PENDLETON — Brady Sims lowered himself down into the chute, straddling a nasty beast called Down N Out. He’d just watched Emilio Resende take the lead minutes earlier with an 87-point ride.
An 87. That was more than Sims’ first ride, the 85.5 points that bought him a spot in the final round of the PBR Classic on Monday in Happy Canyon Arena. He’d have to do better than that. Buck harder, hold tighter, stay longer.
He’d have to do better.
Eight seconds and countless beats of his racing heart later Sims was finally free to open his hand. He was done with Down N Out and he had 88 points to show for it.
Sims won the average on two bulls Monday with a total score of 173.5. But the victory was in doubt as he watched Mike Lee of Decatur, Texas, take to the arena two bulls later.
The show left an impact on the thousands in attendance as they sent roars echoing through the Canyon. But they weren’t the only ones entertained by the spectacle.
“I was just thinking how wonderful it all was, how blessed I truly was,” said Sims, a Holt, Missouri native. “Most people when they first come here, they get chucked in the dirt. Well, I had a different idea about it. I was coming in here thinking, ‘It’s Pendleton, let’s do something with it.’ ”
Lee landed hard and staggered to his feet for his patented celebration. He knew he’d bested the bull. The cowboy replaced his limp with a summersault — the same flip he used following his first go — and followed it up with a few moments of grooving that left even PBR entertainer Flint Rasmussen feeling jealous.
“That’s all dork right there. One hundred percent dork,” Lee said with a smile.
Though the celebrations were matching, ride No. 2 came in a little lower on the scoreboard. An 86 threw the cowboy and the fans into a fit of mental calculations to find the overall winner.
Lee’s 113 left him just half a point behind Sims.
“Man it was barely there but it was there,” said a relieved Sims, who stood behind the chutes watching the final three riders chase his mark.
Lee’s second-place finish adds to his long list of accomplishments in Pendleton during Round-Up week. The bull rider said he can’t even count the number of times he’s competed in the Happy Canyon Arena, but remembered winning once.
Conversely, Sims was making his first ride.
Only one other cowboy on the night completed two eight-second spins. Emilio Resende, of Brazil, posted an 82 as the final rider of the opening performance. His came on a re-ride and the mark was just enough to squeeze him into the last spot in the 10-man final round.
As the final spot into the short-go, he drew the distinction of hitting the arena first, riding back-to-back bulls. His 87 there gave him 169 for the night and the third-place paycheck.
Before Sims separated himself with his 88, Colby Reilly of Ephrata, Wash., owned the top score after riding Road Kill to success. Reilly left an 87.5 on the board to take the early lead, but he said it didn’t feel like the kind of ride that sets the bar. In fact, he nearly emulated the bull’s moniker on the dismount as the snarling projectile went horizontal. Road Kill landed just inches from Reilly as he braced himself in the dirt.
“I landed to the side of him just enough to where nothing hit me. I thought I was going to get mucked up there,” he said. “Thank God for the bull fighters; they’re really there to save me.”
Reilly’s one-animal scored gave him fourth-place honors.
The PBR classic continues tonight with a new performance at 8 p.m.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.