This past weekend, Lamar County produced a triple-threat at rodeo’s biggest weekend of the year, RFD-TV’s The American held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Katie White, Cole Melancon, and Kirby Hill competed over three events, breakaway roping, bull riding, and team roping, with White and Hill both walking away with a paycheck.
And while winning a check is always the goal, all three athletes agreed that it was the experience of competing at the famous event that was the highlight above everything else.
In the breakaway roping, White took home $25,000 for her second-place finish, and over the entire competition, walked away with $27,500 for her efforts.
“I think it’s interesting that I made the top 40 of 459 girls then made top 16 of that 40 then made top eight of the 16 girls that competed Saturday that advanced us to Sunday’s performance than on Sunday made the top four round of the eight girls and then I won second out of us four girls and won $25,000,” said White.
She said the whole experience was truly amazing, and she felt blessed to have been able to compete at that top level of her sport.
“I’m so excited for the girl who won it she roped outstanding that day and made it fun roping she wasn’t backing off,” said White. “I’m just glad that my horse is sound and is working great. I’m so thankful for all the support from everyone; it means so much!! I also couldn’t do it without all of Colt’s help and keeping me and the horse tuned up! I was glad that my parents and friends were able to come and watch.”
For Melancon, although he was excited to have his second opportunity at the chance of walking away with his share of the million-dollar purse, he, unfortunately, didn’t make it back to the top eight long round which would’ve had him progress further.
Though in true cowboy style, he was grateful for the ride and was already looking towards that next ride in hopes of a better one.
“It was awesome having the opportunity to compete in a rodeo like that. It didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to, but I’m blessed to have the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to next year,” said Melancon.
Rounding out the local representation was Kirby Hill, who competed in a new team roping format during the event.
Hill (header), with partner Cody Gantt (heeler), showcased their team roping skills in front of millions of spectators worldwide and took home third place.
“It was unbelievable! The crowd, the fireworks, and the music created the most heart-pumping atmosphere possible. The nerves really left me before I got to the stadium. I have run thousands of steers and just told myself it was just another steer, the same process as if I was in my back yard,” said Hill.
Although the team had a slick run with Hill securing a quick head catch, they incurred a 5-second penalty for Gantt only roping one leg, securing them a third-place finish overall.
“We had to be an 8.49 to win, which was not very fast, and we were 7.70, but we had a leg which still gave us third place. We ended up winning $8,500.00, which was not a bad night’s work,” said Hill. “As soon as I ran my steer and got off my horse, I checked my phone and had 25 texts and videos of my run; it’s nice to have so many friends pulling for you!! It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.”
No matter how the chips fell, Lamar County was not only well represented, but our local athletes certainly shined like gold on the arena dirt at AT&T Stadium.
PHOTO: Jackie Jensen