Distance isn't a factor for Jared Bilby and Preston Billadeau.
Bilby, a Bridgeport, Neb., native, and Billadeau of Parshall form the No. 1 team-roping duo entering Tuesday's Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo at the State Fair Center. Bilby stays on Billadeau's farm for much of the year while the two work meticulously at perfecting their craft.
That strategy has proved effective as Bilby and Billadeau enter the rodeo with a comfortable lead in the standings. Billadeau - as a header responsible for roping a steer by the horns, head or neck - has a $3,362 advantage while heeler Bilby - tasked with roping the steer by the hind feet - leads by more than $3,800.
"The hardest part is finding the quality horses that it takes to compete," Bilby said. "When you get to this level, everybody ropes good. The guys that win the most have the best horses."
The best horses must also have the best names so Bilby named his horse Ricky Bobby after the raunchy Will Ferrell character from "Talladega Nights." Billadeau calls his horse Caesar.
Bilby and Billadeau were set up by mutual friends when Billadeau needed a heeler. Barring collapse, the two will make a second consecutive trip to nationals.
But they still must work on their craft for a couple of hours everyday in Parshall. They practice with a variety of steer because when Tuesday comes, they'll have limited knowledge about their competitor's behaviors.
"You have no idea unless you've seen them before," Billadeau said. "That's why you practice."
In addition to team roping, saddle bronc-riding, tie-down roping, barrel-racing and bull-riding champions will be crowned at the rodeo, which runs through Oct. 7.
Billadeau said the rodeo, which is sponsored by the Minot Y, is one the competitors look forward to each year. This is the sixth year Minot has hosted the Badlands finals.
"They do a really good job," Billadeau said. "Minot's out of the way for most competitors but the committee at Minot does such a good job of putting it on that everybody looks forward to traveling up here."