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February 20, 2014

RODEO INSIDER: Battle between two former champs

ARLINGTON — When the chutes open at RFD-TV’s The American — a record $2 million, single-performance rodeo that’s set for March 2 at AT&T Stadium — fans will watch one rider in each who has been invited by exemption.

The riders on the card by exemption are all-time greats who did not have to earn a berth through qualifying events within the past six months. They are name competitors such as 10-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world barrel racing champion Charmayne James, four-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association steer wrestling world champion Ote Berry and two-time Professional Bull Riders world champion Justin McBride.

But there are two exceptions. The exemption berths in both the tie-down roping and team roping events will be a battle this weekend between former world champions. Joe Beaver, who lives in Huntsville, and Fred Whitfield, a resident of Hockley, will compete in a two-run match for the right to participate in the lucrative show. Speed Williams (will partner with Shay Carroll), Jake Barnes (Junior Nogueira), and Clay O’Brien Cooper (Chad Masters) will compete in a four-run team roping match for the right to compete in The American.

The match roping competitions will be a special feature in conjunction with The American semifinals, which are scheduled for Saturday night, Feb. 22, and Sunday afternoon, Feb. 23, at the Resistol Arena in Mesquite. Beaver and Whitfield each will make one run during the Saturday night show and one run during the Sunday afternoon performance to determine the winner. Williams, Barnes and Cooper will make two runs Saturday night and two runs on Sunday afternoon.

At this weekend’s semifinals in Mesquite, five competitors in each event will advance. They will join 11 competitors who have already qualified, either on the basis of exemption or by finishing in the top 10 last year on either the PRCA circuit (bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping), the WPRA circuit (barrel racing) or the PBR circuit (bull riding).

For example, four-time world bareback riding champion Bobby Mote of Stephenville earned a berth by finishing fourth in the PRCA’s 2013 world standings. But Pete Hawkins of Boyd, a six-time National Finals Rodeo bareback riding qualifier who recently came out of retirement, is in the process of attempting to qualify. In order to make the cut, Hawkins must finish in the top five at this weekend’s semifinals.

But organizers are spicing up the Mesquite show by featuring the Whitfield and Beaver tie-down roping match, and the Williams, Barnes and Cooper team roping match. The matches are scheduled at the end of the performances, after the bull riding event.

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