Buckles

Justin Stegall (left) and Arianna Assini were the Cody Nite Rodeo all-around winners for June. Malory Hart (right) presents them with their awards.

Jayden Blacker came to Cody from Australia for a month of saddle bronc experience.

If you are a young cowboy, the word has long been out in the rodeo world this is where to come to ride every day.

Blacker, 18, got more rewards from his Wyoming visit than expected.

Last Saturday night he received the belt buckle emblematic of being the No. 1 rider in his event in Cody Nite Rodeo for June.

But wait, there’s more.

Former rodeo star Bret Franks, now coach at Clarendon College in Texas who was in town to offer instruction to young riders, saw Blacker ride and offered him a scholarship.

“I’m going to go,” said Blacker, who had no idea his Cody stopover would change his life.

“I didn’t plan to stay this long,” he said. “I learned a lot.”

Blacker is entered in the Calgary Stampede and intends to rodeo in Canada, mostly in Alberta, for the next month or so.

He said he is currently the leading rookie on the Australian circuit and plans to return home, compete till the end of his country’s season, then enroll at Clarendon in January.

Blacker said his father Geoffrey, a former rodeo competitor, died three years ago and he wants to make him proud.

“I’m kind of on a mission to fill his boots,” he said.

June awards, a belt buckle, and water bottle, were announced in all events.

Arianna Assini and fiance Justin Stegall, from Arizona, both 24, otherwise dominated.

She was the All-Around Cowgirl and he was the All-Around Cowboy and they received Yeti coolers.

Assini and Stegall plan to marry in November and between the two of them they have won six or seven such coolers during their four years of competition in Cody. Several have been passed on as gifts as the Yetis keep on coming.

In June, Stegall also won tie-down roping and Assini and Stegall won the team roping title.

“We like it here,” Assini said.

Cody’s Ta’lynn Paul, 14, won her first Cody Nite monthly crown. She worked her way up from junior barrels and said she and her horse are bonding better this year.

“I’m a lot more connected with my horse,” Paul said.

Jaysen Lowden, also from Cody, also worked his way up to the big bulls from junior steers. Now 17, and two years into tackling the adult animals, he feels he is steadily improving by riding almost every night.

“A good month,” Lowden said. “I’ve pretty much been building confidence. It was a big difference at first (the size of the bulls).”

Asked if this buckle was going to be the start of a trophy case, thinking of those junior honors, Lowden said, “I’ve already got one going.”

Nite Rodeo June

Buckle Winners

Bareback: Rhett Kelly.

Tie-down Roping: Justin Stegall.

Breakaway Roping: Shawnee Sherwood.

Saddle Bronc: Jayden Blacker.

Team Roping Header: Arianna Assini.

Team Roping Heeler, Justin Stegall.

Barrel Racing: Ta’lynn Paul.

Bull Riding: Jaysen Lowden.

All-Around Cowgirl: Arianna Assini.

All-Around Cowboy: Justin Stegall.

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