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Tatum cowboy leads tie-down roping

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LOVINGTON – Ever since he was about four or five years old, Shank Edwards has been a cowboy. Rodeo is something he just fell in love with at an early age, and it’s carried him throughout the years to competition after competition.

As a 14-year Tatum cowboy, that love for those competitions carried him to the 82nd Annual Lea County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday night. It was the first night of the PRCA events, and Edwards didn’t disappoint as the only Lea County representative that day. He led the first round with an 8.4-second time, and he carried that momentum to record a two-run cumulative time of 18.4 seconds in the tie-down roping event has him in the lead.

To be able to perform so well in his county, well, that’s something he’s happy to have done.

“It’s really good,” he said. “It would be really good to win a hometown rodeo.”

Of course, his effort Wednesday night doesn’t guarantee him the win. There will be plenty of cowboys to compete over the next three nights, which means his first-day lead could mean nothing as soon as later tonight.

“Hopefully the time stands (as the leader),” Edwards said.

Even so, it shouldn’t be forgotten who he performed better than in order to get the lead in the first place. His 18.4 score topped those from 23-time world champion Trevor Black and three-time world champion Tuf Cooper, leaving this effort as an accomplishment on its own.

But after running into those two, as well as other skilled cowboys, Edwards was pretty nonchalant about posting a better score than those two.

“We compete against them everyday,” he said. “Day-in, day-out, they’re as good as they get, so we kind of get used to it.

Like any other cowboy in this business, Edwards has his eye on reaching the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) this year. That’s the number one goal.

It would be a pretty big boost for him then if his score were to hold up as the lead for the rest of the week, as he figures he’s around 35th in the world standings right now. Edwards has focused on only tie-down roping this year, so a win here would help his only chance to reach the NFR.

“It’s coming along pretty good lately,” Edwards said. “I’ve got some climbing to do.”

Edwards was one of five contestants from New Mexico to compete on this first day of the rodeo. Pinon cowboy Brent Lewis competed in steer roping, Las Vegas cowboys Chris Francis and Cade Passig competed in team roping, Albuqurque cowgirls Delani Wood and Jasarra Baca competed in barrel racing while Bloomfield cowboy Joseph McConnel competed in bull riding.

None of those participants had quite the same success as Edwards, though, as Francis, Passig and McConnel didn’t even receive scores in their respective events.

Lewis did not score a time in the first round of steer roping, but did turn in a time of 15.1 in the second round. In the third round, Lewis finished in 11.3 seconds, putting him in fifth place with a combined time of 26.4 seconds. Wood finished second in barrel racing, turning in a time of 17.80 seconds while Baca finished in a tie for third with a time of 17.83 seconds.

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The Lea County Fair and Rodeo resumes tonight at 7 p.m. at Jake McLure Arena in Lovington.

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