By Julie Mankin
RENO, NV (June 22, 2018) – The youngest brother of world No. 1 header Clay Smith joined forces with the middle son of world champion heeler Jhett Johnson on June 20 to win the first-ever Open Hooey Junior BFI Championships in Reno by three full seconds.
The inaugural youth event was patterned after the 41st Bob Feist Invitational, held just two days earlier in conjunction with the $500,000 Reno Rodeo, and was formatted to also be a Junior NFR Qualifier with extra points. To that end, there were two ropings – the Open Junior BFI and a #10 Junior BFI, which limited classifications to #6-Elite and under.
Youth rodeo is building momentum, and parents from across the country hauled their kids to the Hooey Junior BFI in search of bragging rights and Junior NFR points. The top 15 in the point standings at season’s end will qualify to rope at the Junior NFR, held in December in Las Vegas alongside the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
In Reno, contestants in both ropings had to be 17 or younger this year and could enter twice, with teams limited to 50, at entry fees of $500 per roper. The kids roped in the same venue as their heroes, for a similar prizeline.
“What an opportunity for the next generation to compete on the same playing field as all the roping legends before them!” said Joey Austin, president of Hooey Brands. “Hooey looks forward to helping build this Junior BFI into the premier team roping title for young talent.”
Britt Smith, 17, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and Carson Johnson, 17, of Casper, Wyoming, roped four steers in 28.13 seconds for the Open win, earning $8,350 and $8,400, respectively, on the day. In addition, they went home with similar Cactus saddles, Montana Silversmiths buckles, Yeti coolers, Heel-O-Matic dummies and other prizes also awarded to the BFI champs.
Smith, a 7 header, and Johnson, an 8-Elite heeler, were the high callback team in the roping at 20.56 seconds on three. They’d need nothing more than a 10.6-second run to win the roping, so when the pair came tight in 7.57, it marked the biggest win of Johnson’s young career. His total earnings with both partners came to $8,400 cash, while Smith took home $8,350.
“It’s amazing they put on something this cool, just like the BFI,” Johnson said. “And trying to get ready for it was so fun.”
Johnson grew up watching his father, Jhett, compete at the BFI and even finish in the top three a couple of times. The 2011 world champ was on hand with some words of wisdom for his son.
“Dad just said heel them when they’re ready to be heeled, and do your job,” Carson said.
It’s been a good two weeks for the Johnsons – Carson’s older brother Kellan recently won the national collegiate team roping title in Johnsons’ hometown of Casper. When Carson turns 18 next year, he hopes to enter rodeos with Kellan.
Similarly, Smith hopes next year when he turns 18 to begin entering rodeos with his brother Jake. The Smith boys were born in the 1990s and named after three of that era’s greatest team ropers – Jake Barnes, Clay O’Brien Cooper, and Britt Bockius.
“I’d love to enter the BFI myself in a year or two,” said Britt Smith. “I can remember since I was little bitty, I’d watch BFI videos until I fell asleep at night. You can play the same one over and over and always catch something new.”
Smith, a four-time world champion dummy roper, wasn’t born yet in 1999 when his brothers were invited onto the Tonight Show to display their roping skills for Jay Leno.
“I get plenty of help,” Britt said. “I kind of like to hunt and fish, and my brothers just rope, rope, rope.”
Both brothers were there in Reno to watch, and were the first to congratulate young Britt. After high school, he plans to join his brothers in the family business of selling rope horses via their site, www.JakeClayBritt.com. They sold 80 horses last year, he said.
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In the limited-classification Hooey Junior BFI #10 roping, a pair of 14-year-olds took top honors and a 10-year-old header placed in the top five. Jett Stewart of Heppner, Oregon, and Brayden Schmidt of Benton City, Washington, roped four steers in 33.39 seconds to earn their own $15,000 by a full second over the second-place team from Wyoming.
Jett, the son of NFR header Jason Stewart, and Brayden, the son of top Northwest heeler Will Schmidt, have been roping the dummy together since they were tiny kids, while their fathers roped at rodeos. Both will be high-school freshmen this fall.
For more, visit www.bfiweek.com.
Complete results from the Hooey Junior BFI Open
First Round: 1. Britt Smith and Carson Johnson, 6.3 seconds, $600; 2. Cutter Machado and Cody Stewart, 6.96, $400. Second Round: 1. Kal Fuller and Carson Johnson, 5.34 seconds, $600; 2. Hayden Powell and John Hisel, 6.79, $400. Third Round: 1. Britt Smith and Carson Johnson, 5.85, $600; 2. Jayse Tettenhorst and Kaden Profili, 6.31, $400. Short Round: 1. Britt Smith and Kayden Little, 6.92, $500.
Average: 1. Britt Smith and Carson Johnson, 28.13, $15,000. 2. Peyton Walters and Kaden Profili, 31.18, $10,000. 3. Cutter Machado and Jake Bourdet, 31.88, $4,000. 4. Britt Smith and Kayden Little, 32.85, $3,000. 5. Hagen Peterson and Braydin Evans, 33.10, $1,000. 6. Cole Eiguren and Breck Ward, 39.13, $1,000.
Complete Results from the Hooey Junior BFI #10
First Round: 1. Cole Bunting and Cody Stewart, 7.91 seconds, $1,000; 2. Jett Stewart and Cody Stewart, 8.3, $800; Second Round: 1. Lilla Bell and Tanner Darst, 6.29 seconds, $1,000; 2. Chase Helton and Clayton Moore, 7.0, $800; Third Round: 1. Cole Bunting and Tanner Darst, 6.47, $1,000; 2. Clay Regner and Manuel Sanchez, 6.68, $800; Short Round: 1. Kaleb Heimburg and Jayse Tettenhorst, 8.0 seconds, $1,000.
Average: 1. Jett Stewart and Brayden Schmidt, 33.39 seconds, $15,000. 2. Weston Mills and Arye Espenscheid, 34.49, $10,000. 3. Dillon Ishman and Spud Denmark, 36.27, $5,000. 4. Kaleb Heimburg and Jayse Tettenhorst, 38.55, $3,000. 5. Rance Winters and Zane Pratt, 39.70, $2,000. 6. Trent Lee Wood and John Hisel, 40.00, $1,000.