SOBOBA RESERVATION, Calif. - The 2002 Indian National Finals Rodeo came to California for the first time this year, and handed out its largest cash purses ever in four rounds of competition.
Clarence Gilham, Blackfeet, won the 2002 Indian National Finals All-Around Championship, the most coveted title in Indian Rodeo. Gilham is only the fourth rough-stock rider to win this title in the 27 years of INFR history.
The Indian National Finals Rodeo is host to 12 regions throughout the United States and Canada. Two cowboys and cowgirls qualify from each region in each event. Over 200 rodeo contestants competed for a cash purse of $121,500, hand made trophy saddles and silver gold belt buckles. The cash purse this year was the most money ever added at the INFR.
Along with the newly crowned All-Around Cowboy Gilham, ten other cowboys and cowgirls received championship titles. Seven of the competitors earned their first ever title while three repeated.
Nicole Welsh-Romo, Yavapai, won the All-Around Cowgirl and Barrel Racing titles. Kevin Langevin, Cree, won the Bareback Riding championship, while Walker Small, Crow/Northern Cheyenne, took the Steer Wrestling title. Beau Michael, Blackfeet, won the Saddle Bronc Riding championship, and Devyn Dennison, Navajo, won the Ladies Break-Away Roping title. Rick Whiteman, Blackfeet, won the Bull Riding championship.
Garrison Begay, Navajo, won the Calf Roping championship, while Marco Sells, Navajo, won the Team Roping Heading championship, the second title for both cowboys. Lucius Sells, Navajo, partner and cousin to Marco, won his third Team Roping Heeling title.
Moving the INFR south didn't seem to bother the contestants or the level of competition. Contestants and fans were very impressed with the production of the rodeo and the bucking stock, which was provided by Casper Baca from Grants, N. M.
The dates have been set for the 28th Annual Indian National Finals Rodeo. It will begin its four-day run on Oct. 16 and end on Oct. 19, 2003. Once again the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians will be hosting.