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November 20, 2008 3:56 am

Kaleb Asay named Rookie of the Year

Written by Tribune Staff

Powell cowboy excels in saddle bronc events

Powell's Kaleb Asay capped his first full season in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association by earning Rookie of the Year in the saddle bronc division.

For the 19-year-old Asay, the honor helped solidify his decision to put on hold his pursuit of a college education.

Asay, who was a freshman member of the Casper College rodeo team in 2007-08, left the squad after one semester to pursue his dream of competing professionally.

“It was a tough decision to make, but it was something I felt like I had to do,” Asay said. “Trying to concentrate on both — it was impossible. I just decided if I was going to go to school, I wanted to do it right. I plan to go back, and when I do, my education is going to come first before anything else.”

For now, however, Asay has his mind set on learning as much as he can in his pursuit of one day winning a world title in the saddle bronc competition. Considering the success he had in that event while in high school and during his brief stay in college, it appears that goal is attainable. Asay is a former high school national champion, and he was on his way to qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo when he decided to focus solely on PRCA events. By gaining valuable experience at PRCA events and learning from fellow professionals, Asay said he's put himself a step closer to realizing his ultimate goal — winning a world title in saddle bronc riding.

“I've learned a lot this year,” said Asay, who currently is listed in 41st place with $21,069 in the PRCA's world standings. “It's a lot different than high school and college, that's for sure. It's a lot harder, and there's a lot more travel involved. You find out what you're made of, and you learn to be pretty resilient. You have to adapt. Most of the time you're on the road for 12 or 13 hours. You get to an event after all that time traveling, and you have to be ready to ride. Once you get done, you get back on the road and go to the next one. It's tough, but its a lot of fun, too.”

During the past year, Asay has notched a number of memorable performances. At the 2008 San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo in Texas, he finished sixth among the overall winners in saddle bronc riding. In November of 2007, he claimed first place at A Tribute to Chris LeDoux rodeo in Casper. That victory occurred while he was still attending Casper College.

Though saddle bronc riding and bull riding are two totally different beasts, Asay said he's learned a great deal from his older brother, Kanin Asay. Kanin recently qualified for his second Wrangler National Finals Rodeo despite missing two months of the 2008 season due to injuries suffered during a bull ride in early July. Kaleb said he looks forward to the day when he and his brother are both qualified for the Super Bowl of rodeos. However, he also said he and his brother are not going to be satisfied with just competing in the same WNFR. They both want to compete and finish atop the world standings.

“My goal right now is to go as hard as I can and do everything I need to do so I can win a world title,” Kaleb said. “It would be a neat deal for us to both be in (the same WNFR). But more than anything, we want to win it.”

Asay's Rookie of the Year honor will be presented by representatives of American Cowboy Coffee, Montana Silversmiths and the PRCA during Rookie Night at the 50th anniversary of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

Other Rookie of the Year winners include Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, (overall, tie-down roping); Trell Etbauer, Goodwell, Okla., (all-around); Jared Smith, Ranger, Texas, (bareback riding); Zack Cobb, Pampa, Texas, (steer wrestling); Joel Bach, Millsap, Texas, (team roping-heading); Rhen Richard, Roosevelt, Utah, (team roping-heeling); Douglas Duncan, Huntsville, Texas, (bull riding) and Tim Abbott, Midland, Texas, (steer roping).