By Ann Bleiker
While Team USA is setting records and winning medals in Rio at the Olympic Games, 2006 WPRA Barrel Racer Mary Burger is rewriting the WPRA record books here in the States with more to come in December at the Wrangler NFR. The latest record to fall was the Most Money Won Prior to the NFR. Lindsay Sears set that record in 2008 with $184,567. When the new world standings were released on Monday, August 8, Burger had collected $185,439 thus far in 2016 with roughly two months left in the regular season.
Burger surpassed Sears' record the first week of August with a host of rodeos she is very familiar with in the Prairie Circuit. As of August 1, Burger had amassed a total of $179,576 with huge wins from both Houston and Calgary. She needed just $4,992 to break the record.
Burger finished third in the second round of the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup with a 17.04-second run worth $1,718. She finished second at Iowa's Championship Rodeo in Sidney with a 17.65 adding $1,654. Her biggest check of the weekend would come at Kansas' Biggest Rodeo in Phillipsburg finishing second in a time of 16.97 worth $2,400, pushing her past Sears' record. She would add another $91 at the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo in Hill City, Kan., with a 10th place finish in a time of 17.11.
"I never dreamed this would happen and it is just unbelievable," stated Burger when she learned she had officially set the new record. "I am at a loss for words, really. I just wanted to win a little money this year and have fun with my horse."
Not one to pay attention to the records or worry about it, Burger said the first time she heard someone talk that she was close to Sears' record was in Cheyenne via social media.
"I don't pay attention to records like that," said Burger. "I just take one run at a time and try to win as much money as I can each time out."
It can sometimes be tough for rodeo contestants to juggle the chase for the NFR as well as the circuit title. For Burger her home circuit is the Prairie Circuit and as a resident in that circuit from Pauls Valley, Okla., she must compete at 15 rodeos to qualify for the Circuit Finals and the circuit title.
"I wasn't sure this year if I would be able to make my circuit count as I really wanted to go to Cheyenne, Spanish Fork (Utah) and Ogden (Utah), as I hadn't been there in a few years but that also meant missing a few rodeos," said Burger. "The first week of August, I was able to get back and hit several circuit rodeos helping both my circuit standings and world standings. I decided to turn-out of Abilene (Kan.) due to the schedule, so that I could get to Phillipsburg in a better position."
That decision was a successful one picking up $2,400, the biggest check of the week for Burger, who will turn 68 on August 18. However, don't expect Burger to sit at home now and wait for the NFR.
"I am entered this week at Lawton (Okla.) and Coffeyville (Kan.)," stated Burger. "Then I plan to go to Pueblo (Colo.) and Fort Madison (Iowa). My horse is just seven and he is sound and feeling good so there is no reason for me to sit at home and do nothing."
Sears still holds the highest single-year earnings record in the WPRA with $323,570 from 2008. Burger is positioning herself for a run at that record with the huge payout awaiting her in Las Vegas at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Dec. 1-10.