Before this week, Jason Schaeffer had never been to Minot, let alone the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo.
After his first go-round win in tie-down roping Thursday night at All Seasons Arena, he's developing a strong affinity for The Magic City
"I like it. Course, you do when you win," Schaeffer said, chuckling.
Saddle bronc rider James Willert of Kadoka, S.D., holds on tight as his horse, Little Hawk, bucks on Thursday at All Seasons Arena.
The Broadus, Mont., native bested two-time defending tie-down roping champion Justin Scofield with a time of 8.2 seconds - just 0.3 seconds ahead of Scofield.
"First round you just try to go out and make a good run," Schaeffer said. "Things worked out and it went good. Being last, you kind of see what you have to do to win."
Scofield, from Volga, S.D., went second to last and outclassed the field by 1.4 seconds, leaving one competitor remaining: Schaeffer.
Schaeffer, who leads the year-end standings, let his calf run about 25 yards before roping it and swiftly tying three legs together.
"(Going last) is a little advantage," Scofield said. "He knew how fast he had to be.
"He made an outstanding run, running further than I run mine, but he can do that. He ropes outstanding."
Schaeffer and Scofield have made the year-end standings a two-man race. Boe Brown of Valentine, Neb., moved into third place, passing Josh Graff of Ainsworth, Neb., who failed to complete his run.
North Dakotans fared well in two events.
Parshall's Preston Billadeau and Mohall's Levi O'Keeffe placed first in team roping, finishing in 5.2 seconds. In the barrel racing competition, Britany Fleck of Solen won with a time of 13.8 seconds.
The four-day rodeo, which is hosted by Minot Y's Men's Rodeo, resumes today at 6:30 p.m.
Heading into the final three days of competition, Schaeffer said he's confident he can remain atop the year-end standings and advance to the National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.
"I think if I go in there and keep roping the way I did tonight and don't beat myself, it'll work out," he said.
Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.