The star-studded cast entered in the 46th annual Bob Feist Invitational on April 1 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, includes the only four humans who’ve won the BFI three times. High-money leader Clay Tryan, Hall-of-Famers Speed Williams and Rich Skelton (roping with other partners), and 2021 champ Kory Koontz will each be part of 125 teams gunning for a first-place cash prize that reached $150,000 last year.
Tryan, also a three-time world champion, will try to add to the $259,361 BFI dollars he’s banked with his gold-buckle partner Jade Corkill – who has never won the BFI. And Koontz brings a new partner in Peyton Walters, who won the 2020 Yeti Jr. Open at the USTRC Finals. Meanwhile, BFI heavyweight Skelton will be stopping the clock for Clayton Van Aken, who has won go-rounds and placed in past BFI averages. Other BFI heavy-hitters Cory Petska, Buddy Hawkins and Luke Brown will try it on this time with Clint Summers, Andrew Ward and Hunter Koch, respectively.
The veterans will appreciate this as the first year an Open roping pays back 100 percent of their entry fees. The rookies are just glad to be on the roster – including the youngest-ever heeler to achieve a 9.5 handicap. In fact, this year’s first-timers are some of the most talented teenagers in the history of team roping.
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Defending national high school champion James Arviso, 19, is partnered with 16-year-old Nicky Northcott, whose dad Steve won the BFI in 1991 with Charles Pogue and again in ’93 with Matt Tyler. Arviso – Derrick Begay’s nephew – is not only the defending Jr. BFI champ but placed second at the 2022 BFI with Josh Patton to split $100,000. Zack Woods, 24, and Michael Calmelat – the 14-year-old No. 9.5 – are former Jr. NFR champions bringing Daniel Reed and Pedro Egurrola, respectively, while 17-year-old Denton Dunning was picked up by world champion Aaron Tsinigine for the BFI.
Meanwhile, defending BFI champs Jake Clay and Billie Jack Saebens will be tough to beat with their new partners, each world champs. Clay will head for Kollin VonAhn, while Saebens will heel for Matt Sherwood. Most notably, draw No. 56 will be Williams, who returns to “The Feist” for the second time with his 16-year-old son, Gabe, after 13 years away.
Legendary Hall-of-Famer and former BFI champ Trevor Brazile, who retired from full-time competition, will head for Joseph Harrison this year. Fan-favorite Begay drug his old Arizona friend Colter Todd off the Arizona ranch to try their luck, while former BFI champ and world champ Walt Woodard will team with Quinn Kesler. Plus, world champion header Colby Lovell is partnering with former NFR heeler Dakota Kirchenschlager, who retired from rodeo.
The public will be hard-pressed to choose a prospective winner at the annual Cowboy Auction and Dinner, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Chicken Shack in Arcadia, Oklahoma, on Friday night, March 31. The BFI anchors Wrangler BFI Week, which last year paid out $2.92 million in cash and prizes, and runs March 29 through April 4.
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Tickets for the BFI can be purchased on site at the Lazy E Arena, by phone at 405-282-RIDE or online at ticketmaster.com. A special roper rate is available at the Hampton Inn and Suites of Guthrie, by calling (405) 293-9595.