Stratford sets a bull-riding record in Rapid City, earning 93 points on High Expectations

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
J.R. Stratford of Byers, Kansas rides High Expectations, setting an arena record at 93 during the PRCA Rodeo Rapid City competition  this past weekend in South Dakota.

PRATT—J.R. Stratford knows bulls, he’s been riding them, well calves anyway, since he was 3-years-old in Pratt County.

Saturday night, in Rapid City, South Dakota, the 18-year-old rookie PRCA bull rider set an arena record of 93, riding a bull named High Expectations for 8 seconds and winning top prize at the Rodeo Rapid City event.

“His home base is Byers,” said his grandmother Joyce Stratford. “When he is not on the rodeo circuit he spends time there at his dad’s ranch, or he also spends time with his mom in Beronaugh, Missouri.”

Wherever he is, his grandparents Jim and Joyce Stratford and Mary Ann Stratford of Pratt are proud of him, and they are always watching for news of his bull-riding competitions.

J.R. Stratford enjoys some time in 2018 with his strong supporters, and grandparents, Jim and Joyce Stratford of Pratt.

With a 90.5-point ride holding down first place at Rapid City and an arena record of 93, Stratford beat the previous record held by PRCA World Champion Terry Don West, set in 2003.

Though new to ProRodeo, Stratford is already a veteran of the sport, competing in regional associations against adults for years.

"Anywhere they'd let me get on before I turned 18. It was good practice for me and got me seasoned a little more," Stratford said. "I've studied it my whole life and always wanted to get better and better. It's my passion."

Stratford, a former Skyline High School student, turned 18 in August and won his first ProRodeo competition by conquering a National Finals Rodeo bull — Bar T Rodeo's Twist and Shout — with an 88.5-point ride at the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Pro Rodeo in Henryetta, Okla.

He went 3-for-3 in September to fill his permit. Then he got hurt and underwent should surgery.

“He couldn’t ride for four months,” his grandfather Jim Stratford said. “This rodeo at Rapid City was his first ride back.”

J.R. Stratford, who raises his own bucking bulls at the Byers ranch, drew a familiar name for the Rapid City finals, a bull he knew from New Frontier Rodeo - High Expectations.

"That bull is actually located about an hour-and-a-half from my house down here in Kansas," Stratford said. "I had to drive 10 hours to Rapid City to get on a bull from Kansas; but I was stoked to have him drawn. He's real fast and electric ... definitely worth the drive for sure."

He picked up $4,315 for the win as well as valuable points on the ProRodeo Tour, which could help him earn a position at the ProRodeo Tour Finale at season's end. 

"I'll try to go to all of them I can make ... 'til the wheels fall off," he said. "It's my ultimate dream to become a world champion.”

* Jolee Jordan, ProRodeo.com, contributed to this story.