Craig resident takes home all-around rodeo crown |

Craig resident takes home all-around rodeo crown

John Vandelinder

— A winter rodeo season that began nearly six months ago has come to a conclusion, and it has a new senior boys all-around champion.

After two years of runner-up finishes, Craig resident Eric Fleming is bringing home the saddle.

Fleming earned the Little Britches Rodeo Association’s “Saddle Champ” award Sunday in Rifle while competing in the season-ending event and he couldn’t be more proud.

“I’ve always been so close,” Fleming said. “But I never won it before. This year, I blew it out of the water. It’s been a lot of hard work to finally get it done. I’m really proud to bring this trophy home.”

Fleming earned points while competing in bull riding, tie down, team-roping and bareback riding, winning the latter event Sunday.

Bareback is an event the Moffat County High School junior first began competing in this year, and he says that’s why he’s champ.

“Once I started bareback riding and winning it a lot, it really helped me,” he said. “Now I can ride anything, and I can ride it with confidence. I’m the champ.”

Winning the event as frequently as Fleming has catapulted the discipline to the forefront of his favorite events.

“I used to like the roping events (tie down),” he said. “But, with how well I’ve done at bareback, it’s got to be at the top.”

A championship in hand, the 17-year-old isn’t quite yet done with the rodeo scene.

He’s the No. 1-ranked bareback rider heading into the national finals this summer in Pueblo.

“I want to defend my saddle next year,” Fleming said. “But, my main goal is to be world champ. I’m already qualified. All I have left to do is win it.”

As for the saddle, will it be stored away on a shelf like most trophies do to collect dust?

“I’m putting it on my horse and using it,” Fleming said. “There’s nothing wrong with a new saddle.”

And a new champ.

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