One can understand Austin Meier's desire for an easy win.
The 23-year-old, competing in the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series Wichita Invitational on Saturday, had already successfully ridden two bulls this weekend at Intrust Bank Arena. Having to physically and mentally prepare for doing it again isn't an easy task.
Meier was the leader going into the championship round, and as he watched rider after rider getting bucked off, he hoped his last ride wouldn't be necessary.
"When you come into a short ride leading it, you don't want to see anybody get hurt but you definitely hope they'll make it easy on you," Meier said. "If anybody does ride, you want it to be the first couple guys who can't catch you, anyway."
Guilherme Marchi briefly took the lead, but Meier delivered a 90-point ride Soul Ja Boy, giving him 265.25 on three bulls and a five-point win over Marchi. It was Meier's fourth win of the season and it allowed him to take the lead in the PBR point standings.
Renato Nunes had the points lead, but he finished 15th, just qualifying for the championship round after 40 riders were trimmed to 15 after two rounds. All Meier needed to vault to No. 1 was a successful ride, but he emphatically announced his arrival as the new PBR leader with one of three 90-point rides of the weekend. The scores are out of a possible 100.
"It's been a great weekend for me," Meier said. "Drawing the right bulls and making the best of them. Drawing the right bulls at these events, that accounts for a lot of how good you can do."
Meier and Marchi were the only riders to complete three eight-second rides over the two-day event, which drew about 7,500 fans for each session Friday and Saturday.
Marchi, competing in his first event of the season because of a right wrist injury, rode Wild & Out for a 90.5-point effort in the championship round, giving him the overall lead. Jody Newberry and Dustin Elliott were both bucked off, leaving Meier as the only obstacle in the way of Marchi's victory.
"I just work hard all the time," said Marchi, a Brazilian. "It's hard to come back strong."
Meier had never ridden Soul Ja Boy, but he was familiar with the bull from watching video and because traveling partner Skeeter Kingsolver has ridden it.
As the leader after Round 2, Meier had the first choice of bulls, and he picked one whose buck-off percentage was less than 40, a relatively low number.
"That bull's a bull I've watched a long time," Meier said. "I wanted to pick him, it was just waiting for the right opportunity. This sport is all about the opportunity and when to pick certain bulls, and today was the right opportunity for me. I knew he'd probably fit me best of any, and I've been wanting to get on him, so why not?"
The win continued an impressive season for Meier, who was a candidate for a breakout season after eight top 10 finishes in 2009, but who hadn't won a PBR event since 2006 when he captured his only title.
His win in Wichita pushed Meier's season earnings close to $200,000. Before this season, Meier had earned just more than $642,000 in four seasons.
"A lot has changed this year," Meier said. "And last year as far as, not so much the way I'm riding but the way I go about it and the mental side of the game. This year, it's been an amazing year. I guess the only thing I can say about it is the Lord has blessed me."
1. Austin Meier 265.25, 2. Guilherme Marchi 260.25, 3. Dustin Elliott 174.5, 4. Jody Newberry 169.75, 5. McKennon Wimberly 168.75, 6. Robson Palermo 166.5, 7. Silvano Alves 165.25, 8. Valdiron de Oliveira 165, 9. Brendon Clark 88.5, 10. Stormy Wing 87.75, T11. Harve Stewart 87.25, T11. Mike Lee 87.25, 13. Jordan Hupp 86.25, 14. Rocky McDonald 85.5, 15. Renato Nunes 83.5.