EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the February issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official magazine of the WPRA. It is being republished here with the magazine’s consent.
Carlee Pierce needed a dominant run at the Ram Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo if she were to reach another major goal in her ProRodeo career.
Pierce won two of three rounds, posting the two-fastest runs of the weekend in the process, and earned the average championship at the Extracto Events Center in Waco, Texas. On the second night, the only round she didn’t win, Pierce and her veteran mount, Rare Dillion, placed second behind 2012 world champion Mary Walker.
“I knew we had a lot of work to do when we got to Waco,” said Pierce, who trailed Brittany Pozzi by $2,767 heading into the finale. “I’m very proud of Dillion. He was amazing all three rounds, and it showed.
Pierce blistered the pattern in 15.95 seconds to win the opening go-round and the $1,452 first-place prize. On the final night, she and Dillion circled the barrels in a rodeo-best 15.89, finishing the three-round championship in a cumulative time of 48.24 seconds.
In all, she earned $6,171 in Waco, scooting past Pozzi in the year-end standings by less than $900.
“My main goal this year was to win the gold buckle, and we came very close,” said Pierce of Stephenville, Texas. “But one of my other goals was to win the Texas Circuit, and we were close enough to make it happen.”
Texas is chalk full of outstanding barrel racers. Qualifiers to this year’s championship read like a who’s who of qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. That elite-caliber talent provides an avenue for top-level competition.
“I knew in order to give myself a shot, we had to win the average,” said Pierce, a two-time NFR qualifier who finished second in the 2012 world standings. “In order to win the average there against those horses, we had to do well in the rounds.”
That’s just what happened.
In winning on opening night, Pierce bettered Walker by nearly three-tenths of a second. Still, the champ was in contention for the average title, her only shot at qualifying for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo since Walker came in well down the money list.
On the second night, Walker evened the score. Her 16.09-second run on Latte was worth the round win, and she bettered Pierce’s time of 16.40 and held a two-hundredths of a second lead over the 2012 reserve world champion.
“It was a great barrel race,” Pierce said. “Mary and Latte proved why they’re world champions, but I was pretty confident in Dillion.”
She should be and proved it on the final night of the competition, when she and her 13-year-old buckskin gelding posted the fastest time of the finale. Pozzi posted her fastest time of the competition; her 16.11 moved her to second in the round, just six-hundredths of a second ahead of Walker’s third-place run.
“I really wanted to make it back to Oklahoma City this year,” said Pierce, who qualified for last year’s national circuit finals as the year-end runner-up in the Prairie Circuit. “I’m very excited to get to go back.”
Pierce moved to Stephenville from Woodward, Okla., in October 2011, which is why she has changed her home circuit. By finishing second in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region to two-time NFR qualifier Jeanne Anderson, who also won the average at the 2011 finale, Pierce and Dillion were part of the RNCFR’s field last spring.
In Oklahoma City, the pair raced to second place – one of many they encountered in the 2012 campaign; Pierce also finished runner-up in Houston, San Antonio and Cody, Wyo. – finishing behind Pozzi.
Now the two will take their elite class of barrel horses to ProRodeo’s national championship for the second straight year, both representing the great state of Texas. Since Pierce won the year-end and the average, Pozzi earns the right to compete by finishing second on the money list.
The field will be made up of 24 ladies from all across the country. The year-end and average champions from each of the 12 ProRodeo circuits qualify for Oklahoma City.
“This is a very prestigious rodeo, and I’m very excited to be part of it again,” Pierce said. “It’s one I want to win, and Dillion loves that arena.”
Now Pierce will wait until the first weekend of April to see if she can a major ProRodeo championship.
“After finishing second so many times last year, it felt pretty good for me to win the circuit finals and the year-end title,” Pierce said. “Let’s hope this is a good sign for 2013.”