Things went better than he could possibly imagine for Chase Dougherty at the National Finals Rodeo, which was held in early December at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"It's awesome," Dougherty said of competing at the NFR. "It's the best. I mean honestly, it's better than any rodeo that you go to all year long."
The 21-year-old PRCA bull rider, who recently moved to Prineville from Canby, had the rodeo of his life, winning one go round, tying for first in another, along with three seconds, a third, a sixth and first place in the average at the 10-day finals.
Not only did Dougherty earn $209,057.70 during the NFR, he moved up all the way to second place in the final bull riding world standings. If that wasn't enough, not only did Dougherty win the bull riding average, he won the Ram Top Gun award, which is awarded to the competitor who wins the most money in one event in the finals.
"Honestly, all I wanted to do was go down there and win enough money to buy a truck and maybe stay on a bull," Dougherty said. "But I ended up winning the truck, so now I have no idea what I'm supposed to spend the money on."
Along with the Top Gun award, he received a 2019 Ram 3500 heavy duty truck, a top gun branded gun from Commemorative Firearms, and a custom top gun belt buckle from Montana Silversmiths.
Dougherty, who went into the finals with the goal of just staying on as many bulls as he could, scored on seven of his 10 rides, finishing with 603.5 points on seven head.
"I was just trying to win as much money as I could every single day, and the only way that you can do that is stay on your bulls," he said. "So I was hoping that the judges were going to mark me good, and they did. After I stayed on one, I just thought that maybe I can do that again."
No other bull rider stayed on more than five bulls, with Joe Frost finishing second in the average with 436.5 points on five head.
Jeff Askey also rode five head, finishing third in the average with 424.0 points, while Roscoe Jarboe rode four head to finish fourth in the average with 404 points.
Sage Kimzey won his fifth consecutive bull riding world championship.
However, Kimzey, who entered the finals with a seemingly insurmountable lead, had to sweat out the final round as Dougherty finished the ninth round still mathematically alive to win the world championship.
Kimzey entered the finals with $307,025.65 in earnings, while Dougherty was a distant fifth with $133,041.77 in earnings entering the finals.
In order to win the championship, several things would have had to go Dougherty's way. Dougherty would have had to win the go round, while no more than one other cowboy had a successful ride and Kimzey did not place.
Instead, Kimzey posted a score of 93 to win the go round, while three cowboys had scoring rides, with Dougherty finishing in third.
"I had no idea until that last day that I had any chance to win the world championship," Dougherty said. "So the last day when I got in the locker room, the guys told me, 'You have a chance if everybody falls off.' So I said, 'You all better ride like $%*# today.' Well, I didn't say that, but that's what I was thinking."
Kimzey finished the year with $415,262.82 in earnings, while Dougherty wound up in second place with $342,099.47 in earnings for the year.
In addition to winning so much money and the truck, Dougherty was also honored by being selected to carry the Oregon flag into the arena each night to represent the Oregon cowboys.
"Oh, it's awesome," he said of the experience. "I wish the arena was a lot bigger so it would last longer, but it was awesome. It was a pretty surreal experience for me. You go in there and you can hear everyone yelling and screaming and see the lights, and you almost don't even want to look up."
Although the finals went better than expected for Dougherty, that doesn't mean that he didn't struggle at times.
Dougherty placed sixth in the opening round, then finished second on night two.
Excited about cashing at the NFR, he then chose to party with some friends, a decision that he later said might not have been the best idea.
"We kind of partied a little bit the first couple of days, but I finally figured out that wasn't going to work very well," he said. "We kind of had a little too much fun at night, and I actually ended up passing out in the medical room. I landed on the back of my head in the third round, and they made me take a concussion test before the fourth round. I passed my concussion test, and I was standing in the sports medical room getting my thumb taped, and they told me I just plum passed out and hit the floor. They made me drink a bunch of water and some other weird fluids, I'm not sure what they were, but like Gatorade or something, and wow, after that, I never fell off a bull, so I told them I was going to try that on the first night next year."
From that point on, Dougherty said that he just chilled out following each nightly performance, and the change in strategy seemed to work as he cashed in rounds six through 10.
"I just started hanging out, and it ended up working out really well for me," he said.
Although Dougherty came into the 2018 finals with a relatively modest goal, his long-term goals are much bigger.
"I think that next year we are going to set a little bit bigger goal," he said. "Our goal is going to be a little closer to Kimzey going into the finals and then to have a little bit better finals."
His ultimate goal is even bigger. Not only does he hope to win at least one world title, but to ride all 10 bulls at the NFR, something that only Jim "Razor" Sharp has ever done. The hall of fame cowboy accomplished the feat at the 1988 NFR.
"I'm going to start small and work my way up to that," Dougherty said.
He said that there were a couple of differences between the NFR and rodeos throughout the year.
"It's awesome," he said of the experience. "It's the best. I mean, honestly, it's better than any rodeo that you go to all year long."
He added that the biggest difference was the consistency of the rough stock.
"I wouldn't say it's any different," he said of the difficulty of riding the finals bulls. "I would just say that it's more consistent. The bulls are really good all year long, but every now and again you are going to get one that's not very good, but at the finals they are all good."
This past year, Dougherty traveled to rodeos with Jordan Spears, a former NFR finalist from Grass Valley, California.
Spears just missed qualifying in 2018, finishing 18th in the final standings.
Next year, their traveling group will be larger as Dougherty's younger brother, Colton, will join the group.
"He bought his permit this year, and he actually won at Central Point and a couple of other rodeos," Dougherty said of his brother. "He's really excited about it. I'm actually sharing a room with him here in Prineville. He's going to try to make a run at it."
The trio is already planning what rodeos to attend that will give them the best chance of all three getting to next year's NFR.
Although he's at the top of his game, Dougherty recognizes that he couldn't have gotten to where he is without help.
"Just thank my family and my friends, and Cinch (his only sponsor this year)," Dougherty said. "I'm just glad that it happened, and I hope that I can do it again next year."