Rodeo year in review: Ramona’s professional cowboys score high in 2011
By Joe Naiman
The late Casey Tibbs, a Ramona resident, won his first world All-Around championship, his only bareback riding title and the second of six saddle bronc riding titles in 1951, making 2011 the 60th anniversary of what may have been the rodeo champion’s greatest year. Modern-day Ramona cowboys and cowgirls had their own successes in 2011.
Officially the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 (and if those two days are on the same weekend, as was the case in 2011, the season ends the previous Sunday), so several Ramona residents spent Jan. 14-15, 2011, in Las Vegas, where the 2010 California Circuit finals were held.
The top 12 earners in each event during the season qualify for the circuit finals, and three Ramonans competed in Las Vegas. Matt Deskovick entered the circuit finals sixth in the steer wrestling earnings, Mason Malone qualified for the circuit finals in his rookie year after ending Sept. 30 11th in tie-down roping standings, and 2000 Ramona High School graduate Junior Saenz, who now lives in Valley Center, ended the season fifth in bull riding earnings.
Deskovick won the first steer wrestling go-round at the circuit finals and placed third in the average (aggregate). Malone took fourth in the first tie-down roping go-round.
The 2010 circuit finals was also the last event for Ramona’s Markie Battaglia in her Miss Rodeo California capacity, although Battaglia would subsequently be honored by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors declared Jan. 25, 2011, “Markie Battaglia Day” throughout the county.
At the jackpot level, the Bustin’ Out Barrel Race in Buckeye, Ariz., took place Dec. 31 through Jan. 2. San Pasqual’s Devenport family won $3,000 with Macy Devenport earning $1,962 and Delia Devenport winning $1,038. Destri Devenport did not win any money, but her three-day average made her the reserve champion for the 2D.
The PRCA rodeos of 2011 included the Feb. 11-13 Yuma Jaycees Silver Spur Rodeo, which saw Malone place second in the first tie-down roping go-round and in the average to earn a total of $994. That rodeo also saw Ramona’s Cameron Elston make his PRCA debut, although he missed his first calf and his second calf didn’t stay tied for the required six seconds after Elston returned to his horse.
Deskovick won the second steer wrestling go-round at the April 9-10 Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo, earning $891 for his time of 5.2 seconds.
The first 2011 rodeo in San Diego County took place April 15-17 in Lakeside. Marcus Battaglia had a time of 10.3 seconds in the first tie-down roping go-round to place second and earn $827 while Saenz had an 82-point bull ride to split third and fourth and take home $1,176.
The Woodlake Lions Club Rodeo took place May 7-8. Malone’s time of 8.5 seconds won the tie-down roping, giving Malone $1,197 and his first outright win at a PRCA rodeo. Battaglia and Visalia’s Kyle Lockett won the team roping at Woodlake along with $1,171 apiece after a run of 5.2 seconds. Elston’s tie-down roping time of 10.6 seconds placed fourth for his first-ever payout from a PRCA rodeo, specifically $299. Malone’s weekend earnings also included $386 for splitting fourth through sixth at the Mother Lode Round-Up in Sonora.
The annual Ramona Rodeo took place May 20-22 and included 275 entrants. Elston not only won the tie-down roping buckle and $1,736 with a run of 9.6 seconds, but he and Malone had a team roping time of 6.9 seconds worth seventh place and $494. The $2,230 in the multiple events also made Elston the rodeo’s All-Around champion.
Deskovick spent 5.4 seconds in his steer wrestling effort to split fourth and fifth place and take home $656.
Battaglia and Lockett won the first team roping go-round, along with $955, and took fourth and $358 in the average at the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo, which took place June 3-5. They had a time of 5.4 seconds in the first go-round and 12.1 seconds in the average.
Not all local rodeo highlights were at the professional level. Alexis Awrey was selected as the 2011-12 California High School Rodeo Association District 8 queen on May 1 in Norco. Awrey then competed in the state pageant, placing third and winning the photogenic award at the state level.
At the district pageant Awrey won not only the overall queen honors but also the horsemanship, congeniality, speech, interview, and appearance awards while scoring second on the written test.
The Fourth of July weekend is also known as Cowboy Christmas in rodeo, since cowboys can compete in several rodeos over the weekend and have multiple chances to collect payouts. This year’s Cowboy Christmas saw Deskovick collect $2,799 from the Prescott and Folsom rodeos and Malone leave Oakley City, Utah, with $1,035 in earnings.
Saenz won the bull riding average at the Aug. 13-14 Ventura County Fair Rodeo with a score of 150 points on two head and also won the second go-round by scoring 77 points while placing second in the first go-round. He earned $452 apiece for his first-place positions and $339 for his second-place go-round.
Battaglia also won an August rodeo, working with Lockett to capture the Aug. 19-20 Tehachapi Mountain PRCA Rodeo with a time of 5.3 seconds which gave each cowboy $1,343.
The PRCA created the All American ProRodeo Series to provide part-time cowboys such as Deskovick with the opportunity for a relatively high-paying finals and to boost participation at the smaller rodeos which aren’t as prestigious as the higher-paying PRCA rodeos but which are crucial to the PRCA’s developmental needs.
The 30 cowboys with the top All American ProRodeo Series earnings in each event qualify for the series finals in Waco, Texas. The 2011 goals of Deskovick, who is 38, included qualifying for the All American finals — which also requires participation in at least 30 series rodeos.
Deskovick embarked on a five-town trip over the Labor Day period that included fourth place and $176 at the Campbell County Rodeo in Herried, S.D., followed by the Sept. 2-4 Oregon Trail Rodeo in Hastings, Neb. Deskovick’s time of 3.6 seconds won the second go-round and $1,064 while his two-head time of 9.1 seconds won the average and another $1,064.
He returned home via Evanston, Wyo., where he took fourth place and $612 at the Evanston Cowboy Days rodeo to bring his All American ProRodeo Series earnings to $13,051.
That qualified Deskovick for the series finals the following month, but first he traveled to San Bernardino for the Sept. 23-25 Sheriff’s PRCA Rodeo. His time of 3.8 seconds split first and second place and gave him $1,636.
Battaglia and Lockett had a winning team roping time of 4.4 seconds to earn $2,404 apiece. That weekend also included the final local rodeo of the year; Battaglia and Lockett took fifth and $938 at the Poway Rodeo while Deskovick took a 10-second penalty for a broken barrier but still split sixth and seventh and received $122.
On Oct. 2, 1981, Tibbs and fellow Ramona resident Wag Blesing went dancing. Blesing, who won the 1947 world bull riding championship, was suffering from a collapsed lung after he returned home and died the next day. The 30th anniversary of that outing was a happier one for Ramona’s rodeo community: A time of 6.0 seconds that day gave Battaglia and Lockett first place and $1,102 apiece in the Santa Cruz Deputy Sheriff’s Charity Rodeo in Watsonville while Elston started the 2012 rodeo season that weekend with a fourth/fifth split and $107 at the Kern County Fair Rodeo in Bakersfield.
The following weekend Elston won the All-Around at the Oct. 8-9 Industry Hills Charity Pro Rodeo. His tie-down roping time of 8.4 seconds gave him first place and $1,846, not including a $1,000 bonus for winning the All-Around. Battaglia split fifth and sixth in that event to earn $446, and Deskovick’s fifth-place steer wrestling time gave him $504.
Deskovick then flew to Waco for the All American ProRodeo Series finals. He earned third and fourth in his two group runs, along with $1,854, to advance to the progressive rounds.
In the quarterfinals Deskovick’s time of 4.4 seconds placed second and earned him another $1,854, and a three-way split of fourth through sixth in the semifinals brought another $250. The top four in the semifinals advanced to the finals, and the tiebreaking rule gave the berth to the cowboy who did best in the previous round. Deskovick thus competed in the finals.
That tiebreaking rule would work against Deskovick in the Oct. 15 finals, as he and Riley Duvall each posted times of 3.9 seconds. Although Duvall won the official championship and the saddle due to the tiebreaker, the purse was split evenly and was worth $6,250 to both Duvall and Deskovick to give the Ramona cowboy a total of $10,208 in earnings.
Deskovick was disappointed that there was no tiebreaking run but was aware of the rules in advance. He was more disappointed that he had to miss the 2011 California Circuit finals due to the schedule conflict between the All American Pro Rodeo Series finals and the circuit finals, although that was due to the circuit finals move to Lancaster and the fact that Oct. 14-16 was the only weekend the Lancaster grounds were available for circuit use.
Elston split third and fourth in the first Tie-Down Roping go-round at the circuit finals before a time of 7.9 seconds gave him the win and $692 in the third go-round.
The circuit finals were the first for Elston. Battaglia and Lockett had a time of 5.0 seconds on their second run to win the second team roping go-round and $692 apiece. An 80-point ride in the second bull riding go-round gave Saenz second place and $519.
If one of the top 12 cowboys is injured, does not compete in the required minimum number of circuit rodeos, or otherwise does not compete in the circuit finals, the cowboy with the next highest earnings is invited. Saenz, who benefited from that rule, finished 13th in the final bull riding standings with his $3,467 of 2011 earnings.
The circuit finals earnings are included in the final standings. Deskovick’s $5,471 placed 11th among steer wrestlers. Battaglia’s $6,714 gave him sixth among team roping headers. Malone’s $5,035 of tie-down roping earnings placed him ninth while Elston was 12th in that event after finishing the season with $3,800 in circuit earnings.
Battaglia was 19th among tie-down ropers with $1,816 but tenth in the All-Around with $8,530 while Malone’s $5,529 placed 14th in the All-Around and Elston was 17th at $4,294.
Although no Ramona cowboys qualified for the 2011 National Finals Rodeo, Markie Battaglia returned to Las Vegas a year after finishing second in the Miss Rodeo America pageant. This time Battaglia competed in a roping event and also ran in the half-marathon that week.
- Elston, Battaglia win go-rounds at PRCA California Finals Rodeo
- Cameron Elston is all-around cowboy at Industry rodeo
- Battaglia, Deskovick win at Sheriff’s Rodeo in San Bernardino
- Deskovick, Malone collect Cowboy Christmas money
- Battaglia wins team roping contest in Tehachapi rodeo
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