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Creston, Calif. cowboy Taylor Santos made his rookie debut at the Cinch Timed Event Championship a huge statement with his win of $103,000 plus a plethora of awards. – Photos by James Phifer

GUTHRIE, OKLA. (March 15, 2020) – Taylor Santos’ youth was spent in roping pens and rodeo arenas.
   When he wasn’t practicing or competing, he was watching it on TV. The family’s pile of video cassettes included years of the Cinch Timed Event Championship, and those images helped fill the young cowboy’s thoughts of being one of the greatest ever.

  Fast forward to Sunday, when his dreams were realized. He roped, tied and wrestled 25 animals in a cumulative time of 340.4 seconds over just three days to win $103,000 and become just the 16th person in the 36-year history of the CTEC to claim the elusive title.
“This is a long three days, but it’s so worth it,” said Santos, 25, of Creston, California. “It was a blast.”
Yes, it was. Of course, when one pockets that kind of cash, it’s bound to be more exciting. But there was more to it. The weekend’s festivities featured one of the tightest championships in recent history. Only 30.2 seconds separated first through fifth place, and Santos edged the runner-up – 2017 champion Jess Tierney – by just 7.3 seconds.
“Things can go great or they can go the other way, but this weekend went really good,” said Tierney, the rodeo coach at Western Oklahoma State College, who pocketed $29,000. “I’d say that money will fit just right.
“I feel like I overcame some things, but I had great help and some great support. There are some things I’d change, but there are some things I wouldn’t change. In anything you do, you can win something or you can learn something, and I think I got to do both this weekend.”
This was just an extension of recent firsts for Santos. In 2019, he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for the first time in his young career. He finished 10th in the tie-down roping world standings and earned $81,076 in Las Vegas this past December. All the while, he also gained a boatload of confidence, and that carried over into this weekend.
Still, he had to overcome some early jitters.
“After getting that first steer under my belt, I felt a lot better about things,” Santos said, referring to Friday afternoon’s first run of the opening round. “You don’t have time to overthink things too much. It’s definitely a battle and definitely a marathon.”
This endurance-test included his older brother, Lane Karney, who just completed his fourth CTEC. In his first trip to the Lazy E Arena in 2017, Karney enlisted in Santos’ help. That, too, paid off for the younger sibling, albeit three years later.
“Lane and I are two years, two weeks apart in age,” Santos said. “Every day of our lives, we were basically matching each other.  
“I’ve been on the waiting list the last couple of years. I’m glad I’ve seen it on TV and on the tapes so many times, but that first year I came with Lane, I realized that it’s completely different than what it looked like on the big screen. I got a whole new vision and idea of what the event was. I learned a lot that year.”
And it paid off in his first time competing at the “Ironman of ProRodeo.” It’s not often that newcomers walk away with the biggest check at this unique event, but this marks the second straight year that a CTEC rookie earned the crown – a year ago, Georgia cowboy Justin Thigpen won the title, then he missed this year after suffering an injury just two weeks ago.
“Taylor is a great kid with an amazing talent,” Tierney said. “Everybody here was such a great talent, and that made for fun watching.”
First round: 1. Jordan Ketscher, 65.3 seconds, $3,000; 2. Marcus Theriot, 65.8, $2,000; 3. Roger Nonella, 68.6, $1,000.
Second round: 1. Jess Tierney, 58.3 seconds, $3,000; 2. Haven Meged, 59.3, $2,000; 3. Clay Smith, 63.7, $1,000.
Third round: 1. Taylor Santos, 56.6 seconds, $3,000; 2. Marcus Theriot, 58.6, $2,000; 3. Seth Hall, 61.8, $1,000.
Fourth round: 1. Clay Smith, 53.4 seconds, $3,000; 2. Haven Meged, 65.2, $2,000; 3. Jess Tierney, 66.4, $1,000.
Fifth round: 1. Clay Smith, 45.8 seconds, $3,000; 2. Kyle Lockett, 51.2, $2,000; 3. Clayton Hass, 52.8, $1,000.
Average: 1. Taylor Santos, 340.4 seconds on 25 runs, $100,000; 2. Jess Tierney, 247.7, $25,000; 3. Seth Hall, 351.5, $15,000; 4. Clay Smith, 360.6, $10,000; 5. Marcus Theriot, 370.6, $7,500; 6. Haven Meged, 395.1, $5,000; 7. Paul David Tierney, 400.4, $4,500; 8. Jordan Ketscher, 445.7, $3,000.
Total money: 1. Taylor Santos, $103,000; 2. Jess Tierney, $29,000; 3. Clay Smith, $17,000; 4. Seth Hall, $16,000; 5. Marcus Theriot, $11,500; 6. Haven Meged, $9,000; 7. Jordan Ketscher, $6,000; 8. Paul David Tierney, $4,500; 9. Roger Nonella and Clayton Hass, $1,000 each.

Creston, Calif. cowboy Taylor Santos made his rookie debut at the Cinch Timed Event Championship a huge statement with his win of $103,000 plus a plethora of awards. – Photos by James Phifer