Fred Whitfield can't get it out of his craw that he didn't qualify for last year's National Finals Rodeo.
Except for missing the world's richest rodeo in 2007 because of an injury, last year was his only healthy year since 1990 that Whitfield didn't compete in December's NFR in Las Vegas.
The eight-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champion from near Houston vowed Sunday before the final Helldorado Days Rodeo that if he misses the NFR this year it won't be for a lack of effort.
"I've had a couple off years," he said. "I'm not one to sit in the stands and watch the NFR. At least not yet."
That's why Whitfield, 42, flew to Las Vegas on Sunday for the evening calf-roping go-round, capping a busy weekend. He competed Thursday in Franklin, Tenn., Friday in Carthage, Texas, and Saturday in St. Augustine, Texas.
Whitfield didn't even bring one of his horses. Instead, he borrowed a ride on one belonging to fellow competitor J.D. Kibbe of Portales, N.M.
Whitfield wasn't able to rope his calf, though Kibbe placed third in calf roping Sunday.
Whitfield didn't earn a check during his four-day work week, but his effort shows his commitment to getting back to the NFR.
"I've had the best winter I've had in a long time and a pretty good spring," he said of earning $51,790 this season that ranks him fourth in PRCA standings. "You've just got to keep going."
Two Helldorado titles were determined during Sunday night's performance when Jarrod Craig of Hillsboro, Texas, scored 92 points to win bull riding and Blaine Jones of Templeton, Calif., turfed his steer in 4.2 seconds to win steer wrestling.
For rodeo results go to lvrj.com/helldorado_rodeo. Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.