Keyshawn Whitehorse was able to do just enough on Championship Sunday at the 2018 PBR World Finals to walk away with the prestigious Rookie of the Year award.
LAS VEGAS – Keyshawn Whitehorse had one final ride and one final opportunity to try to separate himself from his Rookie of the Year challengers at the 2018 PBR World Finals.
It took one heavy, hard-fought extra effort, but Whitehorse was able to hold off his rookie opponents on Championship Sunday by ending a streak of four consecutive buckoffs to ride Wicked Dreams for 89.5 points and a fifth-place tie in Round 5.
Whitehorse looked on his way to bucking off around 6 seconds before he beared down and gritted his way to the finish.
Whitehorse would go on to not need the ride to win the 2018 Rookie of the Year title as the rest of his challengers failed to gain enough ground on him, but it was still a great way to end his title season.
“I know throughout the week I was bucking off and stuff, and I think people probably thought that I was thinking about winning Rookie of the Year, putting that kind of pressure on myself, but I really wasn’t,” Whitehorse said. “It was just the fact of the matter that I really wanted to make good bull rides. That was it. In my mind, Rookie of the Year didn’t really cross it in the essence of, ‘Oh I might lose it,’ or whatever.”
Whitehorse held off Colten Jesse by 128.33 points to win the Rookie of the Year title.
The 21-year-old concluded the season 19th in the world standings after going 16-for-57 (28.07 percent) this year in 19 events.
Whitehorse’s best performance came via a third-place finish in St. Louis, which was one of his six Top-10 finishes.
It appeared as if Whitehorse was in danger of potentially losing the Rookie of the Year title, a race he led for the majority of the season, on Championship Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
Whitehorse and Jesse were separated by less than 19 points at the beginning of Round 5.
Jesse would go on to buck off Sidewinder in 2.47 seconds. Alex Marcilio and Nathan Burtenshaw also failed to catch Whitehorse with buckoffs against Peep Show (4.35 seconds) and The Hard Stuff (2.34 seconds) in Round 5.
Cody Jesus made the race a little bit interesting when he rode Red Bandana for 88.5 points in Round 5. However, Jesus was unable to convert in the championship round against Losing My Religion (4.2 seconds).
Jesus and Whitehorse spent the majority of the week getting ready together in their own corner of the locker room.
Jesus’ first comment in the locker room after bucking off was to congratulate Whitehorse on winning Rookie of the Year.
The two Native Americans will be riding for the Team USA Wolves on Feb. 9-10 at the 2019 WinStar World Casino & Resort Global Cup USA.
“Great job this year, Keyshawn,” Jesus said.
Whitehorse had to remind himself to relax this week and enjoy the process after beginning the week 0-for-4.
“I just knew there was a path for me that God wanted me to take,” Whitehorse said. “If this was it, then this was it, whether I was going to ride or not today.”
His dad, Norbert, helped Whitehorse have some fun by wearing a shirt that had fake money all over it.
“So that kind of lightened the mood and we just had a good time,” Keyshawn said.
Whitehorse can look at recent history to see that it is not uncommon for a Rookie of the Year to struggle at the World Finals.
2016 Rookie of the Year Jess Lockwood got blanked at the World Finals (0-for-5).
One year later, and Lockwood was hoisting the World Championship trophy over his head inside T-Mobile.
“Don’t let it bother you, just forget about it and learn,” Lockwood said of his advice to Whitehorse.
Whitehorse would love to join Lockwood in the history books, but he is OK taking his own path to an eventual championship.
The McCraken Springs, Utah, bull rider is just going to build off a successful “learning” season.
“We both have our own journey, whether I win the world title next year or not,” Whitehorse concluded. “This is going to be a big learning situation with me coming here and seeing how the bull power is. I think the biggest thing here is the bull power, learning how to adapt to it, and going into next year, going into short rounds, I’ll have a much higher percentage of riding bulls in the short round than I did this year.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko