Across the Montana highline, fall is the time for harvesting wheat, shipping calves and getting ready for the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR). Indian cowboys and cowgirls from the highline and throughout the United States and Canada, spend the months of October and November getting ready for the biggest rodeo in Indian country, the INFR.
Held at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Nev., in November, cowboys and cowgirls lay it all on the line, competing for the gold buckle, custom made saddle and over $850,000 in prize money. More important than gold buckles and money, are the bragging rights. Bragging rights that say, “I am the best rodeo athlete in Indian Country.”
One cowboy in particular, has more than earned those bragging rights. In the summer of 2015, Nolan Conway had a severe shoulder and bicep injury requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. Nolan had two choices, let the shoulder heal completely and take a year off or go against doctor’s orders and get back into the arena. The 2011 INFR steer wrestling world champion made a businessman’s decision and took a year off. That year made all the difference in the world. At the 2017 INFR, Nolan came back to the final round of rodeo action in third place with an aggregate time of 19.6 seconds on three head. A third place finish in the short go would ensure that the Seville Flat cowboy and his buckskin “doggin’ horse” Diggy, would make the World Champion victory lap.
While no other competitor from the highline would bring home the World Championship this year, several area contestants returned home with bragging rights of their own. Along the way to a second in the world season finish, East Glacier bull rider, Dakota Louis and his younger brother Preston split first and second place in the third go-round.
In the breakaway roping, Megan Lunak of Badger Creek won the third round with a blistering time of 2.57 seconds.
Katelin Conway of Seville Flat, placed in the money in the second and third go-arounds. With a time of 4.19, Rian Conway earned a trip to the Gold Buckle Zone in the second round of steer wrestling.
In the saddle bronc riding, Alan Cole Gobert of Browning earned a third place check in round number three.
In the senior events, Terry Tatsey placed second in the senior team roping with his partner, Frid England as well as placing second in the senior breakaway roping.
The year 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the INFR moving to its now permanent home in Las Vegas. Each year the rodeo has gotten bigger, the prize money better and the competition stiffer. 2018 promises much of the same, with only one small change; the dates have changed from mid-November to Oct. 23-27. It’s never too early to start making plans and booking rooms for the 2018 INFR.
For more results and further Indian National Finals Rodeo information, visit www.infr.org.