Sports

Taking it to the "Xtreme"

Matt Austin and Dustin Elliott have become quite familiar with one another over the past two years.

The cowboys, both among the top bull riders in the nation, have battled it out many times before Sunday’s Xtreme Bulls finish at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede. They have some striking similarities as well, with both in their mid 20s (Elliott is 24 and Austin will be 23 on Sep. 3). They’re both at the top of the Jack Daniel’s World Standings in bull riding, with Austin ranked first in the world and Elliott a close second.

All those similarities showed on the arena floor at Thunderbird Stadium Sunday, as the cowboys and friends finished first and second at this year’s Xtreme Bulls event. Austin topped his buddy and defending world champion by just two points. But in a sport where success is attained or lost in just 8 seconds, neither rider would have had it any other way.

“I got to catch him here,” Elliott, from Tecumseh, Neb., said jokingly after taking the title last year over Austin. “I love it. He’s one of my good friends. We’re battling every week but I know he’ll be there to help me what I need it.”

“We’re good friends,” Austin, from Wills Point, Texas, added. “We go against each other and we’re rooting for one another.”

The cowboys showed Kitsap rodeo fans a few of the top bull rides to take place at the Fair this year. In the opening round of Xtreme Bulls, Austin led with a score of 90, tying him with Howdy Cloud. Austin’s opening ride of 87 put him in fourth.

But after Dan Wolfe, who left hurt after his first ride of 88, did not return and Cloud got bucked on his second ride, the showdown was set.

And despite Elliott racking up an overall high score of 93, Austin was right there with a 92 to win 182-180. Jake Littlefield finished third with a score of 171 (83, 88).

While Elliott and Austin remain friends, Elliott said it doesn’t matter how Austin does if he can’t uphold his end.

“It’s good to ride,” Elliott said of his 93. “But it doesn’t matter what Matt does. I just have to ride my bull.”

Austin said nothing quite captures the feeling of two 90-plus rides.

“It’s just awesome. It’s just an incredible feeling when you have good rides,” he said. “You feel good every time you can get off and walk off with two feet.”

Xtreme Bulls definitely raises the intensity of competition in bull riding more than the rodeo itself, Austin said. Part of that is the given increase in bull riders, as nearly 40 turned out for this year’s event. But part of that also is the stock, which for the finals features some of the most accomplished National Finals Rodeo bulls.

“I think it’s a little different at this level,” Austin said. “You have to be focused. If you get past that first one, you’ve got a second one that’s totally different.”

Both riders agreed that the new layout of the arena has certainly aided the bull riders.

“I love it,” Elliott said. “Last year with all the chutes on that side, the bulls knew the out gate was over there. But this is one of the better

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