By Jolee Jordan
Kissimmee, Florida—Sherry Cervi tends to stand above any field of barrel racers in which she is placed, not only because of her height—towering above many of her fellow competitors at six feet plus—but also because of her stats.
Cervi is the WPRA’s all-time money leader; she just passed $3 million in career earnings a month ago while no one else in the Association’s history has yet to cross $2 million. She also has four WPRA World titles.
Cervi may have made the first rodeo trip of her career to the Sunshine State of Florida this week to compete in the 2016 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) but she was still standing tall amongst the field. Cervi has been to the RNCFR 12 times in her career, in every location in which it has been held, and she is the only WPRA barrel racer competing here this week who has won this rodeo. Her RNCFR Championship came in Pocatello, Idaho in 2000.
The RNCFR is the crown jewel of pro rodeo’s circuit system, a national championship designed for the weekend warriors of the sport. There are just two ladies in each circuit who qualify to compete at the RNCFR in Kissimmee, Fla., positions earned either by winning the circuit’s year-end title or the circuit finals rodeo average.
Competing during Patriot Night on Friday, April 8, Cervi was part of the second set of 12 ladies, representing the final runners of the first go round.
All 24 competitors will mapke two runs and the fastest eight in the two-head average move on to Sunday’s Championship Performance. The eight will make one run in the semi-finals and the four fastest advance to the final round. With the slate once again wiped clean, those four will make a final run for glory and the national title.
A nine-time Turquoise Circuit Champion, Cervi took a big step toward a second national championship with her run on Friday night. Back aboard the sorrel superstar Atlas Peak, Cervi stopped the clock at 15.58 seconds. Atlas is owned by WPRA World Champion Callie duPerier and her father, Trip, but has been in Cervi’s trailer since early last year.
Atlas and Cervi made noise winning the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo in February 2015 and Cervi used the son of the great Dash Ta Fame in rotation with her own World Champ, Stingray, during the summer run. Atlas was injured in late summer and was just returning to form in the weeks leading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) when he suffered a bout of colic that kept him out of competition until RodeoAustin in late March.
Cervi was glad to be back in the stirrups of the talented gelding and her smooth and flawless run inside Silver Spurs Arena on Friday landed her the go round win by nearly three full tenths of a second.
Also running on Friday night was last minute replacement Emily Miller. Miller hails from Weatherford, Okla., and received a call last Wednesday to fill a position left vacant when Prairie Circuit Champion Kim Couch was forced to turn out.
Miller took full advantage of the opportunity, posting a wild, crowd pleasing run of 15.86 seconds aboard her horse Pipewrench. The cowgirl will graduate later this spring with a degree in dental hygiene.
Thursday night leader Sarah Kieckhefer finished third in the go with Kelly Tovar landing fourth. Both fifth and sixth place, the final two money holes in the round, competed on Friday as well; Badlands Circuit Champ Calyssa Thomas rode her stallion TR Illuminator Cash, a full brother to Dolly, made famous in her WNFR trips with Jill Moody, to stop the clock at 15.94. WPRA World World No. 2 Ivy Conrado and CFour Tibbie Stinson rounded out the check winners with a 15.95 second run.
Round two begins on Saturday afternoon with Cervi, Miller, Thomas, Conrado and the rest of Friday night’s competitors and will conclude in the evening performance with Kieckhefer, Tovar and the rest of the field.
The Wrangler Network is live streaming all the action from the RNCFR at www.wranglernetwork.com. All action is also being broadcast on Pro Rodeo Live on SiriusXM 147 and www.prorodeolive.com.
For more information, visit www.rncfr.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Sherry Cervi, Atlas Peak, 15.58, $6,182
Emily Miller, Namgis D 35, 15.86, $4,683
Sarah Kieckhefer, Cruisen Okey Dokey, 15.90, $3,372
Kelly Tovar, BB French Fooledya, 15.92, $2,248
Cally Thomas, TR Illuminator Cash, 15.94, $1,311
Ivy Conrado, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 15.95, $937
Complete list of 2nd Performance results
Sherry Cervi, Atlas Peak, 15.58
Emily Miller, Namgis D 35, 15.86
Calyssa Thomas, TR Illuminator Cash, 15.94
Ivy Conrado, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 15.95
Pam Capper, Sheza Smooth Flight, 16.02
Mary Jo Camera, Fairlea Lucky Gun, 16.13
Megan Lewis, UX Vanilla Fame, 16.15
Heather Knerr, Sparkin Jetolena, 16.17
Jen Barrett, LR Designerwood, 16.30
Jana Bean, Ima Royal Design, 21.18
Natalie Foutch, Maggies Moon Fire, 21.25
Megan Swint, Bar Bee Stealing Sue, 25.93