Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 3, 2022
Local bull rider Cooper James finishes in top 10 at national rodeo competition

Scott Froehlich

Sports editor

From the tender age of three, 17-year-old Erda resident Cooper James knew he was meant to ride bulls. Last month, he kept that dream alive by placing 7th in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming.

Starting out as a young toddler riding sheep, calves and steers at five and six, James advanced to bulls at age eight. At 13, he reached the pinnacle of riding and practiced on the larger horned bovine.

“I have always wanted to ride bulls since I was a baby,” James said. “From watching 8 Seconds (movie) every night before bed, to my first sheep riding competition when I was three.”

During the rodeo, which ran from July 17-23, James competed against riders in his age group in three rounds of riding to get to his top-10 finish. In the first two rounds, he finished with 6.5 seconds and 8 seconds, good enough to move him to the third and final round.

Throughout the competition, James said his demeanor and energy level was unlike athletes in other sports such as football and basketball. Instead of getting pumped up and raising his adrenaline level, James said the key is to remain relaxed and focused.

“I’m really just trying to stay calm mostly,” he said. “You can’t really get too wild and wound up, you can’t think your best when at that high (emotional) rate.”

Despite keeping a subdued demeanor before each ride, James said the excitement takes off as soon as he is shot out of the chute.

“The adrenaline rush is second to none,” he said. “There’s nothing quite like it; man versus beast.”

July’s top-10 run wasn’t James’ first taste of success, as he took fourth in the Junior World Finals in 2019 and third in the world in bronco riding earlier this year. He also earned a decent haul competing in Milford, Utah, placing second at an invitational and winning a $1,000 cash prize.

“I was competing against some of the top 30 guys in the world in the pro standings,” James said. “As a high schooler, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”

In the near future, James has expressed a desire to one day go professional and compete on the grand stage. After turning 18, he intends to obtain his Professional Bull Riders card which will allow him to compete alongside other professional bull riders.

“Once October 1 hits (next year), I’m going to buy my pro card and really hit it hard to try and make the National Finals Rodeo and become a world champion,” James said. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

In the meantime, James continues his competition schedule as a participant in the Rocky Mountain Professional Rodeo Association. On Aug. 5 he’ll take part in an event in Morgan, and in future events in Santaquin, Duchesne and Richfield from Aug. 6-13.

sfroehlich@tooeletranscript.com

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