Rodeo report: The Woodlands' Richie Champion exits bareback competition with injury – Chron
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, walks back to the chutes after his ride on Lil Bucker during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, smiles after his ride on Lil Bucker during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, gets on the back of Lil Bucker during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, watches other riders during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider JR Vezain bucks on the back of Ain't No Angel during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Tie-down roper Caleb Smidt jumps off his horse to get to the calf during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider JW Harris successfully rides Little Shystie during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider Caleb Sanderson flies off the back of Rolling Thunder during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
The American flag comes through the arena during the national anthem during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider JW Harris successfully rides Little Shystie during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider JW Harris successfully rides Little Shystie during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Logan Corbett bucks on the back of Control Freak during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, bucks on the back of Lil Bucker during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider Steve Woolsey reacts after hitting the ground hard after flying off the back of Two Sox during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider Steve Woolsey flies off the back of Two Sox during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Team roper Walt Woodard looks to rope the heels of a calf during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Saddle bronc rider Tyler Corrington flies through the air on the back of Lunatic Street during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Evan Jayne twists on the back of William Wallace during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, loses his hat as he rides Lil Bucker during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Tanner Phipps rides on the back of Baby Face during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Logan Corbett bucks on the back of Control Freak during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bareback rider Richie Champion, left, who is from The Woodlands, rides Lil Bucker during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
Bull rider Elliot Jacoby flies off the back of Wildcat during Round 3 of Super Series I at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)
The Woodlands' Richie Champion is coming off a career year, posting his best finish in the PRCA world standings.
But 2017 opened with a painful pop at NRG Stadium.
RodeoHouston's favorite bareback rider landed awkwardly on a dismount during his Super Series, tearing the meniscus in his left knee, and eventually ending his fifth trip to the hometown rodeo early.
"I didn't want to tear that meniscus any further, so we decided to doctor out of the Wild Card," Champion said.
"That would have been Friday, and I had surgery on Monday."
It was a disappointing way to leave Houston, but the 25-year-old's first major injury set the stage for a sizzling summer. After healing up, he returned refreshed, won the prestigious Calgary Stampede bareback title in July, then placed second at the National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas.
That showing earned him a reserve world title for finishing second in the final PRCA standings with $268,511.
"It was tough," Champion said.
"It's always upsetting when something like that happens, because you want to go and win, and this opportunity only comes around once a year, and only if you're lucky enough to be able to come to it.
"But I talked to my fiancé ... and she said it's a good time of the year to be hurt, in the grand scheme of rodeo."
She was correct, of course.
Champion and his new fiancé, Paige Lawrence, were engaged in January, and the (future) wife's always right.
But, with $50,000 on the line, this is a great time to be healthy, too.
He tied for first place in the first round of Super Series I, placed second in Round 2, then advanced to the semifinals in second, with $4,500, despite not earning money in Thursday's third round.
"I've got a lot of momentum," he said. "I'm feeling really good this year, it's been a good start, and I'm happy to be back in Houston."
Woodard still going strong
Team roper Walt Woodard, 62, loves Houston so much, he can't stay away.
He's been competing here since team roping was added in the 1990s, when RodeoHouston was still at the Astrodome. The veteran heeler won his first world title in 1981, then came out of retirement for a second in 2007.
"I wanted to see if a guy in his 50s could still go do it, and I won the world championship at 52, and so secretly I had a goal that I wanted to see if I could do it in my 60s as well," Woodard said.
Woodard and partner Matt Sherwood placed second here last year.
They might have won then, but the team ahead of them in the Shootout tied the rodeo record of 4.1 seconds to clinch the crown.
"What's the chances?" Woodard said.
Woodard and Sherwood are on their way to a return to the short round.
They secured the first series with $8,000 after winning the first go-round and placing third Wednesday.
Smidt looks looks to defend title
Defending tie-down roping champion Caleb Smidt started his title defense off right, winning his Super Series with $7,000.
Layton Green ($5,500) snagged the saddle bronc series, with defending champion Cody DeMoss ($5,375) moving on in second, Justin Shaffer ($6,000) placed first in steer wrestling, Taci Betts ($7,000) finished on top in barrel racing, and J.W. Harris ($6,000) was the high earner in bull riding.
Harris, a four-time world champ, won Houston in 2013.
"This rodeo pays $50,000," Woodard said. "What would $50,000 do for anyone's family? It's a huge win, and a huge opportunity to come here.
"Our team's already won $8,000 and we've only roped two steers so far."
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.

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