By Jolee Jordan
Kissimmee, Florida—Back in October, Sarah Kieckhefer was looking for a ride. Her good horse, Cruisen Okey Dokey had gotten hurt during the Fourth of July rodeo and the former Turquoise Circuit Champion was looking for something to carry her through the Ram Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo held annually in Las Cruces, N.M.
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) qualifier Jana Bean came to the rescue, offering Kieckhefer a ride aboard UR One Famous Rebel, Bean’s Dash Ta Fame stallion. Rico, as he is known around the barn, carried Kieckhefer to a second place finish at the Circuit Finals Rodeo, landing the cowgirl second in the year end standings as well and qualifying her to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) as Sherry Cervi won both categories in Las Cruces.
Now, it turns out that Bean will be trying to catch Kieckhefer in Florida. That’s because the Prescott, Ariz., cowgirl set the bar during the first performance of the RNCFR, setting the mark that Bean and 11 other cowgirls will be trying to beat during the conclusion of round one on Thursday night, April 8.
The RNCFR is back in Kissimmee, Fla., for the second year of a ten-year deal. Opening night of the five performance, tournament style rodeo was April 7. Only 24 contestants in each event qualify to compete, either by winning their circuit’s year-end title or winning their circuit finals rodeo.
All competitors will get two runs and the top eight after two rounds will advance to the semi-finals on Sunday, April 10. Once in the final performance, all previous times are wiped clean and the four fastest from the semi-finals move to the finals, held during the same performance. Running again in a sudden death format, the four make a final run for the championship.
Along with an incredible payoff, the winner in each event takes home a Polaris Ranger, a beautiful Montana Silversmiths belt buckle, a $20,000 voucher towards a new vehicle courtesy of title sponsor Ram, and all the bragging rights as National Champion. For the ladies of the WPRA, the winner also receives a berth into the 2016 Calgary Stampede.
Kieckhefer was back aboard Okey in Florida, fully recovered from his injuries and firing on all cylinders. The Arizona cowgirl was the first to run on Thursday night and she was one of only two to break the sixteen second mark during the performance.
Kieckhefer’s 15.90 held up against the 11 to follow with Texas Circuit Champ Kelly Tovar coming the closest at 15.92 seconds. Tovar is currently eighth in the WPRA World standings and her palomino gelding Edwin scampered through the pattern inside Silver Spurs Arena to land second in the round.
2006 WPRA World Champ and current WPRA World leader Mary Burger tied with Great Lakes Circuit cowgirl Kristine Knauf for third and fourth with their identical 16.00’s. Burger is fresh off a win at RodeoHouston with her gelding Mo and qualified to the RNCFR by winning the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals last fall.
Knauf rides Apollo and was the champion of her circuit finals, held in Louisville, Ky., in November.
The first go of the RNCFR concludes on Friday night—Patriot Night at the RNCFR—headlined by WNFR cowgirls Bean and Cervi, who recently crossed $3 million in career earnings in the WPRA. Also in the mix are current top ten cowgirls Ivy Conrado and Megan Swint along with Cally Thomas, Mary Jo Camera, Megan Lewis, Heather Knerr, Natalie Foutch, Pam Capper, Kim Couch and Jen Barrett.
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.
1st Perf Results
Sarah Kieckhefer, Cruisen Okey Dokey, 15.90 seconds
Kelly Tovar, BB French Fooledya, 15.92
Kristine Knauf, French Bogie on Deck/Mary Burger, Sadiesfamouslastwords, 16.00
Callahan Crossley, Brownie Bi Bogie, 16.06
Jennifer Mosely, Nu Doc Playboy, 16.13
Nicole Yost, Red Hot Peso, 16.16
Kaylee Gallino, JC Truly Bob, 16.30
Andrea Busby, Kellies Chick, 16.37
Jolee Lautaret-Jordan, Down Home Daisy, 16.38
Vickie Carter, Lil Pep of Gold, 21.24
Lindsay Kruse, Ninnekahs Guy, 21.32