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Winston Jones making a name for himself in the competitive world of bull riding

June 16, 2011 GMC Prep’s Winston Jones making a name for himself in the competitive world of bull riding Brent Martin The Union-Recorder The Union-Recorder Thu Jun 16, 2011, 08:00 AM EDT MILLEDGEVILLE — Like a runaway train, bull riding is fast and furious — and only those with the sharpest of instincts and the mightiest of nerves can compete on the regional or national level. One such prodigy of the sport is GMC Prep eighth-grader (and twelve-year-old) Winston Jones, who is 4-foot, 10 inches and weighs 69 pounds. He rides bulls that weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Jones competes in the Middle Georgia Youth Rodeo Association and the Georgia Youth Bulls and Barrels Association, a National association. In May, he qualified for the finals after winning the first round in Hawkinsville. The wins and qualifying times have been mounting for Jones during his first year of professional competition on the junior level. For his efforts he has earned his first U-R Player of the Week nod. Soon, Jones will enter the Wrangler Division, a Junior High Division and national association that will see him riding 1,400 to 1,500 pound bulls — and some heavier. Jones mother, Cynthia Orms, grew up on a cattle ranch in Texas and competed in rodeos with her brother from the time she was 8 years old. Jones father, Keith, currently lives in South Carolina. Despite all the obvious dangers that come with bull riding, Winston Jones is always prepared and even says a prayer before every ride. The young bull rider rides with full safety equipment, including a safety helmet which is an adapted hockey helmet. He also rides with a mouth piece and a kevlar vest. “The steers always have horns. With the bulls they try to keep their horns a little bit shorter when they get older. But some have 6 to 8 inch horns on each side,” said Orms. “It all depends on the stock contractor.” Jones has proven to be a tough rider during his first year of junior competition, and has already had instances where he’s had to act fast and put all of his precautionary movements into motion. “One of the stock contractors once commented that the cuts and bruises are just tattoos for better stories,” said Orms. “It’s part of the sport.” Just last year, Winston had a close call in which a large bull came down and made full contact with him. Jones escaped the fray with a scrape on the back of one of his legs. He also was clipped on the helmet by the gigantic animal, suffering a small laceration on the face. High-risk sports like auto-racing, hockey and bobsledding require a quick reaction time and many hours of precautionary education — bull riding is no different. “In bull riding you eventually break something. The rodeo coaches teach dismount procedures. If his hand gets caught or if his spurs get tangled — they teach them how to manage it. He’s learned all of the safety techniques,” said Orms. Outside of the bull riding arena, Jones has gotten involved in other sports to boost his strength, speed and coordination. At GMC Prep, the star eighth grader excels at wrestling and soccer. “The wrestling works on his upper body strength,” said his mother. “The better bull riders are smaller and have a much better center of gravity.” Hence, the advantage of Winston’s size. The young bull rider could add more trophies to his home this weekend when he travels to Marshallville to compete in a Georgia Youth Barrels and Bulls event. If he qualifies, he will move on to more national events. The Middle Georgia Youth Rodeo Association finishes in June and the Georgia Bulls and Barrels runs all through the summer. He will soon ride in the Wrangler Division which will open him up to 1,500 pound bulls. Jones attends the Lyle Sankey Rodeo School and is coached by C.J. Brown. The Sankey Rodeo School has been based out of Branson, Mo. for 35 years and offers professional training in every state. Brown said that Jones was one of his top students and immediately noticed compelling traits about his approach to the sport. “Winston was one of the more plugged-in students we ended up getting. We average about 25 bull riders. It ends up being about coachability with these guys. Winston was one of them that was willing to make the necessary changes,” said Brown. “If he keeps up with the coachability he will excel at the sport.” Brown noted that bull riding is not an exact science and that bulls can react to a rider in different ways on different days. “The bulls can be unpredictable all the time. They have a mind of their own and there is no written game-plan,” he said. Winston Jones’ mom said the sport sometimes gets a bad rap from people who didn’t necessarily grow up around it. “If you are not around rodeo it seems like it’s a horribly dangerous, why-would-you-even-do-that type of thing,” she said. “You have to approach it with common sense and all the training you can do. It’s a sport and there’s a technique to doing it. There’s a mental concentration there.” During competition and after his prayer, Winston Jones goes through all of his procedures before he is released with the bull. “In juniors, they have to ride for six seconds. At Sanky’s he had to ride for eight seconds. At the Wrangler level he’ll have to ride for 8 seconds. His free hand can’t touch the bull or he will be qualified,” said Orms. Like his mother, Jones is now loving a sport that will continue to challenge him for years to come. “The sport gets passed from generation to generation all the time. We see a lot of family participation,” said Brown. “It’s growing. When you love something so passionately money is never important. We are also seeing an increase in spectator activity. It’s all about preparation. It’s about action and reaction. There is no set plan.” Sports Editor Brent Martin can be reached at (478) 453-1465.