimes be distracting.  

“I didn’t even think about it till I got to the box,” she said. After the first round, the mare did well. “She stalled in the first round, but worked phenomenal after that. She handled it like a champ.”

Titlists from circuit finals qualify for the NFR Open, held in Colorado Springs in July of 2023, with earnings from the NFR Open counting towards the world standings and a trip to the National Finals Rodeo.

At the 2022 NFR Open, Gilbert didn’t do well. “You have those weekends when you struggle and you make silly mistakes. I want to go back and redeem myself. Me and Colorado Springs aren’t done yet.”

This was the third time Gilbert qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals; last year, she won the average title.

The breakaway average win went to Syerra “CY” Christensen, Kennebec, S.D. (7.0 seconds on three head.)

A veteran and a Badlands newcomer won the year-end team roping title.

Clay Ullery and Matt Zancanella are the 2022 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo year-end team roping champions. The cowboys will represent the Badlands Circuit at the 2023 NFR Open rodeo, held in Colorado Springs in July of 2023. Photo by Alaina Stangle Photography.

Clay Ullery, Valleyview, Alberta, and Matt Zancanella, Aurora, S.D., teamed up to win over $25,000 each for the season.

The pair won second place in the first round and first place in the second round, but only roped one leg in the third round, adding a five-second penalty to their time and taking them out of the average.

“It was a good finals,” Ullery, the 2021 Canadian Pro Rodeo Association champion team roping header said.

The duo paired up two years ago. “I never worry about his heeling,” Ullery said of Zancanella. “I just do my job and I know we’re going to win, if I do my job.”

Zancanella, who is 46 years old, estimates he’s competed at more than sixteen circuit finals, winning titles multiple times. For Ullery, it’s his first time to the Badlands Circuit.

“It’s been fun, roping with Zanc,” he said. “I like this circuit. The people are great, the rodeos are great. It’s been a really good circuit, and I’m glad we’ve been successful.”

Team roping average winners were Jade Schmidt, Box Elder, S.D. and Jade Nelson, Midland, S.D. (18.5 seconds on three runs.)

More like this: Badlands Circuit Finals FULL RESULTS

Other 2022 Badlands champions include bareback rider Ty Breuer, Mandan, N.D. (year-end and average winner); steer wrestler Cameron Morman, Glen Ullin, N.D. (year-end and average winner); saddle bronc rider Shorty Garrett, Eagle Butte, S.D. (year-end and average winner); tie-down ropers Clint Kindred, Oral, S.D. (year-end) and Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, Neb. (average); breakaway ropers Samantha Fulton, Miller, S.D. (year-end) and Syerra Christensen (average); and barrel racers Jessica Router, Buffalo, S.D. (year-end) and Lisa Lockhart (average).

The Badlands Rookie of the Year award went to Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, Neb.; he won both the year-end and the average title.

Rodeo Rapid City won the title of Badlands Circuit Rodeo Committee of the Year.

Both year-end and average champions will represent the RAM Badlands Circuit at the NFR Open, formerly known as the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, to be held in Colorado Springs in July of 2023. In the event that the same person has won both titles, the second person in the year-end race qualifies for the NFR Open.

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The WRANGLER Horse & Rodeo News has been the leading equine publication of the Rocky Mountain Region since 1987. Under the new ownership of the DeLancey Family in 2022, The WRANGLER is now headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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