Archive for February, 2015

postheadericon San Angelo short round will be great

Tonight’s championship round of the San Angelo (Texas) Stock Show will be a showcase of Pete Carr bucking stock.

SanAngelo-LogoThe short go-round will begin at 7:30 p.m. Central time in the west Texas community and features the top 12 contestants from preliminary rounds. In the mix will be world champions and regular Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers.

Most of the roughstock cowboys will have an opportunity to win big money on Carr animals. In fact, there are 27 Carr horses and bulls. Of those, 15 have been selected to perform at the NFR.

There are some fantastic match-ups on tap, too, including:

Austin Foss-First Kiss
Brian Bain-Cool Change
Bobby Mote-Ladies Man
Bill Tutor-River Boat Annie
Tanner Aus-Betty Boop

Cody DeMoss-Gold Coast
Sam Spreadborough-Miss Congeniality
Cody Taton-Lori Darling
Bradley Harter-Sweet Maria

Howdy Cloud-Poker Face
Brennon Elred-Thunder Cat
Corey Maier-Half Nuts
Lon Danley-Hokey Pokey
Dalan Duncan-Missing Parts

It should be a fantastic show.

postheadericon Young champ is in a starring role


MULVANE, Kan. – In his first two decades on this earth, Sage Kimzey has made quite a name for himself in the world of bull riding.

He stamped his place in the sport’s history last season, winning two world championships: He secured the Championship Bull Riding title in July, and then completed 2014 with the gold buckle in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Sage Kimzey

Sage Kimzey

“Those two championships, and being able to do it in my rookie year, just validated my career and what I’ve been able to do,” said Kimzey, 20, who will test his skills at the Kansas Star Chute Out, set for 8 p.m. Saturday, March 28, at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane. “It made me feel like all the work I’ve put in my whole life paid off.”

The young cowboy earned more than $400,000 last season between the CBR and the PRCA. He plans to add a little Kansas Star cash in late March.

“With the CBR, you get the most exciting event in rodeo with bull riding,” said Kimzey, of Strong City, Okla. “Rodeo is a true cowboy sport, and this will be an exciting two hours for everybody involved. It’s a fun event to be part of, so I’m looking forward to it.”

He will be one of five world champions in the mix, joining CBR titlists Cole Echols, Josh Barentine and Clayton Foltyn and 2012 PRCA champ Cody Teel. They will be matched with some of the top bulls in the game, including some from Arkansas City, Kan.-based contractor Brad Vogele, the 2010 CBR Stock Contractor of the Year.

“You’ll get to see the top 24 guys in the world and the top 24 bulls in the CBR matched up,” Kimzey said, who pointed to the opportunity to earn $20,000 in one night. “It’s a great show.”

It’s a show that Kimzey plans to share with his family and friends, many of whom will make the trip to the Kansas Star Arena from western Oklahoma.

“It’s always great to ride close to home,” he said. “The Kansas Star is a great facility that puts on a great event. Hopefully all the fans and my family will get to come out and enjoy it.”

Tickets start at $17 and are available at the Kansas Star Arena Box Office or at

postheadericon Lerwill returns to Pioneer Days

GUYMON, Okla. – Troy Lerwill is a combination of things: athlete, daredevil and comedian.

It all comes together in the Oklahoma Panhandle the first weekend in May for the Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“Troy is one of the funniest guys out there, not just in rodeo,” said Pete Carr, owner of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that serves as the primary stock contractor in Guymon. “I try to get him as often as I can, because he brings a whole new dimension to each show. He’s the best entertainer in rodeo because of how he handles the crowd.

Troy Lerwill makes a jump during his act while performing at the 2012 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days. He returns to the Oklahoma Panhandle this May, and the fans are ready. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Troy Lerwill makes a jump during his act while performing at the 2012 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days. He returns to the Oklahoma Panhandle this May, and the fans are ready. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

“Then you add his motorcycle act into the mix, and it’s just over-the-top. Everybody wants to come back the next day just to see it again.”

The motorcycle act involves Lerwill’s alter-ego, “The Wild Child,” who jumps a Bloomer trailer and a Ram pickup in a showcase of comedy mixed with athleticism.

“It’s funny every time I see it,” said Ken Stonceipher, the production manager for Pioneer Days Rodeo. “There’s just something magical in that entire act.”

It’s the magic that has been on display at Hitch Arena before. Fans in the Oklahoma Panhandle have been asking about Lerwill’s return, so the rodeo committee and Carr made sure he is part of this year’s showcase.

“For one, he’s a great funnyman,” said Jesse James Kirby, one of the top saddle bronc riders in the country. “He’s also a great motorcyclist. He can do things on that motorbike that you can’t even imagine people doing. It’s just really great, and he’s a great entertainer.

“On top of that, Troy is just a good person to be around. You can tell he’s doing something he enjoys doing. He puts on a show and makes it look good.”

That happens nationwide. Lerwill is one of the most celebrated acts in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He’s been the barrelman at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three times, has twice been named the Coors Man in the Can, and he’s been named the PRCA Act of the Year six times.

All those awards are nice, but what makes Lerwill one of the most sought-after entertainers in rodeo is what he does in the arena – in addition to his fantastic daredevil act, the Payson, Utah, man has the timing of a comedic genius.

It comes quite naturally to Lerwill, the son of a roper who grew up going to rodeos in Utah and Colorado with his father. Though he never competed, Troy Lerwill was hooked … even if it took a few years for him to realize it.

“I had a Shetland pony growing up, and I always like horses,” Lerwill said. “I roped with my dad when I was little, but I always wanted a motorcycle.”

His parents realized he was pretty good at maneuvering the machine and began taking him to desert races. By the time he was 12, Lerwill was excelling at motocross.

“It just evolved from there,” he said.

Racing was a big part of Lerwill’s life for a long time. But at age 24, Lerwill had begun riding mountain bikes through the Utah trails instead of the motorized ones over the quick jumps and turns of motocross. Through all that, he found a new rush: Bullfighting. The rodeo arena was drawing him back. He went to a bullfighting school, and a new career was born.

“I got my PRCA card in 1993,” he said. “I started doing the comedy stuff in ’95.”

It didn’t take long for Lerwill to step up his game. He has become one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo, and there’s good reason.

“People just love to watch Troy, because he’s that good,” Carr said. “He can bring people to your rodeo to see what he can do; that’s a true entertainer.”

For Lerwill, life is about reaching out to people and sharing his passion for the rodeo way of life. He may go about it in different terms than most cowboys, but there is a distinct passion involved in everything he does.

“I really don’t want the Western heritage and lifestyle, and the tradition of cowboy to go away, and I want young people to enjoy it like I did,” Lerwill said. “Rodeo is a huge chunk of our history.

“Even though I take a motorcycle to a rodeo and do a stunt, I hope it makes fans of people and they come back.”

postheadericon Teen finds a Royal passion


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Clay Eckert appears to be the typical freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School.

He is active, possibly more than many 15-year-olds. Instead of spending his off time playing video games, the young man has opted for a little more work showing livestock. It’s paid off.

Clay Eckert

Clay Eckert

In the fall of 2013, Clay was part of the American Royal Calf Scramble, where students ages 10-14 have to opportunity to catch and halter a young heifer during the Royal’s ProRodeo. He was one of the winners, earning a $1,250 voucher to purchase a heifer of his choosing in order to start a beef operation.

“I’ve learned so much, from taking care of things to how to be responsible,” said Clay, who also competes in football, basketball and track for the Salthawks. “I’m so involved with things I can’t get into trouble.”

But he isn’t a farm kid who was raised around agriculture. He’s chosen to follow a family tradition, even though it means traveling 30 minutes three to four days a week to neighboring McPherson County to the Goering Farm, where Greg, Tammy, Taylor and Trenton Goering have been instrumental in Clay’s passion for raising livestock. Taylor Goering has shown at the American Royal and has served as Clay’s mentor.

“Taylor and her family have helped me so much with everything,” Clay said. “I was, and still am very lucky to get hooked up with them.”

So did that American Royal voucher. Clay raised his heifer, then showed her during the 2014 American Royal Calf Scramble Show. The animal was named the supreme heifer, and Clay was the champion senior showman among his Calf Scramble peers.

“About two weeks ago, which is the whole purpose of the program, my heifer had her first calf, so it’s going back into the herd,” he said.

The young man began the lifestyle by following in the footsteps of his father, Bret Eckert, a longtime track coach at Hutch High who still teaches and is an assistant coach for the football program.

“I started because my dad showed sheep,” Clay said. “I won sheep showmanship, and I got to be in the round-robin, so I got to work with cows.”

The progression has been thorough and award-winning. Not many can claim to such a prestigious title from the American Royal, one of the largest and best known livestock shows in the United States.

But that, in essence, is what the Royal is about. Over the course of each year, the association provides more than $1.4 million in support of youth and agriculture. By being involved in the Calf Scramble, Clay has taken advantage of the opportunities.

“My experience with the American Royal has helped me in many ways,” he said. “It’s helped me get to know so many great people, and I’m learning new things every day.

“You have to work for what you get. It’s hard to do school and sports and showing, but it’s what I choose to do so I try to make it work.”

postheadericon Herl, Miller win at Kansas State

ALVA, Okla. – Laine Herl was dominant in his return to Kansas this past weekend.

Herl, of Goodland, Kan., won the steer wrestling championship at the Kansas State University Rodeo in Manhattan, Kan., taking the top prize among four Northwestern Oklahoma State University bulldoggers in the final round.

Northwestern-Logo-200“I drew a good steer in the first round and was 4.0,” Herl said. “I came back and had a steer that ran a little more and was 4.4.”

It paid off well. The Kansas cowboy finished second in the first round to teammate Tyler Batie, who scored a 3.8-second run to win the opener. He shared the fastest time in the short round with Denver Berry of Connors (Okla.) State College. His two-run time of 8.4 seconds was nearly a second faster than Berry, the runner-up.

“I just need to keep throwing them down, draw good and make the best run possible,” Herl said. “I want to make every short-go and make a run at the college finals.”

He transferred to Northwestern from Western Oklahoma State College, and he’s found the Alva campus to his liking. He now has the tutelage of coach Stockton Graves, a Northwestern alumnus who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo seven times, and Kody Woodward, also a winning bulldogger.

“There’s nobody better to practice with,” Herl said of the coaching staff. “They’ve been there and done that. They know every situation to help you, the little things to make you better.”

Herl and Batie were joined in the short round by fellow steer wrestlers Steven Culling and James Struxness and heelers Dustin Searcy and William Whayne. Searcy, roping with Western Oklahoma’s Hunter Munsell, won the first round with a 5.4-second run.

The Northwestern women were led by goat-tier Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., who shared the K-State victory with Shelby Whiting of Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

“My first run was kind of sloppy, but I got through it and got to another one,” said Miller, who shared identical scores with Whiting all weekend; both women had 6.2-second runs to finish out of the placing in the opening round, then were 6.0 to share the short-round and average victories. “In the short round, I just made another solid run.”

She earned 110 points in Manhattan and moved into the lead in the Central Plains Region goat-tying standings. She was joined in the short round by fellow goat-tier Karley Kile, whose 5.6 was good enough for second place in the opening round; breakaway roper Elli Price, who placed third; and barrel racers Shea Ransome and Kelsey Driggers. Driggers won the first round with a 12.00-second run, but Ransome finished second in the average.

“I feel like we (as a team) are pretty stacked up, especially in goat-tying,” Miller said, noting that the Rangers women lead the region standings with five events remaining in the season. “We’ve got good ropers and good barrel horses, so I feel like we could definitely win the region.”

postheadericon Smith ready to wrestle for $1 million

Garrett Smith has overcome a lack of size to qualify for the $1 million prize at The American, set for 2 p.m. Sunday on RFD-TV. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Garrett Smith has overcome a lack of size to qualify for the $1 million prize at The American, set for 2 p.m. Sunday on RFD-TV. (CHYANNE ANGELL FLINDERS PHOTO)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Garrett Smith has a million reasons to be excited about his spot in The American.

The one-day rodeo – set for 2 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington – will offers a $2 million purse, of which half will go to one of just a handful of qualifiers. That’s where Smith comes into the picture.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Smith, 19, of Rexburg, Idaho, who secured his spot in The American this past weekend by finishing among the top six steer wrestlers at the semifinals in Fort Worth, Texas. “I honestly never thought I’d get to run two steers for a million dollars.”

It’s quite an accomplishment, especially for the all-around cowboy who is 5-foot-9 and weighs about 155 pounds. He’s considerably smaller than most steer wrestlers, but he also spends a portion of his time riding bulls on the rodeo trail. Before finishing among the top 50 bull riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association last season, he was the only three-time all-around champion at the National High School Finals Rodeo.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith

“No one has really ridden bulls in my family, so I’ve taken that as my own event,” said Smith, whose older brother, Wyatt, was a steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this past December. “I just fell in love with bull riding. I went real hard last year. I started doing both events this year because Wyatt wanted me to travel with him.”

Garrett Smith’s plan is to be a two-event cowboy through late June, then he will decide which discipline he will focus on to close out the 2015 season. First, though, he has a life-changing opportunity before him as a bulldogger.

The American features 10 contestants in each event that finished among the top of their disciplines in 2014. In all but bull riding, which utilizes the top 10 from the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series, the automatic qualifiers were the top cowboys and cowgirls from ProRodeo. Seven earned exemptions.

The rest of the field is based on qualifiers, all of whom worked their way through a series of events nationwide. Only the top contestants from each of those events advanced to the semifinals last weekend, and only the top finishers from that competition moved on to Sunday. Only qualifiers have a shot at that $1 million purse. If one qualifier wins – like bareback rider Richmond Champion did last spring – then the entire purse is his. If multiple qualifiers win, the $1 million is divided equally among them.

That plays well into Garrett Smith’s hands. He doesn’t let his lack of size serve as a deterrent. As an example, he 65 pounds lighter than his brother and 80 pounds lighter than reigning world champion Luke Branquinho. That means Garrett Smith must have sound horsemanship and use proper technique every run.

“I’ve got to do more stuff correct,” Smith said. “I just focus on being sharp with everything I do. Wyatt can get away with stuff if he doesn’t do everything right because of his size. I can’t get away with that.”

Still, he takes all the lessons his brother offers. In fact, Wyatt Smith will be alongside little brother on the AT&T Stadium floor Sunday afternoon, serving as the hazer. It’s something the siblings have done for one another most of their lives. It happened on the biggest stage in rodeo this past December in Las Vegas.

Wyatt Smith was struggling at the NFR. After not placing in the money in the opening round, he failed to catch and throw down steers the next four nights and made a change prior to the sixth go-round: he moved Garrett to the hazing duties to finish out the NFR. Wyatt then posted a 3.6-second run in Round 6 to finish second and a 4.4 to place sixth in Round 7. He finished with $18,000 in NFR earnings.

“I’ve always hazed for him at practice and some of the smaller rodeos,” Garrett said of teaming with Wyatt. “It surprised me, but I just tried to do my job.

“There’s no way to explain the emotions I had. I went through about three pieces of gum from the time we started saddling horses until we backed in the box. It was breathtaking. You know you can’t mess up on your end.”

He didn’t. Most importantly, he took the lessons from that NFR experience and placed it firmly into his hands as an undersized bulldogger. In Fort Worth, he won $6,400, most of which he will use toward traveling expenses and entry fees. It’s the nature of the business for a rodeo cowboy.

Of course, he plans to splurge a little of it on a new PlayStation to help occupy his time on the rodeo trail as he and the rest of the Recking Crew travels tens of thousands of miles across the country chasing their dreams.

“We travel so much, and you need something to entertain you in the rig,” said Garrett, who said his parents, Lynn and Valorie, didn’t allow Wyatt, Garrett or brother Payson to have video games as youngsters. “We were pretty much outside all the time, going to rodeos with Dad or riding horses.

“I’m glad they didn’t let us have one. It’s dang sure a lot more fun to go ride horses.”

That mentality has paved the way to an unstoppable work ethic. The Smiths realize hard work pays off in rodeo. They also know it takes great support.

“I have to hand it to Idaho Project Filter for helping me get down the road and for helping all of Idaho stay off tobacco,” Garrett said. “It’s great to have them with us so we can teach people that smoking and chewing tobacco is not the Marlboro Man anymore.”

He carries a powerful message from one rodeo to another. He also has a boatload of talent and perseverance to make it work.

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to make the NFR in bull riding,” he said. “With The American, I’ve been practicing pretty hard in bulldogging to where when I get there I know I’m ready and able to go.”

postheadericon American Royal bridging a gap


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As urban life continues to spread, many perceive a disconnect between society and American agriculture.

But from where does our food come? How does it go from the farm to the grocery store? What does it take to get it from development to growth to harvest and onto the shelves?

AmericanRoyalKansas City-area students have more of an opportunity to learn that now than ever before, thanks to the American Royal. The charitable organization has developed the Neighborhood Schools Partnership, in which five institutions receive a $5,000 grant that will expose their students to a variety of educational and experimental programming designed to engage the students in the agriculture process.

“The role of the American Royal is current and crucial,” said John Mitchell Jr., chairman of the American Royal. “Our 116-year-old mission will remain intact. We will fulfill our old mission in new ways.”

The mission is to “promote and celebrate the excellence in agricultural progress and develop future generations of leaders through agrarian values, disciplines and expressions of skills.”

That’s where the partnership comes in. The American Royal has teamed with the Guadalupe Center School, Allen Village, Crossroads Academy Charter, Rosedale Elementary and Gordon Parks Charter; each school receives the grant. The funds also help cover the costs of transportation, costs and other expenses that come about through the process.

“We’re really excited to be a community partner and have the opportunity for our students to provide them with education and a background that they do not have a lot of prior knowledge or exposure to,” said Ali Bunten with Gordon Parks. “This is an opportunity to learn where the food comes from and really expanding their understanding and their vocabulary.”

She said students have participated in the Children’s Agriculture Learning Festival Days, a two-day, interactive agriculture festival centered around the dairy industry.

“I believe the kids learn an awareness and maybe a whole other life that they might not have known about,” Bunten said. “There are occupations and opportunities in the agricultural world.”

It’s a learning process, and because of the American Royal, Kansas City students are getting that education.

postheadericon ‘Elite’ association established in rodeo

Some of the most popular contestants on the rodeo trail have thrown their hats into another ring.

The Elite Rodeo Association announced itself Monday, with considerable concentration through social media. The ERA is “an innovative new rodeo corporation created and owned by the top rodeo athletes in the world,” the statement read.

ERA-Rodeo-LogoA group of contestants was in Austin, Texas, Monday for the introduction of Texas State House of Representatives bill 1440 for consideration of having the ERA world championship event in Dallas. The contestants were all-around champion Trevor Brazile, barrel racer Charmayne James, tie-down ropers Tuf Cooper and Fred Whitfield, bareback rider Bobby Mote and team ropers Clay Tryan, Jade Corkill and Patrick Smith.

The release states the ERA is owned by 55 contestants, 42 of which are world champions. Though the ownership includes existing top cowboys and cowgirls, the release states there is hope for aspiring elite athletes to participate in and earn ownership.

The association “plans to work in cooperation with existing rodeo venues and sports arenas across North America to create an exciting and sought after tour,” the release states.

“By introducing a unique concept like the ERA, it is our hope to increase the awareness of the sport of rodeo on a national stage” said Brazile, a 21­‐time world champion and ERA board member. “Enhancing the sport of professional rodeo and building something greater for the future generations of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls is the goal of the ERA. We look forward to working with the entire rodeo industry.”

The seven-member board will consist of three representatives each from roughstock events and timed events and will include one administrative person. The ERA will produce a 15-event regular-season tour beginning in 2016 with all to be broadcast on a national television network, the release states. It will conclude with a five-day championship.

postheadericon NFR legacy strong in Guymon

GUYMON, Okla. – There is a powerful rodeo legacy in Texas County, Okla.

It might be the vast grasslands or the Western heritage that encompasses the landscape. It might be that there is a terrific proving ground just miles away from the county seat, at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

Cort Scheer

Cort Scheer

The reality, though, is that this vast land is home to many of the greatest cowboys who have ever made a living on the rodeo trail. Those that still compete are already making their plans to return home for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“I love that rodeo,” said Cort Scheer, the 2014 Reserve World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider from Elsmere, Neb. “I’ve never won it, but that’s on the bucket list. In fact, it’s closer to the top of the bucket list. It’s pretty much a hometown rodeo.”

Scheer is a four-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and is one of five men who competed in Las Vegas this past December with ties to the area. He was joined by Taos Muncy, Tyler Corrington, Joe Frost and Trevor Brazile.

Trevor Brazile

Trevor Brazile

Brazile, the 21-time world champion who earned steer roping and all-around gold buckles in 2014, grew up near Gruver, Texas, just south of Guymon. He is the King of the Cowboys with world titles in three of four roping disciplines and a record 12 all-around championships. In Vegas, Brazile won more than $191,000 in team roping and tie-down roping.

Now living in Decatur, Texas, he is a multi-time Pioneer Days Rodeo champion. That’s one of a couple of comparisons he shares with Muncy, a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider from Corona, N.M. While a sophomore at Panhandle State, Muncy won the college bronc riding championship, then followed it up in December with the world title.

Joe Frost

Joe Frost

He added another championship in 2011. His run in 2014 was worth a sixth-place finish. He is one of just three men to have won a college championship and a world championship in the same discipline in the same calendar year, joining all-around titlist Ty Murray and bull rider Matt Austin.

Frost had a chance at that run. As a junior at Panhandle State, he won the college bull riding title, then qualified for the NFR. From Randlett, Utah, he pocketed nearly $105,000, winning two go-rounds and finishing second in the average. He also finished as the Reserve World Champion.

Corrington is from Hastings, Minn., but now lives near Gruver. He earned more than $26,000 in Las Vegas and finished 11th in the world standings. His traveling partner, Scheer, had a big payday in the City of Lights, cashing in for more than $93,000. He won the opening round and finished second in the average.

Now they’re eyes are set on Texas County the first weekend in May. For Scheer, he’ll carry on a strong legacy that comes with being a Panhandle State rodeo team alumnus.

“With that, you’ve got motivation and pressure,” he said. “You want to make them all proud. I don’t know if I’ll ever do what they did, but I’m dang sure going to try.”

That’s quite a quest. In all, cowboys with ties to the Oklahoma Panhandle own 12 gold buckles: saddle bronc riders Billy Etbauer (5), Robert Etbauer (2), Muncy (2), Tom Reeves and Jeff Willert, and team roping heeler Jhett Johnson.

“It’s an honor to ride in front of those guys,” Scheer said. “Guymon is made for bronc riding. A lot of guys say it’s South Dakota, but after the Etbauers moved down here from there, this is bronc riding territory. There are a lot of old guys around this area that rode broncs and rode them right.

“There ain’t no sugar-coating going on around here. You have a lot of world champions on the back of the bucking chutes. You can just get better because of the level of competition.”

postheadericon Griffin, Pottmeyer race to RNCFR

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written for Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It appears in the February edition of the magazine.


When Sarah Griffin looks down at her No. 1 barrel horse, she sees more than the beautiful black mane.

“He’s such an amazing horse,” Griffin said of Dash N Sparks, a 19-year-old black gelding out of Savanah Hit Song by Dash For Perks. “People know him everywhere. It’s unreal that he’s in my barn. I still wake up and can’t believe I own Dash N Sparks.”

It’s a good thing she does. Even though she rodeos only part time – “I went to the minimum number of rodeos you could go to in order to qualify for the (Ram First Frontier) Circuit Finals,” she said – she took advantage of the opportunity Jan. 15-17 in Harrisburg, Pa., by winning the average championship and earning the automatic qualification to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

WPRA-logo“I went in third in the standings, a little over $3,000 behind Alicia Pottmeyer,” said Griffin, of Buffalo, N.Y. “I knew if I wanted to go to Kissimmee (Fla.), I had to win the average. I knew trying to win the year-end title would be very hard. I just focused on making three solid runs, and I did.”

She and Sparky rounded the cloverleaf pattern in a three-run cumulative time of 43.01 seconds, 35-100ths of a second ahead of runner-up Jennifer Oberg. Griffin also won the first two go-rounds and finished second in the final, pocketing nearly $5,300 in the process.

“To be able to qualify for the RNCFR is a great opportunity,” she said. “We don’t have those types of events up here. It’s very gratifying to know that I have an opportunity to compete against the best in the country.

She also will showcase her great gelding, which she acquired three years ago.

“He was trained by Bo Hill,” Griffin said, referring to the well-known trainer. “He’s very quirky. He’s very high maintenance. He has to get to know you, and he doesn’t like a lot of change.

“We hit it off immediately. I placed at one of the very best barrel racings I went to. It’s almost like he knows who he is. I just think he throws out that kind of attitude. He’s one of the greats.”

A strong ego seems to work in Sparky’s favor.

“He loves the attention in a way; it’s very bizarre,” she said. “Everybody that’s ridden says it’s like a crazy ride. He runs so hard and uses his whole body. It’s wild, but it’s so fast. It’s not smooth. He’s like a sports car.”

Griffin grew up in New York, and she annually attended the rodeo in Attica, N.Y., with her father. That’s where she first noticed affection for barrel racing. She was in the sixth grade when she started running but didn’t start rodeoing until she got to college at the University of Tennessee-Martin, where she qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo.

This past September, she married Tom Griffin. Now she leans on her husband for that support.

“It’s not easy, because I do work full time,” she said. “When anybody does something really good, they make it look so easy. I think it’s so amazing to be able to communicate with a horse. It’s a constant challenge for me, and it gives me the drive to do it well.

“My husband is an amazing support to me. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without him. I owe a lot of my success to him.”

While Griffin had the lion’s share of success in Harrisburg, Pottmeyer had enough gusto to hold on to the year-end championship. Pottmeyer and her horse, Nick Of Shine, placed in two of three go-rounds and finished third in the average. She earned $2,800 maintain her spot atop the standings and join Griffin in Kissimmee in March.

“It’s pretty surreal,” said Pottmeyer, a 2014 rookie who leaned heavily on her horse, Nick, a 7-year-old sorrel gelding. “I had no idea it was even possible a year ago. I’d never been to a ProRodeo, so I was pretty intimidated.”

Once she got to work in the arena, the cowgirl didn’t show any worry. She placed a lot throughout the year, all while traveling to the First Frontier Circuit events from her. She travels with her fiancé, Zach Kilgus, a team roping header who won the circuit finals average title with Justin Yost.

“I’ve been riding horses as long as I can remember,” Pottmeyer said. “I grew up team roping. I’ve been on rope horses my whole life. I didn’t take barrels real serious until later.”

It’s a good thing she did, because she has something special in the little red gelding. which stands just 14.1 hands tall.

“He’s really little, but he has a huge attitude,” she said of Nick. “He makes the exact same run every time. I can count on one hand the number of barrels I’ve hit on him. He handles any kind of ground. He runs harder the madder he is. If he’s in a good mood and being lazy, I know he’s not going to run very fast.”

Nick ran fast to earn the trip to Florida, and she’ll make the trek with her fiancé.

“That was my biggest goal,” said Pottmeyer, who works full time as an oil and gas abstractor. “It was my fiancé’s goal, too. It’s a big deal to both of us. We might not get to do this very often.

“We live out of the circuit, and it takes eight hours for us to get to Cowtown (in Pilesgrove, N.J.), so it’s 16 hours round trip.”

Still, she finds the time to make the trips worth it.

“It’s an addiction; it’s a way of life,” she said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Nor should she.

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