Locals win big at the Pistol Creek Pioneer Days rodeo

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  • RONAN PIONEER Days rodoe contestant Payton Fitzpatrick holds on for his life in the finals of the Pistol Creek Rodeo competition Sunday in Ronan. Fitzpatrick, a Polson resident, ended up winning the feature event. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

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    CARNELL SMITH rides a mini bull in the Sundays finals at the Pistol Creek Pioneer Days Rodeo. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

  • RONAN PIONEER Days rodoe contestant Payton Fitzpatrick holds on for his life in the finals of the Pistol Creek Rodeo competition Sunday in Ronan. Fitzpatrick, a Polson resident, ended up winning the feature event. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

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    CARNELL SMITH rides a mini bull in the Sundays finals at the Pistol Creek Pioneer Days Rodeo. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

Ronan resident Effie Clairmont got an opportunity to showcase her talent for barrel racing as she captured first place in a talent-rich barrel racing pool in the Pioneer Day Rodeo Finals Sunday at the Ronan Fairgrounds.

Clairmont’s time of 16.09 bested a field that included Carissa Stoner, Emily Kamura, and Charlo’s Abby Knight. Clairmont won the lion’s share of the prize money raking in $676 dollars.

For Clairmont, capturing the barrels in front of her home crowd on Pioneer Days was “big” for the racer now in her 17th season of racing.

“In racing, you have your ups and downs and I’ve been having some pretty good runs with both of my horses,” Clairmont said. “I really just tried to not over think. He’s the kind of horse that if you start out too hard, he’ll go right past the barrels. You just have to find a balance to keep his speed going and not over think it or the horse will get too aggressive.”

Clairmont’s horse Smart Tag, owned by Dr. Kara Harrop in Ronan, has developed a synergistic relationship with Clairmont.

“I’ve been running Smart Tag since last year and this year we are really coming,” Clairmont said. “I’ve been running him all year. I am very proud of my run today. I really appreciate all of the competitors and I appreciate my parents and their patience.”

Clairmont gives a lot of credit to her horse.

“I’ve attended two rodeos, won two jackpots, and I’ve done it riding with him,” Clairmont said. “I’ve won money every time I’ve ridden with him.”

Ronan mini bull rider Carnell Smith also showcased his potential on Sunday and finished fourth in the mini bulls. This was the first-time ever that Smith said he rode the mini bulls for more than eight seconds.

Polson’s own Payton Fitzpatrick got a chance to showcase his ability in the main feature but it wasn’t easy.

Fitzpatrick captured the feature event on Sunday but he didn’t come out of the bucking shoot in style.

Fitzpatrick had to have a re-ride after his first ride wasn’t successful.

“When he came out of (the bucking shoot) I rolled his shoulder to the left and he planted me onto the ground,” Fitzpatrick said on his first ride. “I tried spinning him to the left. You have to ride them both ways in this sport and it worked out today. I am glad to finish this weekend (on top).”

Fitzpatrick, who won a PCRA Rodeo in Cooley City, Wash. earlier this year, has been trying to establish himself on the Montana circuit after struggling with shoulder problems.

“I really battled a shoulder injury and I eventually had to have surgery on it in November,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve popped it out more than nine times and it destroyed my chances at pro rodeo (at that time).”

Now recovered, Fitzpatrick has been taking advantage of his health.

“This is all I do,” Fitzpatrick said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I don’t know what I would be doing. I look forward to every weekend when I am not at home on the ranch. It’s a lifestyle like no other. I dread the day that my rodeo days will come to an end.”

Fitzpatrick and his cousins continue to support each other in their quest to make their mark in the rodeo world.

Caden Fitzpatrick, who is Payton’s cousin, said they support each other in the physically demanding sport.

“I rode a bull named Crazy Legs and I collapsed my lung and broke two ribs in a previous competition,” Caden Fitzpatrick said. “It’s pretty awesome to see Payton (move up). I’ve watched him ride mini bulls, sheep and calves to get all the way to this point. We just kind of improve and watch videos and tell each other what we did wrong.”

Austin Reynolds, who travels with the Fitzpatricks, also said he is supporting Payton in his quest to move up in the rodeo world.

“I rode a bull today and got bucked off,” Reynolds said. “You just have to have a short memory and the biggest part of this game is mental.”

Reynolds, a Ronan resident, said trying to perform in front of his home crowd offers him extra incentive to perform.

“It gets bigger every year, and it gets awesome and good to come to your hometown rodeo and put on a show for everyone,” Reynolds said. “I try my best when I am here, especially in front of your hometown. It gets your blood pumping.”

Pete White, owner of the Pistol Creek Rodeo in Ronan, said he was “pleased” with the turnout this year.

“It was really competitive this year,” White said. “These guys are competing for money and entry fees. There are a lot of folks rodeoing every week since maybe the end part of mid June-July,” White said. “By August, everyone is really dialed in. That is a good time for rodeo because everyone is on their game and competition. That is when we get some of the best in the state. The crowd really got into it and when you have the crowd into it, it gives a different vibe and the competition becomes great. This rodeo was just phenomenal.”

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