BILLINGS — The hugs had to be quick. The celebratory conversation kept to a minimum.
Haven Meged didn’t have much time to enjoy the biggest win of his young professional rodeo career with his family.
He had a plane to catch.
It was a fitting finish to a frantic weekend that saw the Miles City cowboy go 4,600 miles through the air between Texas and Florida to win the tie-down roping at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida.
“It’s kind of sinking in,” said Meged in a phone call from Stephenville, Texas, where he attends Tarleton State University. “Looking at the video, it’s such a rush.
“I didn’t have much time to celebrate. I hugged my parents (Bart and Misty), my brothers (Hayes, Holden) and sister (Harley) and took off for the airport.”
Roping in Florida for the first time, Meged was steady through the first two rounds and placed second in the semifinals. He won the final round — scores are wiped clean for the last two rounds — with a time of 7.4 seconds.
The former Montana high school standout is only the second competitor from Montana to win the tie-down roping at the RNCFR, joining Darryl Crowley of Poplar who won in 1990.
“I wouldn’t say I surprised myself,” said the 21-year-old Meged. “This is what I’ve worked for. I’ve worked my butt off. And it all came together that weekend.”
Meged pocketed $24,744. The money won lifted him from 10th to fifth in the PRCA world standings. He had already climbed the ladder by earning $17,500 at San Antonio.
“I’ve always been able to place in the big rodeos,” Meged said of competing against the world’s best. “San Antonio, that was a huge rodeo. That boosted me. I love that rodeo. I’d go back there all the time if I could.”
Meged’s week started with him flying from Dallas to Orlando on a Wednesday for a RNCFR contestant’s meeting. After roping in the first round, he flew back to Texas to compete in a college rodeo in Sweetwater, Texas, on Friday morning.
“I didn’t do very well there,” Meged said with a chuckle.
He boarded a flight in Abilene and flew back to Orlando for Saturday and Sunday.
“I took an Uber from the airport to Kissimmee,” Meged explained. His horse Beyonce had been trailered to Florida earlier in the week, along with horses owned by RNCFR team roping champions Clay Smith and Jake Long, along with ropers Shane Hancock and Ty Harris.
“There was about $150,000 won in that truck,” said Meged.
Traveling long distances is nothing new for Meged. In January, he drove from Stephenville to Great Falls — 1,276 miles one way — for the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals.
“It was a long drive. But the roads were good both ways,” Meged said of the trip.
Along with being fifth in the PRCA world standings, he also leads the PRCA rookie standings for tie-down roping. Kal Fuller of Bozeman leads for team roping headers.
Meged has a lead of $32,000 on Shad Mayfield of Clovis, New Mexico.
Balancing books and rodeos, “My professors have been great working with me,” he said, Meged was preparing to do more flying with rodeos in Oregon and Nevada on his professional schedule.
“The goal I set when I got my card was to be the rookie of the year, qualify for the National Finals Rodeo and win a gold buckle.”