Haven Meged’s had a great summer run by normal standards, but the 2023 calf roping field is anything but normal, with ropers like Riley Webb breaking the season earnings record, and Ty Harris overshadowing Meged over the Fourth of July.
Meged’s still been cashing checks though, staying out of the limelight by circumstance as the Labor Day weekend approaches.
The full time ProRodeo cowboys will be working as hard as ever on Labor Day weekend as it signals the beginning of the final month of the 2023 ProRodeo regular season, the time of year when opportunities begin to dwindle for those chasing a berth at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
The pressure mounts, the miles get longer and the focus on those on the bubble becomes intense. Who will rise up and score big at the remaining big Playoff Series rodeos and the Cinch Playoffs? Who will be in the top 15 when September 30 finally arrives?
Haven Meged’s savvy summer run
While the winter stock show run always garners a lot of attention, savvy rodeo fans know that the summer can be huge—and the guys who get hot in July always end up in Vegas in December.
To illustrate that point, consider that one calf roper has won $137,396 since the close of the Reno Rodeo in late June.
Can we take a moment to appreciate 2019 World Champion Haven Meged?
Incredibly, Meged has been flying a bit under the radar this summer.
He was good at Reno and over the Fourth but not as good as Ty Harris. He earned more than anybody at the NFR Open but was second in the final round to Garrett Jacobs. He was hot in late July but not quite like Shane Hanchey. And he’s closing in on the single season earnings record but it was already broken by the hotshot kid out of Texas, Riley Webb.
Truth is, if not for the historic season of Webb, Meged would be garnering all the headlines. Ranked second in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, he’s won $187,424 on the year, more than $43,000 ahead of third ranked Hanchey and is as close to Webb as anyone has been in awhile.
“He’s been hard to catch,” Meged, 25, chuckled.
Fans will get a preview of the World Championship race on October 14 when Webb and Meged match at the Oklahoma’s Richest Roping, just a couple weeks after the close of the regular season.
Clearly Meged thrives in a tension packed environment and has plenty of experience in the pressure cooker that is the Thomas & Mack. This year he will make his fifth straight NFR—in his first appearance he earned a rare Triple Crown, taking the average, Rookie of the Year, World title.
Though still trailing Webb by a big margin, Meged inched closer with a great weekend to close out August.
While he finished second to Webb in Kennewick, he won Tremonton (Utah), and was third in both Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) and at his hometown rodeo in Miles City, Montana. He picked up $17,406.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Both horses have been good and I’ve been drawing good calves. I’ve just been trying to use the calves I’ve drawn and it’s been working out.”
His horsepower consists of seven-year-old Smoke and six year old Lil Punch.
“I’ve used Smoke the majority of the time. They’ve both been really good and they make my job easy,” Meged said.
Meged is also a newlywed and his bride, Shelby Boisjoli, is pretty good with the nylon herself. In fact, Lil Punch is actually her horse.
While rodeoing together is impossible given that breakaway ropers still can’t buddy with their husbands, there are rare moments in the heat of the summer run where the couple has been able to compete together and, not surprisingly, they’ve won together too.
They accomplished a rare and awesome feat two weeks ago when they both won the Playoff Series stop at the famous Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo.
“It was pretty cool to be able to get that win with her,” Meged said. “We’ve done that at a couple little rodeos but never a big one like that.”
Like her husband, Boisjoli is ranked second in the WPRA World standings for breakaway ropers and she has competed at all three Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Ropings since the event’s inception in 2020.
“I don’t get to see her too much in the summer. I try to line us up close when we can, slacks that are at the same time,” he noted, adding he does all the entering for the pair. “Now that it’s slowing down some, we get to spend more time together.”
The couple has a busy Labor Day planned both in the States and north of the border in Boisjoli’s native Canada where they’ll be competing in the Canadian Tour Finale in Armstrong, B.C. After that, Meged notes they’ve got a couple rodeos a weekend including the Playoff Series events to round out the regular season.
“We’ll go home, give the horses a rest for a week or so but it won’t be long,” Meged said. “I’ve got the match with Riley and then the Canadian Finals are the first of November.”
Meged is in a close battle with Hanchey for the lead in the Canadian standings and Boisjoli looks solid for a trip as well. Then it’ll be on to Vegas for the NFR and NFBR.
“It’ll be fun to rope at the NFR, see how everything shakes out,” Meged said.
The View from the Top
Webb scored a triple with wins in Coeur d’Alene (Idaho), Kennewick and Bremerton, earning $16,112 to extend his regular season earnings record. Elsewhere, the top 10 did not change other than a little shuffling here and there. Zack Jongbloed had the third best week behind Webb and Meged, earning $8,588 for third in Tremonton, fifth in Bremerton and fourth in a round in Kennewick.
The Clock is Ticking
While there has been plenty of money to be won in the last month, those already inside the top 15 have managed to successfully hold off the challengers in most cases, winning just enough to keep the goal line out of reach. In fact, only two ropers have cracked the top 15 since August 1, Luke Potter and Jongbloed. The latter is currently ranked 11th while Potter is holding on at 14th.
Running into Labor Day weekend and the big rodeos in Ellensburg and Walla Walla (Washington), Filer (Idaho) and Armstrong (British Columbia) along with a slew of medium and small rodeos, Blane Cox has the target on his back at 15th—he is just $1,349 ahead of Michael Otero. Ironically, Otero’s wife Carlee is also on the bubble, ranked 20th in the WPRA’s barrel racing standings so this team will race down the stretch together.
Down the list of those outside and looking in are Jake Pratt (17th), who will hope for a big score in his hometown rodeo of Ellensburg, and a pair of World Champions in Marcos Costa (18th) and Tuf Cooper (19th). All three are within about $10,000 of Cox.
Kincade Henry rounds out the top 20 and is just under $12,000 back. He, Cooper and Pratt have some momentum coming into the weekend; all three earned better than $5,400 last week.
In some years, the bubble chase begins to look like a handful of guys with a realistic chance at catching only one or two of those inside the top 15, but 2023 is looking like a whole other animal. For starters, looking up the ladder from 15th, there is only about $10,000 from ninth ranked Brush Minton down to 15th.
That’s not a safe gap for anyone considering what’s left to be won this month. A clean sweep at the Cinch Playoffs (Puyallup) and Cinch Playoffs Finale (Sioux Falls) will pay $19,700 and $45,000, respectively.
And consider that a year ago the Ellensburg winner pocketed $10,000, Walla Walla and Filer were both worth about $5,000 and two guys won more than $10,000 in Pendleton, not to mention the dozens and dozens of smaller rodeos, and you can see that guys even lower than 20th are thinking there is still time.
The Playoff Series and Cinch Playoffs
The cut-off for the first leg, the wild card round, of the Cinch Playoffs in Puyallup passed last weekend. Though entries don’t close until Tuesday, August 29 to verify who will be competing, it looks like everyone inside the top 20 earned a position with the exception of Otero, who missed it by one spot in the Playoff Series standings.
Beyond the top 20, the guys looking to play spoiler in Puyallup include Lane Livingston (21st), Trevor Hale (22nd), rookie leader Dylan Hancock (25th), Cash Hooper (29th), and NFR Open Champion Garrett Jacobs, who is ranked 33rd in the World.
Everyone entered has a chance at an automatic invite to Sioux Falls: the top four from Puyallup will be seeded to the $1 million Governor’s Cup. The final eight positions will draw from the Playoff Series standings following Pendleton, leaving Ellensburg, Walla Walla, Filer, Abilene, Pendleton and Puyallup itself as the final rodeos to earn points to try to move into the top 8.
PRCA World Standings as of August 28, 2023
(Standings courtesy of ProRodeo.com, may not reflect all completed rodeos)
|1||Riley Webb||Denton, Texas||$245,610.51|
|2||Haven Meged||Miles City, Montana||$187,423.85|
|3||Shane Hanchey||Sulphur, Louisiana||$144,495.82|
|4||Shad Mayfield||Clovis, New Mexico||$130,518.43|
|5||Ty Harris||San Angelo, Texas||$128,194.55|
|6||Hunter Herrin||Apache, Oklahoma||$111,661.54|
|7||Westyn Hughes||Caldwell, Texas||$110,670.99|
|8||Beau Cooper||Stettler, Alberta||$107,324.51|
|9||Brushton Minton||Witter Springs, California||$102,772.56|
|10||John Douch||Huntsville, Texas||$102,117.20|
|11||Zack Jongbloed||Iowa, Louisiana||$98,595.01|
|12||Caleb Smidt||Bellville, Texas||$97,854.01|
|13||Cory Solomon||Prairie View, Texas||$96,318.14|
|14||Luke Potter||Maple City, Kansas||$94,014.84|
|15||Blane Cox||Cameron, Texas||$92,241.35|
|16||Michael Otero||Lowndesboro, Alabama||$90,892.56|
|17||Jake Pratt||Ellensburg, Washington||$87,598.65|
|18||Marcos Costa||Iretama, PR||$82,621.99|
|19||Tuf Cooper||Decatur, Texas||$82,117.38|
|20||Kincade Henry||Mount Pleasant, Texas||$80,514.84|