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Arizona bull rider plays out childhood game by taking the lead on the first night of competition at the 2021 St. Paul Rodeo.

When JC Mortensen was a kid, he and his younger brother would play rodeo in the living room of their Arizona home, pretending they were roping and riding bulls at the St. Paul, Oregon, rodeo.

COURTESY PHOTO: HOOT CREEK - JC Mortensen is living a childhood dream at the St. Paul Rodeo.

And now, after the first night of competition Wednesday, June 30, he was leading the bull riding at the famed rodeo.

The 20-year-old cowboy rode the Corey and Lange Rodeo Co. bull Highway to Hell for 87 points to lead by three points over the No. 2 bull rider, Tristen Hutchings of Inkom, Idaho.

The bull performed as Mortensen expected. The bull "really bucked and came around to the left," he said. "To (take the lead) here, it's a great feeling. It's a great rodeo, and I couldn't be more excited right now."

Mortensen has rodeo running through his genes. His granddad, JC Trujillo, is a PRCA world champion bareback rider and a ProRodeo Hall of Fame member, and his dad, Judd Mortensen, competed at multiple PBR Finals.

Mortensen's younger brother Jackson is also a bull rider, finishing second in the Youth Bull Riding World Finals last year. When he turns 18 next year, he'll be in the truck with JC, ready to compete professionally.

As kids, when they played "pretend rodeo" in the living room, they play-acted they were team roping and riding bulls. Their granddad insisted the kids be all-around hands competing in multiple events. In high school, JC competed in team roping, bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, as well as bull riding. Bareback riding was his strong event, but then the bull riding started working out, and now that's his only event.

Several world champions competed at St. Paul June 30, but only two took the lead in their respective events.

Four-time world champion Tuf Cooper led the first round, taking a time of 7.8 seconds in the first round, held during morning slack. The three-time and reigning world champion barrel racer, Hailey Kinsel, was at the top of the board with a 17.51 second run.

The 2019 world champion bareback rider, Clayton Biglow, scored 82 points; the 2018 world champion saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell got bucked off. Several team roping world champions also competed: Jade Corkill, Chad Masters and Clay Brown; none of the cowboys are at the top of the team roping scoreboard.

Other high scores and fast times from slack and the first night of the 2021 St. Paul Rodeo were bareback rider Jacob Lees of Caldwell, Idaho (83.5); steer wrestler Jesse Brown of Baker City, Oregon, in the first round (3.8) and Scott Guenthner of Provost, Alberta, in the second round (4.4); tie-down roper Cooper WHO of Decatur, Texas, in the first round (7.8) and Haven Meged of Miles City, Montana, in the second round (7.6); team ropers Tyler Wade of Terrell, Texas, and Trey Yates of Pueblo, Colorado, in the first round (4.6) and Colby Lovell of Madisonville, Texas, and Paul Eaves of Lonedell, Missouri, in the second round (4.3). Saddle bronc rider Logan Cook of Alto, Texas, was 81.5 points to lead his event.

The second performance of the St. Paul Rodeo takes place July 1 at 7:30 p.m. The rodeo continues through July 4 with performances at 7:30 p.m. each night and a 1:30 p.m. matinee on July 4. Fireworks follow each night of rodeo.

Tickets are available online at and at the gate. For more information, visit the website.

Results from the slack and evening performance, St. Paul Rodeo, June 30, 2021

Bareback Riding

1. Jacob Lees, Caldwell, Idaho, 83.5 on Big Stone Rodeo's Sassy Spurs; 2. RC Landingham, Hat Creek, California, 82.5; 3. Clayton Biglow, Clements, California, 82; 4. Bodee Lammers, Stephenville, Texas, 79.

Steer wrestling

1st round leaders:

1. Jesse Brown, Baker City, Oregon, 3.8 seconds; 2. JD Struxness, Milan, Minnesota, 4.2; 3. Taz Olson, Prairie City, South Dakota, 4.6; 4. Kodie Jang, Townsville, Australia, 4.7.

2nd round leaders:

1. Scott Guenthner, Provost, Alberta, 4.4; 2. (tie) Walt Arnold, Coleman, Texas; Hunter Cure, Holliday, Texas; and Zach Jongbloed, Iowa, Louisiana. 4.5 each.

Bull riding

1. JC Mortensen, Paulden, Arizona, 87 points on Corey and Lange's Highway to Hell; 2. Tristen Hutchings, Inkom, Idaho, 84; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping

1st round leaders:

1. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 7.8 seconds; 2. Haven Meged, Miles City, Montana, 8.3; 3. (tie) Ty Harris, San Angelo, Texas, and Zack Jongbloed, Iowa, Louisiana, 8.7 each.

2nd round leaders:

1. Haven Meged, Miles City, Montana, 7.6 seconds; 2. Reid Zapalac, Smithville, Texas, 8.5;

Tyler Prcin, Alvord, Texas, 8.6; 4. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas 8.7.

Saddle bronc riding

1. Logan Cook, Alto, Texas, 81.5 points on Big Stone Rodeo's Rubels; 2. Chase Brooks, Deer Lodge, Montana, 81; 3. Tegan Smith, Winterset, Iowa, 775; 4. Parker Fleet, Axtell, Texas, 75.5.

Team roping

1st round leaders

1. Tyler Wade, Terrell, Texas/Trey Yates, Pueblo, Colorado, 4.6 seconds; 2. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Arizona/Cory Petska, Marana, Arizona, 4.9; 3. Brenten Hall, Jay, Oklahoma/Chase Tryan, Helena, Montana, 5.0; 4. Clay Smith, Broken Bow, Oklahoma/Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nevada, 5.4.

2nd round leaders

1. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Missouri, 4.3 seconds; 2. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tennessee/Joseph Harrison, Marietta, Oklahoma, 4.4; 3. Kaleb Driggers, Hoboken, Georgia/Junior Nogueira, Presidente Prude, Brazil, 5.0; 4. Jack Graham, Lakeview, Oregon/Calgary Smith, Adams, Oregon, 5.5.

Barrel racing

1. Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas, 17.51 seconds; 2. Emily Miller-Beisel, Weatherford, Oklahoma, 17.62; 3. Sue Smith, Blackfoot, Idaho, 17.76 seconds; 4. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Arizona, 17.82.

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