Two nights of action-packed sports at the 19th Lakeside Optimist Bulls Only Rodeo

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Ryan McConnel won the Optimist Bulls Only Rodeo XIX competition July 14-15 at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds.

McConnel, who is originally from New Mexico and now lives in the Fresno County town of Tollhouse, was the only one of the 40 riders to stay on both bulls and had a score of 143 points on two head. Nuevo cowboy Corey Rickard placed second in the average (aggregate) with a score of 79 on one head, which was also the highest score of the rodeo hosted by the Lakeside Optimist Club.

Ryan McConnel won the Optimist Bulls Only Rodeo XIX competition July 14-15 at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds.

McConnel, who is originally from New Mexico and now lives in the Fresno County town of Tollhouse, was the only one of the 40 riders to stay on both bulls and had a score of 143 points on two head. Nuevo cowboy Corey Rickard placed second in the average (aggregate) with a score of 79 on one head, which was also the highest score of the rodeo hosted by the Lakeside Optimist Club.

“I’ve heard about this bull riding for a long time. I’m very blessed to be in the number one spot,” McConnel said.

McConnel has competed at the Lakeside Rodeo but had never previously participated in the Optimist Bulls Only Rodeo event, which was first, held in 1999 and became the first bulls only rodeo to be sanctioned by the International Pro Rodeo Association in 2005.

McConnel had a 67-point ride on Astronaut July 14 and was given the option of a re-ride but chose to keep his score. “I was a little bit soft,” said McConnel, who rode with a partially torn groin.

“I rode my bull last night,” he said. “I was happy about that.”

The draw gave McConnel a bull called Road Hazard for July 15. “I watched that bull last night,” McConnel said.

The fact that McConnel rode Road Hazard better than Mitchell Thomas did the previous night may have been in part due to the observation and in part due to the fit between McConnel and Road Hazard. “He’s got a lot of size,” McConnel said.

McConnel is 5’11”. “I tend to like those bigger bulls,” he said. “We got along really great.”

The judges gave McConnel 76 points for his ride on Road Hazard. “I felt pretty good knowing I had a bigger bull,” he said.

That gave him second place among the July 15 scores and first for the combined two go-rounds. “I’m lucky that everybody else that rode the first one fell off their second one,” McConnel said.

Since McConnel was in the top six in the average in addition to being the average winner, he had the opportunity to ride in the bonus round, but he was too sore from his groin pull to pursue the $1,000 winner-take-all prize. “I was almost not going to be able to get on today,” he said.

Only two cowboys participated in the bonus round and both were bucked off.

McConnel expects to return to Lakeside for Bulls Only XX next year. “What a bull riding. This is the best bull riding to go to in California,” he said.

Rickard first competed at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds during his California Junior Rodeo Association and California High School Rodeo Association District 8 days before he graduated from high school in 2011. He was bucked off Scream in the July 14 performance but stayed on Renegade for the required eight seconds July 15.

“Just a jump-up bull,” Rickard said. “The one you want to get on.”

The 79-point score put him into the average lead until McConnel rode his second bull. Rickard settled for second place and the high score of the rodeo. “I was just lucky it all worked itself out,” Rickard said.

Rickard has made the trip from Riverside County to Lakeside for several previous Optimist Bulls Only Rodeo events. “Can’t wait until next year. It’s always a good time,” he said.

The record Bulls Only score excluding the bonus round was the 90-point ride by Junior Saenz in 2009. (In the 2005 Optimist Bulls Only Rodeo, Sean Case won the bonus round with a 92-point ride.) Saenz, who is now 36 and lives in Valley Center, retired from bull riding after his two Bulls Only XIX rides in which he was bucked off both times, but the father of six-year-old Boogie Saenz is continuing in the sport as the vice-president of the Pacific Coast Junior Bull Riders. Boogie Saenz not only won the Mutton Bustin’ competition July 15 but stayed on his sheep for 17 seconds to give both father and son Bulls Only records.

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