2016 Circuit Champions
By Ann Bleiker
Waco, Texas—The Ram Circuit Finals Rodeo season is in full swing with five out of 12 circuits complete and 10 contestants have punched their tickets to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., in April 2017.
The Turquoise Circuit kicked things off as they always do with great barrel racing competition. The biggest win of Lori Todd’s career was a complete surprise. The Willcox, Ariz., barrel racer had no idea that she had won the year-end title following the Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo, held Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Las Cruces, N.M. Todd wasn’t focused on the standings but instead was laser-focused on winning the rodeo held at the Southern New Mexico State Arena.
Photo by Peggy Gander
“I didn’t think I could do it,” Todd said. “I can’t believe it! I never look at the (year-end) standings. I was thinking about the average because that was in front of me.”
Money won at the circuit finals is added to year-long winnings and both an average and year-end champion are crowned at the circuit finals. Todd, who was leading the Turquoise Circuit heading into the finals, knew she was doing well in the year-end race, but didn’t “do the math” during the circuit finals to determine how much money she needed to win to stay in first place. She avoided looking at the standings or talking to anyone about them.
Being in a zone worked for Todd out of the gate. She swept the first and second rounds and appeared poised to claim both the average and year-end titles, but a mishap in the final round opened the door and four-time World Champion Sherry Cervi rode in and claimed the average.
Photo by Gene Hyder
With wins in the first and second rounds, Todd pocketed $3,572 and finished the year with $12,509. Cervi, of Marana, Ariz., posted three clean runs, including placing third in the first round and second in Rd. 2 to not only win the average, but leap from eighth to runner-up in the year-end race. Cervi, aboard Dash Ta Diamonds, aka, "Arson", collected nearly $5,000 at the circuit finals and wrapped up the year with $9,536 in circuit money.
The Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo is one Jana Griemsman has always wanted to win. The Peidmont, S.D., barrel racer nailed down the year-end and average titles in record fashion. She split the second round win with Nikki (Steffes) Hansen, then won the third and fourth rounds leading her to win the average. She was 55.86 seconds on four runs, and left Minot on Oct. 9, with checks totaling $8,435. Second place finisher was Hansen, who was 56.05 seconds.
Griemsman only entered 13 rodeos, and managed to finish the year with $25,228 won in the Badlands Circuit and win the year-end. Griemsman will be joined in Kissimmee by Hansen.
Kris Gadbois won the year-end title in California by a narrow victory after Nellie Miller turned in a phenomenal circuit finals performance.
Gadbois placed fourth in the first round to pick up a check for $480, which was indeed enough to cement her place as the year-end winner. Miller won $7,195, picking up a check every round and ultimately winning the three-run average in 52.85 seconds. Her big winnings gave her $22,825 for the season. Gadbois finished first by a very slim margin, totaling $22,932 in season earnings.
“Nellie really came out of the woodwork. She was awesome!” Gadbois said. “Every girl of the 12 made really good runs all weekend, so it was just really fun to watch.”
“I didn’t really think I could win enough there because Kris had such a big lead, so I was definitely going for the average,” Miller said. “And my horse always seems to do well when there are multiple rounds. She gets stronger each round and that’s what happened that weekend – faster and faster.”
The Prairie Circuit was contested on Oct. 20-22 in Duncan, Okla., and Tracy Nowlin captured the average title while Emily Miller used her second place average finish to outdistance Mary Burger for the year-end title. Nowlin of Nowata, Okla., won the average in a time of 48.36 seconds on three runs, while Miller of Weatherford, Okla., was 48.44. Miller finished the year with $19,516 to Burger's $19,056.
The Mountain States Circuit Finals wrapped up on Oct. 29 in Loveland, Colo., with Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi securing the average title in a total time of 44.39 seconds on three runs. Kathy Korell-Rach was second in a time of 44.79 seconds. Pozzi-Tonozzi won the first round in a time of 14.85 seconds, followed by a 14.60 to win the second round. She would finish fourth in the third round in a time of 14.94. Kim Schulze easily won the year-end title and punched her ticket to Kissimmee. She finished the year with $27,785 and was fourth in the average in a time of 45.08 seconds.
All money won this year at the Circuit Finals and the RNCFR counts towards the 2017 WPRA World Standings.
The Wilderness Circuit Finals will be Nov. 3-5, with the Columbia River Circuit Finals being held in Yakima, Wash., Nov. 4-5. Two circuit finals, the Southeastern and Great Lakes will be contested the weekend of Nov. 10-12. The final three circuit finals will be held after the Wrangler NFR - Texas (Dec. 29-31); First Frontier (Jan. 12-14), and Montana (Jan. 13-15).
Full coverage of each circuit finals can be seen in the Women's Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the Women's Professional Rodeo Association.