Jack VanderLans won the All-Around at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s California Circuit Finals which took place Oct. 4-6 at the Antelope Valley Fair and Event Center in Lancaster.
The All-Around champion is the cowboy who earns the most money in more than one event. The go-round and average (aggregate) position payouts gave VanderLans $4,749 of Tie-Down Roping earnings and $1,597 of Steer Wrestling money totaling $6,346.
“That was great,” VanderLans said of winning the All-Around. “It was a real honor. That is a very prestigious thing to win the All-Around at the circuit finals.”
The top 12 earners in each event at the end of the season qualify for the circuit finals. “It’s an honor to compete with all these guys and have some success,” VanderLans said.
Some of the circuit finals participants were alternates after those in the top 12 either did not enter for medical or other reasons or did not participate in the required minimum 15 California Circuit rodeos during the year. VanderLans qualified for the circuit finals in the Tie-Down Roping event and was an alternate in Steer Wrestling.
VanderLans ranked 16th in circuit Steer Wrestling earnings among California Circuit cowboys. “It had been kind of a funny year,” VanderLans said. “We got off to kind of a late start.”
The late start was in earnings, but the period of no earnings was during the May rodeos rather than at the very beginning of the season. VanderLans uses Larry as his Steer Wrestling horse. Larry, who is 15, was acquired last fall from 2016 National Finals Rodeo qualifier Cody Cabral. VanderLans rode Larry for the April 25-27 Lakeside Rodeo, but Larry developed an abscess on his foot and did not return to competition until the June 7-8 Jurupa Valley Pro Rodeo. “It just has to work its way out, and it just took him a long time to get there,” VanderLans said.
VanderLans opted not to compete in Steer Wrestling while Larry was recovering. “I was just roping calves,” he said.
The PRCA sanctioned seven May rodeos in California.
Approximately 10 days before the start of the circuit finals VanderLans was notified that he could compete in Steer Wrestling. He practiced on his parents’ property in Temecula after learning that he would also be competing in the bulldogging.
The alternates who eventually participated in the circuit finals also included Hemet bull rider Eli Necochea.
The circuit finals had performances Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. VanderLans caught and brought down his steer in 6.4 seconds Oct. 4 to place second in the first Steer Wrestling go-round and earn $1,597. “I made a good run,” he said.
Chowchilla cowboy Stan Branco was the hazer who guided VanderLans’ steers at the circuit finals. The Oct. 5 go-round resulted in a no time for VanderLans. “I couldn’t get my second steer caught,” he said. “That affected me in the average.”
Only three of the bulldoggers had times on all three of their steers, so the fourth and final paying position for the average was for the cowboy with the fastest average on two head. Billy Bugenig of Ferndale, who won the first go-round with a run of 5.2 seconds, had an average of 10.3 seconds on two head for the final position. VanderLans, who had a seven-second run Oct. 6, was fifth in the average.
“It was great that I was able to compete in the Steer Wrestling. I hadn’t really been planning on it,” VanderLans said. “It’s hard to get too upset with your performance.”
During the season VanderLans used two Tie-Down Roping horses. He purchased Tuffy, who is now 20, in March 2013 from Caldwell, Idaho, cowboy Tim Roeser. In January 2018 VanderLans purchased Pepsi, who is now 15, from Tommy Denny of Menifee.
“He has kind of a different style and it fits pretty well with the way I rope,” VanderLans said of Pepsi.
Tommy Denny was three when his family moved from Bonsall to Menifee in October 1999. His father, Wade Denny, is a 1981 Fallbrook High School graduate and was raised in Rainbow. VanderLans graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2001 and was at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 2003 when his parents moved from Fallbrook to Temecula. Gary Denny, who is Tommy Denny’s grandfather and Wade Denny’s father, still lives in Rainbow. VanderLans practiced at the Rainbow ranch as well as on his parents’ property, and VanderLans and the Denny family now practice on the Menifee property.
VanderLans still competes on Tuffy from time to time. “I kind of pick and choose where I use him,” VanderLans said.
Pepsi was VanderLans’ choice for the circuit finals. “He’s been kind of steadily improving, and I thought that would be a good fit for him in that arena,” VanderLans said. “Lancaster’s a little bigger arena.”
Large video screens and loud noises still bother Pepsi, but those characteristics were not present at the Antelope Valley Fair and Event Center. “He’s a little more focused,” VanderLans said.
The fourth-place Tie-Down Roping time in the first go-round was 10.7 seconds on a run by Brushton Minton, who lives in the Lake County town of Witter Springs. VanderLans had a time of 13.8 seconds Oct. 4 and thus did not place.
“I had never seen the calves before,” VanderLans said. “It’s a night performance and it’s a little bit of a guessing game on how the calves are going to leave and run.”
VanderLans used extra caution to avoid a ten-second penalty for a broken barrier. “You don’t want to take yourself out of the average,” he said.
VanderLans and Pepsi used some of the run catching up to the calf. “He got a pretty good jump on me and it cost me time,” VanderLans said.
“I would have liked to have gone a little faster,” VanderLans said. “It is sort of motivated me to speed things up.”
The rodeo secretary conducts a draw to determine which animal is assigned to which cowboy. “I drew pretty well in the following rounds,” VanderLans said.
VanderLans had a time of 9.2 seconds on his Oct. 5 run. “I was really happy. Horse worked well and we were kind of finding our rhythm,” he said.
VanderLans developed a game plan for his run before leaving the chute. “I had seen that calf and I knew what he was going to do,” he said. “That gave me an advantage.”
Ryle Smith of Oakdale won the go-round with a run of 8.3 seconds. Another Oakdale cowboy, Colton Farquer, had the third-place time of 10.3 seconds.
Second place in the go-round paid VanderLans $1,583. His average of 23.0 seconds on two head stood third entering the final go-round. “I had a chance to win some money in the average,” VanderLans said.
Smith led the average after two go-rounds and Farquer was second. Improving his position in the average would have been at the expense of one of the other cowboys. “I don’t wish anybody bad luck,” VanderLans said.
“My goal was not to lose my spot,” VanderLans said. “My goal was to still keep my spot in the average, come home with some money.”
VanderLans had a time of 9.6 seconds in the Oct. 6 go-round. “I made a good run,” he said.
Chant DeForest of Wheatland had an identical time. VanderLans and DeForest thus split third and fourth place, and each cowboy added $791 to their earnings.
VanderLans also moved ahead of Smith in the average. “Ryle had a little tough luck,” VanderLans said.
Farquer won the average with a time of 29.0 seconds on three head. VanderLans had the second-place average of 32.6 seconds. Smith’s three runs gave him an average of 34.2 seconds. Second place in the average paid VanderLans $2,374.
“I was really happy with my horse. I felt like he just got better every round,” VanderLans said.
In the third Bull Riding go-round Necochea stayed on his bovine for the required eight seconds and received a score of 77 points. The score placed second in the go-round, behind the 82-point ride of Red Bluff cowboy Colby Demo, and the go-round position gave Necochea $1,759.
Demo also won the second Bull Riding go-round and was the only bull rider with more than one qualified ride. Necochea had the third-highest score among bull riders with only one qualified ride, so 77 points on one head placed him fourth in the average and provided an average position payout of $791.
The circuit finals earnings are added to the regular-season earnings to determine year-end positions. VanderLans finished fifth in the Tie-Down Roping standings with earnings of $11,739.51, 13th in the Steer Wrestling standings with earnings of $3,941.48, and 11th in the All-Around standings at $15,680.99.
Necochea concluded the 2019 season with $5,066.67 of California Circuit earnings. That placed him twelfth in the final standings.
The All-Around championship will likely close out VanderLans’ California Circuit finals career, as he and his wife have made the decision to move to Texas. Millsap is approximately 15 miles west of Weatherford, and the move to Texas will provide VanderLans with more equestrian opportunities and a more rural environment for his family and himself.
“Temecula’s been really good to me. It’s been a great place. But it’s growing pretty fast,” VanderLans said.
Millsap had a population of 403 when the 2010 census was taken.
VanderLans will compete in the Texas circuit. “It will be exciting to go to some different places,” he said.
“That’s what makes rodeo interesting,” VanderLans said. “Every rodeo arena has their own twists.”
VanderLans may compete in some Southern California rodeos when he and his wife return to visit family. His parents still live in Temecula. His wife, Tawnie, is originally from El Monte. They have two children; Lillie is currently six and Hank is two.
Even if there is a rodeo in Texas and one in Southern California on the same weekend VanderLans could enter the Friday performance of the Texas rodeo and the Sunday performance of the California rodeo, so it is possible that this year’s California Circuit finals won’t be the last for VanderLans as a competitor. “You never know what will happen,” he said.