LAS VEGAS — It was a great start to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for world title contender Sage Newman.
Newman, from Melstone, won the first saddle bronc go-round Thursday during the opening night of the NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center. Newman rode Big Stone Rodeo's Rubels to an 89-point score for $28,914 to surpass Dawson Hay of Wildwood, Alberta, and Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alberta, who tied for second with rides of 87.5.
The 24-year old Newman, who won an NFR go-round for the first time Thursday, placed 11th in the world last season. He came into Las Vegas this year as the world No. 1 in saddle bronc with $253,190.84 in earnings this season and is looking to make a run at his first title.
"It's great. There's nothing better than this place here," Newman stated in an NFR release. "It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and it's a lot of fun. You can't beat it."
Chase Brooks of Deer Lodge, ranked No. 13 in the world, had a no-score ride in saddle bronc on Thursday. No. 3 Brody Cress of Hillsdale, Wyoming, tied for fifth with a ride of 86.5. Tanner Butner of Daniel, Wyoming, ranked 15th, had an 80-point ride.
Newman set the pace for Montana's contingent of competitors Thursday night.
Billings' Clay Trayn and partner Jade Corkill of Fallon, Nevada, took second place in Round 1 of team roping with a time of 4.5 seconds to claim $22,851. The tandem of Jr. Dees (Aurora, S.D.) and Levi Lord (Sturgis, S.D.) won the opening round with a 4.3-second time.
Tryan, appearing in his 22nd NFR, began the 10-day event at No. 2 in the world for team roping headers ($144,663.14). He is a three-time world champion.
Returning to the NFR after a two-year hiatus, 2019 world steer wrestling champion Ty Erickson of Helena placed fourth in Thursday's first round with a score of 4.5 seconds to earn $12,125. Nick Guy of Sparta, Wisconsin, won the go round with time of 3.8 seconds. Jesse Brown, who rodeoed at Montana State University, took second in 4.0 seconds.
Erickson is making his seventh overall NFR appearance. He came in ranked No. 6 in the world ($107,784.30). Fellow Helena steer wrestler Timmy Sparing, entered at No. 14 and competing in his first Finals, took a no-time in Round 1. Sparing has $81,312.40 in earnings this year.
Ranked No. 3 in the world in tie-down roping (and fifth in the all-around) coming in, Haven Meged of Miles City posted an 8.8-second score in the opening round Thursday, good for a tie for fifth place with Cory Solomon (Prairie View, Texas) and $6,063.
Three time champion Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Texas, won the tie-down roping go-round in 7.5 seconds.
Meged won a world title in his NFR debut in 2019. He placed second at the NFR last year and second in the world standings. He had $156,027.42 in earnings entering this year's Finals.
In bareback riding, Corvallis' Caleb Bennett notched a first-round score of 79 aboard Four Star Rodeo's Rand The Man. Bennett, making his 10th NFR appearance in the past 11 years, came in ranked No. 3 in the world ($147,290.19) but didn't finish in the money Thursday.
Six-time world champion Kaycee Feild of Genola, Utah, won Thursday's bareback go-round with a score of 87.5. World No. 2 Cole Reiner of Buffalo, Wyoming, had a first-round score of 83.5.
Circle native Lisa Lockhart, at age 57 and in her 16th consecutive NFR, rode to a time of 13.98 in barrel racing in the first round on Thursday and did not place. Wenda Johnson of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, won the go round in 13.57 seconds.
Lockhart, entered at No. 14 in the world, has pocketed $84,879.91 this year.
On Wednesday, Belgrade native Cadee Williams captured the overall competition at the National Finals Breakaway Roping competition in Las Vegas. Williams' time of 31.9 seconds earned her $13,866. Martha Angelone of Stephenville, Texas, won the world title.
Round 2 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center.