Mullen's Dent eyes spot in National Finals Rodeo

Steven Dent is just $1,523 short of the 15th and final bareback riding spot for the $6,375 million Nationals Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas.

He's determined to make it up, even if it takes six rodeos and traveling hundreds of miles to do it.

"You really can't make a living rodeoing if you don't make the NFR. The NFR, that's like the Super Bowl," Dent said. "It's like playing football all year and not making the Super Bowl."

Dent, who lives in Mullen, Nebraska, will compete this weekend in Ak-Sar-Ben's River City Rodeo. Twenty-four cowboys —12 compete each of the two nights — have qualified in each of the seven events at the Justin Boots Championships on Thursday and Friday. One contestant from each go-round moves on to the Wrangler Champions Challenge Finale on Saturday.

If he can do that, it would make Dent's weekend much less complicated.

"If Omaha does good, I'll stay there, and I'll only go to four rodeos," he said. "If Omaha doesn't do good, I'll go to six rodeos."

Dent plans to work in rodeos in Kansas City, Texas, California and Arizona as needed in an attempt to make the National Finals.

"I'm just going to go and try to make good rides and make as much money as I can," he said. "I'll go where I have the best chance to win."

Dent said cowboys at the National Finals can earn as much as $150,000. About half, he said, win $60,000 or better.

That would double the $59,512.32 he's earned this season in bareback riding.

He's qualified for the National Finals four straight times and six overall en route to making more than $1 million for his career. He'd like to see that streak continue.

"There's really no point in rodeoing if you don't make the NFR," he said.

Nebraskan having 'good year'

Cort Scheer of Elsmere, Nebraska, said he usually starts strong, then gets run down and beat up during a rodeo season.

This year, the saddle bronc rider has stayed healthy. He won six rodeos and was co-champion at two others.

"It kept me fired up to go at it," Scheer said.

He's had the most profitable season among the three Nebraskans who have qualified for the River City Rodeo.

Scheer sits third in the PRCA world standings with earnings of $102,429.22. Since joining the PRCA in 2007, he's earned $504,584.

"It's been a very good year," he said. "I can't complain a bit. I've been drawing really good horses and staying positive."

A lot of that has to do with traveling partners Chet Johnson, Ryan MacKenzie and Tyler Corrington. They've shared a big van and travel expenses the past three years and keep each other going through the hard times.

"Pretty much when you travel with somebody all year long, they turn into your family. And when you don't get along, it gets you in a bad mood," Scheer said. "You are like brothers. You push each other to do as good as you can do."

Scheer said he's been getting better every season. He finished second in the average at the National Finals last year.

A big payday there can change your life, he said. The earnings from the rest of the year are usually eaten up by hotels, fuel, fees and other expenses.

"The finals, that's where you make your money," he said.

'Like a mini-NFR'

Steer wrestler Dru Melvin said it's his goal every year to qualify for Ak-Sar-Ben's River City Rodeo.

You'll see the same cowboys, he said, at the National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas.

"They have the top stock andthe top guys," Melvin said. "In years past, it's been like a mini-NFR."

Gering's Pruitt falls just short

Riley Pruitt of Gering didn't qualify for the rodeo this week.

Thetiedown roper finished 26th in the PRCA standings with earnings of $42,868.05. Only the top 24 qualify.

He doesn't plan to go to any other rodeos this weekend in a final bid to make the NFR.

"I'm done for the year, until next year," he said.

Pruitt said he'll go to all of the big rodeos next season and hopes for more success.

He's just 22, so he has time.

"I'm just a pup," he said.

How to qualify for Saturday

Here is how to qualify for the Wrangler Champions Challenge Finale Saturday night.

A cowboy must be one of the following:

• Top seven in the Champions Challenge standings

• The 2013 Omaha event champion

• 2014 PRCA world standings leader

• 2013 tour standings leader

• 2014 Omaha event champion from Thursday night

• 2014 Omaha event champion from Friday night

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