Griffin wins bronc title

Posted 11/19/09

“This means a lot,” Griffin said of the title. “I went in just hoping my shoulder would hold up and that I'd make a check. In the first round, I drew a horse that I'd had the previous year and I was able to ride him for a 76. The …

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Griffin wins bronc title


{gallery}11_19_09/griffin{/gallery}Powell's Jake Griffin saw a tumultuous 2009 rodeo season take an abrupt turn for the better over the weekend when he captured the saddle bronc average at the Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo on Saturday. After barely qualifying for the 12-rider field, Griffin now advances to the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo for a fifth consecutive year. Courtesy photo/ Victory earns rider a spot at national circuit finals RodeoBy pretty much any standard, Jake Griffin's 2009 rodeo season was looking like a bust. An injury-riddled year reduced his earnings to their lowest point in his nine professional seasons. That all abruptly changed Saturday when Griffin earned the saddle bronc three-day average title at the Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo in Denver, Colo. The win qualified him for a spot at April's Dodge National Circuit Finals event in Pocatello, Idaho, in April.

“This means a lot,” Griffin said of the title. “I went in just hoping my shoulder would hold up and that I'd make a check. In the first round, I drew a horse that I'd had the previous year and I was able to ride him for a 76. The second round was a nice little hopper, but at the end of round two I looked at the standings and I was two points from the lead and still hadn't made enough money to pay my fees.”

In many ways, that was a position that typified the 2009 season for Griffin. The injury bug started in February when he fell and felt pain in his left shoulder. The more he tried to rehab, the more discomfort he felt. In the end, X-rays confirmed the ball portion of his shoulder was, in fact, broken.

That news cost him the next two months. When he got back in the saddle and tried to make a go of things, he found the shoulder still presented issues.

“I came back on July 4 and things just never worked out right,” said Griffin. “I wound up falling one night and separating my right shoulder. I tore some ligaments, had a rotator cuff issue. It was pretty bad.”

The silver lining, Griffin notes, was that the pain in his right shoulder took his mind off of his left one.

“Somewhere in there, it started working good,” he says with a laugh about his left shoulder. “I think it was because I was thinking so much about my right arm then.”

But the injury was costing Griffin valuable time during the summer season. It also forced him to make decisions about the future.

“Normally, my rodeo partners and I will go out to Washington in the late summer for some of the rodeos out there,” Griffin said.

“This year, I had to make the decision to focus on the circuit. I was basically learning to ride all over again.”

Instead of riding in cities like Portland and Seattle, Griffin found himself riding in towns like Yuma, Colo., and other smaller venues in the Mountain States Circuit.

“The main thing was trying to get into the bigger circuit rodeos for next year,” Griffin said of his plan. “At the time, I'd made more money during my rookie season than I had this year. They only take the top percentage of riders from the previous year's standings, so it was important to focus on the circuit events and do as well there as I could.”

Griffin did well enough that he was able to finish the year 13th on the circuit money list —one spot shy of qualifying for a place in the Mountain States Circuit Finals in Denver. Thanks to a rule requiring riders to compete in a minimum of 15 circuit events during the year, Griffin was able to move up a spot when one of the names above his failed to reach that minimum.

“It's actually nice in some ways to go in as one of those bottom names (to the circuit finals),” said Griffin. “You don't have to focus on the overall title. There isn't the pressure of the season title weighing on you. You can just go and ride.”

Through two rounds in Denver, Griffin had ridden well. But he was in danger of not covering his expenses at the event, despite sitting just two points off the lead after two rounds.

That abruptly changed on Saturday when Griffin stepped into the chute atop a horse named Pine Cone. The frustration and struggles of the 2009 season evaporated, if only for a moment, in the bliss of a 79-point ride.

Griffin's ride on Pine Cone was the high-point ride of the night. It also more than made up the two-point deficit Griffin faced in the average standings to give him that title as well. The $3,000 ride also punched his ticket to the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo where he has a chance at another $13,000 in prize money and, possibly, a new truck.

“Pocatello is just a bonus,” said Griffin, whose biggest relief was knowing that he had cemented his status for the 2010 season.

“The year was going so bad that the most important thing was doing well in the circuit. The money at Pocatello doesn't count toward the season standings, but it's a bonus just to keep you going — and you get to ride for a truck. How cool is that?”

This will actually be Griffin's fifth consecutive trip to the national circuit finals. Despite some close calls, he has yet to come away from the event sporting a fresh set of wheels.