After winning a gold belt buckle last year, Caleb Smidt returned to the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas intent on defending his tie-down roping national championship title in his fifth consecutive trip to the World National Finals of Rodeo.
Despite only finishing in the money in rounds seven (5th place in 9.6 seconds to earn $6,769.23), eight (4th place in 7.7 seconds to earn $11,000) and nine (2nd place in 7.2 seconds to earn $20,730.77), his overall total earnings kept him near the top of the rankings where he ultimately finished sixth in his event which helped him earn fourth in the all-around rankings after all 10 events with a grand total of $210,189.73.
Smidt’s fourth-place, all-around finish completed a string of three Texans taking second through fourth place behind the all-around champion, Stetson Wright of Milford, Utah. Clay Smith (Broken Bow), and Tuf Cooper (Decatur), along with Bellville’s Smidt, rounded out the top four with all those cowboys’ earnings running north of the $200,000-mark.
Haven Meged from Miles City, Mt., took the overall tie-down roping championship with a total earning of $246,013.45 and Shane Hanchey of Sulpher, La., took second with $244,831.54.
Tyson Durfey (third with $237,532.15 from Brock, Texas) and Riley Pruitt (fourth with $226,445.46 from Gering, Ne.) preceded another Texan trio with Stephenville’s Marty Yates (fifth with $212,854.18), Decatur’s Cooper (sixth with $211,630.91) and Bellville’s Smidt taking spots five through seven in their discipline.
Last year’s championship events came not long after tragedy struck the Smidt family, with Caleb losing his brother-in-law Will and wife Bailee in a helicopter crash leaving their wedding right before NFR. Earlier in the year, Smidt lost his father after a long battle with cancer although he was able to see his son tie down one more calf before he left.
With all of them watching over, he claimed his second world championship last year and picked up right where he left off this regular season.
He won championships from Greely, Colo.; Sheridan, Wyo.; Nampa, Idaho; and Fort Madison, Iowa, in addition to RFD-TV’s The American in Arlington to head to the sixth NFR of his career.
Smidt was joined by his wife Brenna and children Cru (2 years old) and Myla (1 year old) yet again at this year’s championships in Las Vegas on top of the rest of his family’s support from far and wide.