Bloomfield's Joseph McConnel looks to punch his ticket to PBR World Finals
FARMINGTON – Joseph McConnel is ready for the big stage in unprecedented territory: the 2020 Pendleton Whiskey Velocity Tour national bull riding championships — which starts at 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bloomfield native, who is ranked No. 69 worldwide, already won the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Classic velocity division championship back on Jan. 31, and he looks to punch his ticket to the Professional Bull Riding World Finals Nov. 12-15 in Arlington, Texas.
Others are reading:Durango's Brent Winebarger wins his third Road Apple Rally title since 2015
McConnel, who's making his first Velocity Tour finals appearance since 2015, can qualify for the World Finals by either placing first or second this weekend or placing in the top three for the cumulative season standings.
"I'm more than excited," McConnel, 26, said.
First came lackluster performances in St. Louis and Little Rock just weeks after. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kind of put a damper on things… Tried to plug along… Had tough luck (at events in Guthrie, Oklahoma). Nobody wanted to buck any bulls, and I just kind of felt out of the loop there for a bit,” McConnel said.
Events in late March and in April were held in a bubble-type setting in Guthrie, Oklahoma, PBR Public Relations Manager Easton Colvin said.
But the trying times didn't stop there.
McConnel said he pulled a groin muscle during the Team Challenge in Las Vegas, Nevada back in early June and spent about four months recovering from that injury. He said he also recently dislocated his right shoulder, adding he’s virtually healed up now.
Now residing in Las Cruces since 2018, McConnel is also dealing with rising COVID-19 cases.
Now healed up, McConnel said he’s doing simple things like taking care of his body and wearing a face mask when he goes out, and he and other bull riders had to test negative Thursday in Oklahoma City on his way to Sioux Falls to ensure the competition is set to go come Friday.
McConnel also said he has a space in Las Cruces where he can ride bulls, fine-tune his skills and not be around too many people.
“Oh my gosh, (having to withdraw would) be the worst thing,” McConnel said.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.
Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e