CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo finals featured some big comebacks Sunday on both a professional and personal level.
Steer roping and steer wrestling saw cowboys come from eighth place to win the "Daddy of 'em All" belt buckles, while a Texas cowgirl who suffered the loss of a son and severe injuries to herself about a year ago won the barrel racing event.
Jay Pixley, of Sundance, Wyo., was the only cowboy to tie down his steer in the finals, while Gabe Ledoux, of Kaplan, La., brought his steer down in 7.4 seconds to win steer wrestling.
"You don't really plan on being able to win it from the eighth position, but that's the way it goes," Pixley, who had never won a major rodeo before, said. "Awesome."
Will Lowe, of Canyon, Texas, scored a 91 on a horse named Make Up Face to overtake four others to win the bareback competition, and Cody DeMoss, of Heflin, La., entered the saddle bronc finals in fourth place, then won with a 90-point ride aboard Chugwater Blues.
Lowe celebrated by taking his 3-year-old son, Garrett, on a victory lap on horseback in the arena.
"It's such a momentum builder and a confidence builder after getting off a horse like that," he said.
DeMoss said he had no thoughts entering Sunday's finals that he would walk away with first place because Wade Sundell, of Boxholm, Iowa, entered the finals with a seven-point lead over the next closest competitors. But Sundell failed to complete his ride in 8 seconds.
"He had to make a mistake, and for Wade to make a mistake is not like him," DeMoss said. "So I didn't really think nothing of it. I just figured I'd win the round and get my second average check and head on down the road and call it good. But hallelujah I'm glad God had other plans for me."
Mary Walker, of Ennis, Texas, had the most inspirational comeback of the day, overcoming two other cowgirls in the standings and overcoming her own personal tragedy to win the barrel race.
Last year, Walker's 21-year-son, Reagon, died in a traffic accident in April and she suffered a crushed pelvis and two broken vertebrae in her back when her horse fell on her two months later during a rodeo.
She spent four months in a wheel chair recovering from her injuries. Her husband had to lift and carry her around the house.
"It's amazing," Walker said. "And I know it's Reagon on my shoulders, getting me through all this. He's just helping me."
She said she was giving her husband her Cheyenne championship belt buckle for helping her through the tough times.
There were tough times among the team ropers as well this weekend after Broc Cresta, who competed in the National Finals Rodeo the last two years, was found dead Saturday in his trailer at the Cheyenne rodeo. He was 25.
Authorities were investigating his death, but officials said there was no sign of foul play.
"We're a pretty close nit group and all very good friends with Broc Cresta," Trevor Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, said after winning the team roping event with Patrick Smith, of Midland, Texas. "He was one of the brightest young stars that our industry had to offer, and he's going to be missed terribly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
Beau Marshall, of Truth or Consequences, N.M., placed first in tie-down roping after entering the final day in third place.
Cody Whitney, of Sayre, Okla., was the only contestant who entered the finals with the overall lead to win a championship in the rodeo. Whitney, who entered Sunday's round with a seven-point lead, won by a point with an 85. He edged Ardie Maier, of Timber Lake, S.D., who scored a 91-point ride to place second.
Cheyenne Frontier Days is the richest outdoor rodeo in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's regular season with more than $800,000 in prize money offered.