IIFR bareback champ dedicates title to late cousin

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Navajo Times

SAN CARLOS, Ariz., Oct. 17, 2013

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(Times photo - Donovan Quintero)

Bareback rider Kyle Charley of Lukachukai, Ariz., points heavenward after a successful ride, which solidified the bareback title of the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeo. Charley dedicated his win to his late cousin, Raynell Charley, who died last week.

When Kyle Charley hops onto the back of a bareback horse, it's usually just the beast and him.

The sound of the rodeo fans and everything else typically fades into the dirt abyss.

But during the finals of the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeo, he realized he and the animal were not alone.

His felt his cousin, Raynell Harvey, an IIFR qualifying bull rider who died after the IIFR welcome banquet on Oct. 9, was with him throughout the entire eight seconds.

"I'm happy right now that I get to take this home and that he's looking from above and proud of me," Charley said.

"It kept me going, it kept me on my toes."

The rodeo was held Oct. 7-13 at the Apache Gold Casino & Resort in San Carlos, Ariz.

From the first performance up until the last, the Lukachukai, Ariz., native rode for his cousin.

He said the loss tugged at his heart throughout the week but he used it to fuel his drive toward his first-ever world title.

"I set my heart to dedicate it to him. Sure enough it worked out fine," he said.

"I gave all my best through the pain -- put whatever effort into the rides I had. I came out on top."

In his own right, Charley, 22, was one of the Navajo Nation's favorites to win the title.

He was seeded second in the All-Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association standings and qualified for the rodeo a number of times with numerous victories throughout the season.

In the first performance, Charley topped the leader board with a 77-point ride.

In his second, he tied for second with Joe Wilson with a 75-point ride.

In the third-go, he tied for first with another Navajo Nation favorite Earl Tsosie, Jr., with an 82-point ride.

In the short go he had his best ride yet as he turned in a high 86-point ride.

In his final ride, he hoped off his draw, onto the back of the pick-up man and slid his way onto the arena floor.

He briefly hunched over then looked up toward the ceiling and pointed to the sky.

It was the talk of the show, the arena echoed with celebration as they realized who he was pointing to and who the ride was for.

Charley said he started hitting the gym two weeks prior to the IIFR.

He said he rested well, got his mental game in check and stuck to the basics, but the memory of his cousin is what drove him home.

"Hearing all the words he used to say behind the chutes, it played a lot on me," Charley said.

Charley said in his mind, he simply wanted to, "bear down," a concept even the youngest of riders understand.

Jarred Benally, 15, the 2013 IIFR champion junior bull rider, said for him it's all about the hunger to win.

"I wanted it badly," he said. "To test myself in a way."

Benally tied for fifth in his first performance with a score of 63.

In his second performance he moved up to third place with 68 points.

He placed first in the average with a score of 253.

It was Benally's first time qualifying for the IIFR.

He said throughout the week he made few adjustments and decided to stick with his game plan, which he said got him the win.

"I tried to keep my feet down and to keep hustling," he said.

Shoshane Kee, the new 2013 IIFR saddle bronc champion, is not stranger to the IIFR.

He has qualified for the rodeo four times including this year's appearance.

But this is his first time to win it.

His cousin Kane Kee was the 2013 IIFR saddle bronc champion.

"It feels like, I don't know, it feels like a dream right now," he said.

The 23-year-old Jeddito, Ariz., native said he does little to prepare for any rodeo, especially the IIFR.

He said he was once told to make a good ride and stick with the mechanics of that ride, so that's what he did.

"My body already knows what it's doing," confessed. "I just keep everything simple."

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