LAS VEGAS What a difference a year makes for Josh Peek.
Last year, the Pueblo, Colo., cowboy came into the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in first place in the world standing and had a terrible 10 days, winning only $2,704 and slipping to sixth in the world by the time things were done.
This year, he entered in the 15th spot and promptly won the first round with a time of 7.5 seconds. Peek was the first roper out and watched as the other 14 came up short.
The run earned him $17,139.
"The run was awesome," he said. "My horse, Cody, just worked perfect. It was just a picture perfect run."
He said he knew this year was going to be different from 2008, mostly because his wife, Kori, and twin babies, Emry and Keagan were able to make the trip to Las Vegas.
"Last year just seemed like it wasn't meant to be," he said. "This year, I've got my family, my brand new babies and my wife with me. I think it was just set up for me. This is perfect."
Earlier in the night, Peek placed in the money in the steer wrestling, winning $4,791.
It is as good as you could have asked for to place in both events," he said.
Team roper heeler Randon Adams had a great Finals in 2008, winning his first world championship with then-partner Matt Sherwood. The pair split up for the 2009 season and Adams teamed with header JoJo Lemond of Andrews, Texas.
New partner: same result. Lemond and Adams won the first round with a time of 4.3 seconds, collecting $17,139 apiece.
Lemond said he was just happy to have caught the steer, which bolted quickly from the chute. He had to make a long throw that left precious little rope to make his dally.
"That steer kind of squirted out of the gate and I was late (on the barrier)," he said. "I didn't have much (rope) left. I was afraid I was going to pop it out of my hand."
Adams, riding four-time heeling horse of the year, Diesel, made an accurate heel shot to finish the run.
"I thought I got a good enough start, but the steer got in front of me. You don't want that here, but I've got a great header than can make it work no matter what we draw."
Curtis Cassidy of Donalda, Alberta, had the fastest time of the night in the steer wrestling, turfing his steer in 3.6 seconds.
He said it was a steer neither he nor any of his fellow competitors knew much about, so he put his faith in his horse Willy.
"That one I didn't know nothing about," Cassidy said. "I just asked around a few guys but nobody recognized him, so I just backed in there and went at him. Old Willie fired and Jason Miller did a good job hazing, and it came together."
In saddle bronc, 2007 world champion Taos Muncy of Corona, N.M., showed he hasn't lost his touch in Las Vegas, winning the go-round with an 86-point ride on the Calgary Stampede bronc Knife Money.
"It feels really good. I'm just glad to be here."
I did have a really good horse today. I've seen him all year long and I've always wanted to draw him."
Muncy, who missed last year's NFR after breaking his leg, said he watched the bronc on television during last year's Finals telecast and was excited when he found out he'd drawn the bronc.
"I was so excited," he said. "If you ride him right, you're going to be a lot of points. I'm just excited to be here. It is way better than sitting at home."
In bareback, defending world champion Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla., and Jason Havens of Prineville, Ore., tied for the top spot with 86 points each.
McDaniel rode Diamond G Rodeo Company's bronc Little Brown Jug, while Havens earned his core on Centennial of Wayne Vold Rodeo Company. Both men earned $15,342 for the go-round victory.
In barrel racing, world standings leader Brittany Pozzi turned the fastest time in spite of being the final competitor of the night and having to run through ground that the previous 14 riders had tracked up.
"I am just very proud of my horse (Duke)," Pozzi said. "He is only 6 years old and this is quite a lot of pressure for him. He handled it great."
The top bull rider of the night was Kanin Asay of Powell, Wyo., who rode Cervy & Guidry Rodeo Company's bull Hot Diggity Damn for 89 points.
It was the second successful meeting between the two.
"I rode him in San Antonio last year and was 89 points on him," Asay said.
The WNFR will be televised nightly on ESPN Classic and ESPN2. At the conclusion of the 10th performance on Dec. 12th, the contestants with the highest earnings in each event will be crowned as the 2009 world champion.