Friday, November 6, 2009

Ryan McConnel survives crash, back riding bulls

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.

Ryan McConnel rides bulls.

He jumps onto the backs of cattle that rarely weigh less than 1,200 pounds and instantly, he’s jolted, his 5-foot-10, 160-pound frame furiously rocking back-and-forth and side-to-side.

More times than not, he’s thrown from the bull. So you’d think nothing can scare McConnel.


He also drives a truck.

Last Tuesday afternoon, McConnel found himself trapped in his Dodge Ram, the bent frame in a ditch on the side of Highway 75, somewhere between Atoka and Coalgate, Okla.

“There was a car in the right lane with his blinker going right,” he said. “So I passed him to the left and next thing you know, he goes left, hits me and I start rolling.”

“All I kept thinking was, ‘Stop rolling and stop moving.’ It was one of the scariest things to be honest with you.”

After a few rolls, the next thing he remembered was a couple of guys walking up to the driver’s side window.

“They came and asked if I was alive, if I was OK,” he said. They pried the driver’s side door open and McConnel was pulled to safety with only a couple minor cuts and bruises.

This weekend, the 22-year-old will ride in the Professional Bull Rider World Finals at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I’m looking forward to being a quarter of a million dollars richer and replacing my truck,” he said.

McConnel is in his fourth season on the PBR tour and is sitting at No. 4 in the standings, with a 54 percent ridden percentage — the percentage of times a rider stays on the bull for eight seconds — and 8,437.75 points in the standings.

“Consistency is the name of the game,” he said. “Vegas is the best of the best. All of the bulls are the best and coming in from all over the country.”

The Farmington, N.M., native is the second in a line of McConnels to ride bulls.

His father, Douglas McConnel, was a pro-am bull rider in Colorado and New Mexico.

Today, Ryan McConnel, following in his father’s footsteps, looks to influence his little brother the way his father influenced him.

“He built me from the ground up,” Ryan McConnel said. “Now I’m trying to be the same kind of hero for my brother as my dad was for me.”

Joseph McConnel, 15, started riding calves and has exceeded his older brother’s expectations.

“He rides really, really good,” Ryan McConnel said. “If we can keep him going in the right direction, he’ll be ready when he’s 18.”

For now, Ryan McConnel has his sights square on the task at hand — closing the 4,191.50-points gap between him and his nemesis, Kody Lostroh, who is perched at the top of the standings.

Lostroh defeated McConnel in high school for the 2003 New Mexico championship. Lostroh was a senior; McConnell was a sophomore.

“It’s different now,” McConnel said. “I’m still trying to catch him, but I plan on being a world champ.”

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