2018 National High School Finals Average Results
ALL AROUND ROOKIE COWBOY Keenan Hayes, Hayden, Colo., 960 Carson Wetsel, Richmond, Texas, 500 Gage Gardiner, Ashland, Kan., 420 Regan Wheatley, Calhan, Colo., 265 Trevor […]
By Jim Thompson
Todd Suhn remembers that he attended a meeting with rodeo contestants interested in the proposed Elite Rodeo Athletes (ERA) in early January 2014. After 16 NFR qualifications in the bull dogging, including one reserve championship year, he’d been hurt in 2013 and thought about retirement.
“They talked about with ERA as a vision for the future,” he recalls. He had to decide to forego his hopes for future NFR qualifications or retirement, for helping build a stepping stone to bigger and better things beyond the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association and the bright lights of Las Vegas. It was that vision for the betterment of the sport that drove his immediate relationship with the ERA.
Todd Suhn grew up in central South Dakota and went to college for 2 years in Cheyenne; Laramie County Community College. He graduated from University of Wyoming with a degree in Ag Business and by 1994 had his PRCA membership. His first NFR was in 1996. That started a streak that reached ten in a row before missing the NFR in 2006. Then 6 more until he was injured in 2013. 2012 was his final NFR appearance. He was 2nd in 1998 to Mickey Gee. Todd Suhn finished in the top 5 three times, the top ten 10 times. In 2001 he finished 11th but less than $700 behind his brother Randy.
He’s nearing 2 million dollars in money won in competition…quite an accomplishment.
Now in his first year of competing in the ERA 2016 Premier Tour he feels that on range of 1 to 10, the Tour is at 4 and growing. Because of the PRCAs unwillingness to work with the ERA, many of their plans had to be rethought and new goals needed to be developed. There are 19 events planned this year plus the 5 rounds of the ERA championships. Those will be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas November 9-13, 2016.
One misconception of the ERA, Todd feels, from both fans and rodeo contestants, is that Trevor and the other members started it to get more for themselves. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Many who helped found the ERA were men, and women, who could see the end of the career coming. Many wanted to create a pathway for younger people who sought a life in rodeo beyond just one big payday in Las Vegas each year.
Many of the goals and bylaws of the Elite Rodeo Athletes are patterned after the Pro Bull Riders. That association created wealth for its founders and opportunities for new members. The ERA wishes the same thing. And they had hoped that the PRCA would share the vision and participate, but since they haven’t the ERA is still moving ahead without them.
Todd Suhn says he hasn’t really lost any friends over his decision though some are cool on the subject. He feels that one fundamental problem with the pro rodeo is that there is little upward growth. Many big rodeos are down or have even left the PRCA such as Houston, Calgary and Colorado Springs. They left the PRCA and have prospered leaving the door open for others to follow. Todd feels that the business model created by the ERA will help address that issue and keep rodeo growing.
As for the question about how young people get into the ERA after its initial season; a qualifying tour has been developed similar to what the American has done.
Todd Suhn rated the initial season a 4 out of ten largely because early goals were affected by PRCA rulings. But when asked “do you see light at the end of the tunnel?” His answer was confident; “I do. Certainly today it’s foggy but if you look through the fog you can see the success.”
Without question Todd Suhn would have liked to win a world championship through his 20 plus years in rodeo, be he’s satisfied with his 2nd place finish in 1999. And today he realizes that he and the dozens of others with the foresight to form the Elite Rodeo Athletes will help assure the rodeo lifestyle will not plateau for young contestants who are coming behind them.
There’s a poem that demonstrates that dream:
The Bridge Builder
By Will Allen Dromgoole
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim, The sullen stream had no fear for him; But he turned when safe on the other side And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here; Your journey will end with the ending day, You never again will pass this way; You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide, Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There followed after me to-day A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be; He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
If you’re interested in following the association just google “Elite Rodeo Athletes” or go to www.eraprorodeo.com
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