By Jolee Jordan
Ellensburg, Washington—Fans who clicked on the Results tab on wpra.com following the Labor Day weekend may have thought they accidentally hit the button for the Archive page.
That’s because the 2017 results for the Ellensburg Rodeo looked a whole lot like the 2016 results.
California cowgirl Nellie Miller won the first go and the average here a year ago and did one better in 2017, winning the first go, short go and average, bettering her three run average time by nearly half a second.
After making her first summer rodeo road trip with her roan mare Sister in 2016, Miller came to the central Washington community of Ellensburg with an outside shot at making the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) even though she hadn’t been to half as many rodeos as many of the cowgirls around her on the bubble.
Though she finished the 2016 season 19th, the confidence gained in Sister’s first full rodeo season, along with the big Ellensburg win, propelled Miller through the winter and spring and she returned to Ellensburg with her position in Las Vegas firmly locked up this time around.
Already ranked third in the WPRA World standings, Miller had been enjoying a restful August with lots of down time at her Cottonwood home when she came back to Ellensburg for the 2017 edition of their annual rodeo.
Set up with two full go rounds and a finals, the first go was held during the slack on August 31. Miller and Sister won the go with a smoking run of 17.15 seconds. The top 36 cowgirls based on their first go times were split into the three performances while the remainder of the entries ran their second round in the slack.
At the conclusion of the third performance on Sunday, September 3, the field was narrowed to the fastest 12 on two runs to run in the Labor Day finals for the biggest chunk of the $23,000 committee added purse.
Bubble cowgirl Jana Bean made a big move in the second round, running a 17.14 aboard her gelding Chick to win that round. Idaho cowgirl Darby Fox actually led the field into the finals after finishing second in both long rounds.
In 2016, the three rounds of the rodeo were won by Miller, Fox and Bean, in that order with Miller winning the average and Bean and Fox behind in second and third, respectively. Apparently past success is a great indicator of future success inside the Ellensburg Rodeo Arena as half the 2017 finalists were also here a year ago.
This year belonged even more completely to Miller, though, as Sister dashed her way to the rodeo’s best time in the Monday finals with a run of 17.02 seconds. Her three-run average of 51.48 seconds was two tenths ahead of Fox while Bean finished third this time around.
Photo By Roseanna Sales
“What a feeling to come back and win the title two years in a row,” Miller posted to her Facebook page. “I believe we can say Sister loves Ellensburg. Thanks to my sponsors, family, friends, and fans that have been supporting me. We are headed home to take a little break and to see the girls. Thanks to Ty and Stevi Hillman for the video and helping take care of Sister.”
Miller added $9,237 to her bankroll while in Washington. She has earned more than $127,000 this season, almost all of it aboard Sister.
Fox won $8,088 for the weekend and Bean helped her crusade for a fourth straight WNFR with $4,837 in Ellensburg cash.
Meanwhile, the Ellensburg Rodeo also hosted a stop on the WPRA’s Columbia River Breakaway Roping Tour. Several PRCA/WPRA rodeos in the Northwest have held WPRA breakaway roping with great success this summer. In Ellensburg, Melody Hale took the average title with a time of 7.3 on two calves, earning $930. Hale is currently second in the Columbia River Circuit standings in a dog fight with leader Shelli Scrivner, who shared the long round win in Ellensburg with Jordan Minor and Coti Fuller.
The top 16 breakaway ropers make their next, and final, stop before the Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo at the famed Pendleton Round-Up on September 13-14.
On the Bubble
While there were absolutely no changes in positions inside the top 15 WPRA barrel racers, there was plenty of shuffling amongst the ladies on the wrong side of the bubble on the long Labor Day weekend. In addition to Ellensburg, barrel racers trekked from Walla Walla (Wash.) and Armstrong (British Columbia) to rodeos in Montana and Idaho chasing precious dollars to catapult themselves over the bubble.
Bean made the most noise; along with the third place finish in Ellensburg, she also won Plains (Mont.) and picked up checks in Pueblo (Colo.) and Dillon (Mont.) riding her horses Freedom and Girlfriend. Bean won $7,520 to move from 20th in the WPRA World standings to 16th. She now trails 15th ranked Ivy Conrado by $3,960.
Ironically, the cowgirls ran one one-hundredth of a second apart—with Conrado on top—at Fort Madison, Iowa to start the weekend of September 7-10. They are currently second and third following the first performance and slack at that rodeo.
Conrado has been holding her own and earned $4,087 over Labor Day on a pair of horses—J-Lo and Famey as she seeks a second straight trip to Las Vegas. Conrado won Filer (Idaho) and picked up checks in Pueblo and Blackfoot over the long weekend.
Four-time WPRA World Champ Sherry Cervi made a big move over Labor Day after earning checks in Filer, Ellensburg and Walla Walla worth $5,816. She moved from 19th to 17th, just over $4,700 from Conrado.
Cervi is currently second in Lewiston (Idaho), the third biggest payout of the coming weekend behind the Washington State Fair Rodeo in Puyallup and Fort Madison. Should she burst the bubble in the final month, she will break the record for most WNFR appearances by a WPRA barrel racer with her 20th Finals.
The biggest winner over the weekend was former Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo champion Carmel Wright. Wright picked up wins at Walla Walla and Dillion while earning big checks in Ellensburg, Filer, Plains and Blackfoot. Her weekend haul was $9,030, shooting her from 27th in the standings to still breathing at 21st, about $12,000 behind the ever changing 15th position.
Wright ran to second in the opening round in Puyallup on Thursday night and will make her second run Friday night with another batch of 12 ladies to compete. On Sunday, September 10, the top 12 from the average will compete in the short round.
All eyes will be on the tiny Puyallup arena on Saturday as the field includes WPRA World leader Tiany Schuster—and four of the top six ranked barrel racers—along with most of the bubble cowgirls: Conrado (15th), Bean (16th), Cervi (17th), Jackie Ganter (18th) and Ari-Anna Flynn (20th).
Conrado cleaned house here last season, winning $5,575.
On Monday, the Pendleton Round-Up kicks off with slack. The biggest remaining purse on the 2017 regular season schedule, Pendleton offers $35,000 in committee purse and has 103 entries. 2016 Champ Stevi Hillman won $11,391 on the Green Mile—Pendleton’s famous long course on the grass.
For more information on the Ellensburg Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.ellensburgrodeo.com. To follow the WPRA breakaway ropers of the Columbia River Circuit, find them on Facebook at Columbia River Circuit Breakaway Roping Updates.
And stay tuned to wpra.com as the exciting chase for Vegas continues!
Complete Ellensburg Results
1. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.15, $2,335
2. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 17.22, $2,002
3. Kelly Tovar, A Dash Ta Glamour, 17.38, $1,668
4. Stevi Hillman, MCM Imasharpguy, 17.42, $1,446
5. Brenda Mays, Judge My Fame, 17.43, $1,001
5. Tillar Murray, Dirty Dan Stinson, 17.43, $1,001
7. Sabra O’Quinn, Alive with Chaos, 17.45, $667
8. Emily Miller, 17.47, $445
9. Sydni Blanchard, Famous Heartbreaker, 17.48, $334
10. Teri Bangart, RCA Three Bugs Honor, 17.53, $222
1. Jana Bean, Dashing Klee, 17.14, $2,335
2. Fox, 17.15, $2,002
3. Miller, 17.31, $1,668
4. Sherry Cervi, Dash ta Diamonds, 17.41, $1,446
5. Christine Laughlin, Guys Six Pack To Go, 17.45, $1,112
6. Tiany Schuster, Jsyk Im Famous, 17.47, $890
7. Carmel Wright, Fortunes Last Xtrem, 17.48, $667
8. Bangart, 17.57, $445
9. Ericka Nelson, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 17.58, $278
9. Staci Trehern, French Rivierra, 17.58, $278
1. Miller, 17.02, $1,730
2. Bangart, 17.32, $1,081
2. Fox, 17.32, $1,081
4. Cervi, 17.33, $432
1. Miller, 51.48, $3,503
2. Fox, 51.69, $3,003
3. Bean, 52.23, $2,502
4. Cervi, 52.29, $2,169
5. Hillman, 52.38, $1,668
6. Bangart, 52.42, $1,335
7. Schuster, 52.76, $1,001
8. Laughlin, 52.80, $667
9. Blanchard, 52.98, $500
10. Murray, 53.60, $334