By Jolee Jordan
Kissimmee, Florida—Four-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi may have gapped the field during the opening round of the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) but it’s Prairie Circuit cowgirl Emily Miller who collected the most dough during the opening two rounds of the 2016 RNCFR held at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla.
Miller finished second to Cervi in go round one and came back during the Saturday matinee performance on April 9 to win go round two.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be here,” said Miller after her opening run on Friday. Miller finished second in the 2015 Prairie Circuit standings but got a last minute invite to come to Florida when champ Kim Couch was unable to compete.
On Saturday, Miller and her gelding Pipewrench made another exciting trip through the pattern, again tipping the second barrel precariously—but not knocking it over—en route to a fast run of 15.71 seconds. Miller finished second to Cervi in the two-head average with 31.57 seconds to run her earnings thus far out to an event best $15,548.
Cervi and her horse Atlas finished fourth in the second go round with a time of 15.86 seconds to clinch the average win with a two-head time of 31.44 seconds. She has won $14,612 already in Florida.
The circuit system is the backbone of pro rodeo, the place where the majority of members compete. The nation is divided into 12 circuits, each with its own circuit finals rodeo. The winner of those rodeos along with the circuit’s year end title advance to compete in the RNCFR.
All 24 ladies competed in two go rounds and now the field has been pared down to the top eight from the average. Those final eight will compete on Sunday, April 10 in the semi-finals with all previous times wiped away. The four fastest move to the finals, also held in Sunday’s perf, and compete again in a sudden death round for the national title.
The champion here will receive a ton of loot from pro rodeo’s top sponsors including a $20,000 voucher toward a new RAM vehicle, a Polaris RANGER UTV, a pair of Justin exotic boots, a new Cactus Saddle, and a buckle from Montana Silversmiths. All those awards are in addition to the possibility of winning nearly $7,500 per round on Sunday thanks to the partners in Kissimmee which include Osceola County and Experience Kissimmee.
Ivy Conrado continued her hot streak, winning second in the second round with her time of 15.77 seconds and third in the average. Conrado is currently second in the WPRA World standings, well on the way to her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and has won $8,992 in Kissimmee.
Great Lakes Circuit Champ Natalie Foutch bounced back from a barrel penalty in round one to win a check for third in round two. Her time of 15.84 seconds came aboard her palomino stand out, Orville.
While Miller, Cervi, Conrado and Foutch all competed in the matinee perf, it was 2015 College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) Champ Callahan Crossley and 2015 Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo Champ Andrea Busby who topped the night performance, picking up a tie for fifth and sixth in the second go round. Both cowgirls stopped the clock in 15.91 seconds.
Crossley used the fast run to punch her ticket to the final round, finishing in a tie with Kristine Knauf for fifth and sixth in the average. Knauf picked up a check in go round one and was one out of the money in go two.
Sarah Kieckhefer was fourth in the average and has won $5,620 while balancing time in the arena with time at Disney World with four year old daughter, Kody, and husband Rick.
Columbia River Circuit Champ Pam Capper is the only one of the four cowgirls who competed in the finals here a year ago to make the trip to Florida again in 2016. She and her mare Jesse have proven solid, posting two 16.0’s to make another trip to the semi-finals this year. She finished seventh in the average.
The final spot in the semi-finals went to First Frontier Circuit cowgirl Nicole Yost and her gelding Peso. Yost finished eighth in the average, just one one-hundredth of a second ahead of Kelly Tovar.
The semi-finals field is a microcosm of the WPRA’s membership as a whole, ranging from the WPRA’s winningest barrel racer, $3 million cowgirl Sherry Cervi to weekend warriors like Yost and Miller who make the circuit system and the RNCFR their ultimate goal while balancing other concerns like school, family and jobs.
Cervi is the only former RNCFR champ in a field split evenly between RNCFR rookies and those with previous experience. Miller, Conrado, Crossley and Knauf are making their inaugural appearances here.
The Wrangler Network is live streaming lives scoring on Sunday from the RNCFR at www.wranglernetwork.com. All action is being broadcast on Pro Rodeo Live on SiriusXM 147 and www.prorodeolive.com. The final round begins at 2:30 P.M. E.T.
For more information, visit www.rncfr.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Emily Miller, Namgis D 35, 15.71 seconds, $6,182
Ivy Conrado, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 15.77, $4,683
Natalie Foutch, Maggies Moon Fire, 15.84, $3,372
Sherry Cervi, Atlas Peak, 15.86, $2,248
(tie) Callahan Crossley, Brownie Bi Bogie, and Andrea Busby, Kellies Chick, 15.91, $1,124
1. Cervi, 31.44 seconds on two head, $6,182
2. Miller, 31.57, $4,683
3. Conrado, 31.72, $3,372
4. Sarah Kieckhefer, Cruisen Okey Dokey, 31.96, $2,248
5/6. (tie) Crossley and Kristine Knauf, French Bogie on Deck, 31.97, $1,124
7. Pam Capper, Sheza Smooth Flight, 32.06
8. Nicole Yost, Red Hot Peso, 32.19
Total Money Won
Cally Thomas, $1,311