By Jolee Jordan
Reno, Nevada — Weatherford, Texas cowgirl Stevi Hillman has been on a roll lately, claiming the win at three pro rodeos since mid-May, earning over $5,000 since Memorial Day to move up to 30th in the WPRA World standings.
But no win in her young pro career was bigger than the one she claimed on Saturday night, June 25, at the 97th Annual Reno Rodeo.
After 96 WPRA barrel racers had made two runs from the start of the rodeo on June 17, the field had been whittled down to the fastest 12 on two runs for the finals on Saturday. Hillman came into the finals ranked fifth on the strength of running the second fastest time of the rodeo on Thursday night aboard her gelding Cuatro Fame.
2014 Reno Rodeo Champ Christine Laughlin led the way into the final run with some distance on the field. Laughlin bagged the first go win aboard Six Pack and paired it with an eighth place finish in round two to carry a lead of just over a tenth into the final day of the Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West. Jane Melby was second, and the two-time Wrangler National Finalist had nearly two-tenths on third ranked Kimmie Wall.
A stop on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, the Reno Rodeo ran their finals from 12th to first with the excitement building with each runner.
PHOTO BY: Bob Stephens, ProRodeo.com
A handful of cowgirls inside the WPRA’s top 20 led the short go off but downed barrels hurt Morgan Breaux and Kelly Tovar’s chances of moving into the top 15.
Columbia River Circuit champ Pam Capper won third here a couple years ago and three was lucky again in 2016. Running third in the finals aboard Jesse, Capper went to the lead with her best run of the rodeo at 17.17 seconds. She is currently 14th in the standings.
A couple of cowgirls just outside the top 20 ran next and both stopped the clock with solid times. Katelyn McLeod and Toby put a 17.40 on the board, while Sammi Bessert and Tommy ran just behind them at 17.45.
After WNFR record holder Taylor Jacob had some troubles aboard Madonna, the Columbia River Circuit was up again, this time with current circuit leader Amberleigh Moore and her mare Paige. Ironically, Moore equaled Capper’s 17.17 second effort, moving to the lead of the average with the top five still to run. Interestingly, Moore was the only cowgirl to pick up a check in every payoff in Reno.
Things changed quickly when Hillman came to the plate. Cuatro, the nine year old son of legendary sire Dash Ta Fame, was literally rearing to go, adding a little air to his start but soon settling into a blistering fast run. The clock lit up at 17.08 for the Texas cowgirl, putting her to the average lead.
California cowgirl Kris Gadbois and Snoop came next on the draw; the pair already held the fastest time of the rodeo after winning the second go with a 17.04 ran on opening night. Snoop scampered through the pattern in 17.47 seconds, leaving Hillman, Moore and Capper on top.
Wilderness Circuit cowgirl Kimmie Wall came running with her mare Foxy and the dynamic duo swallowed up the pattern at the Reno Livestock Events Center. Her time of 17.19 seconds fell just five one-hundredths of a second short of catching Hillman for the title but will help Wall take the lead in the circuit as well as the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour standings, and keep her firmly inside the top 10 of the WPRA World standings.
Though they came in with time to spare, both Melby and Laughlin needed quick runs to match or better Hillman’s effort. Unfortunately, both cowgirls would clip the first barrel. The penalties dashed Laughlin’s hope of winning a second set of the coveted Reno spurs given to the champion.
For her part, Hillman wiped away tears as she accepted the Reno Rodeo spurs in the arena just moments later.
“This is truly a dream come true,” Hillman posted to her Facebook after the win, thanking Jason and Melissa Mouton for their support. “I am Speechless..... what a whirlwind of a night, I am beyond blessed with this animal.”
Hillman also congratulated her fellow finalists, noting how tough the competition had been. In fact, of the 12 finalists, only Melby and Laughlin were not among the top 50 in the WPRA World standings currently.
Hillman banked $10,025 for her three runs in Reno, enough to move her close to the top 20 in the WPRA World standings as the lucrative Fourth of July run begins Monday.
“Thank you to everyone else for all the kind words of encouragement. It takes an army to be successful at this and I sure have one awesome army!” Hillman continued on Facebook. “Thank you to my family for pushing me to follow my dreams.”
More information on the Reno Rodeo can be found on-line at www.renorodeo.com.
1. Christine Laughlin, Guys Six Pack to Go, 17.11, $3,236
2. Jane Melby, Brookstone Jo, 17.41, $2,774
3. Sherry Cervi, Dash ta Diamonds, 17.44, $2,157
4. Pam Capper, Sheza Smooth Flight, 17.44, $2,157
5. Amber Leigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 17.46, $1,541
6. Cayla Melby, Shameon U, 17.47, $1,233
7. Kelly Tovar, BB French Fooledya, 17.49, $771
8. Morgan Breaux, SS Streakers R Us, 17.49, $771
9. Kellie Collier, Streakin Easy April, 17.50, $462
10. Vickie Carter, Lil Pep of Gold, 17.51, $154
11. Sammie Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 17.51, $154
1. Kris Gadbois, CRCS Regaldash, 17.04, $3,236
2. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 17.06, $2,774
3. Jane Melby, 17.13, $2,312
4. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 17.17, $1,772
5. Kimmie Wall, TKW Bullys Famous Fox, 17.17, $1,772
6. Taylor Jacob, Honor Thy Frenchman, 17.18, $1,233
7. Katelyn McLeod, Apt to Be Special, 17.25, $925
8. Laughlin, 17.28, $616
9. Moore, 17.33, $462
10. Bessert, 17.34, $308
1. Hillman, 17.08, $2,397
2. Moore, 17.17, $1,498
3. Capper, 17.17, $1,498
4. Wall, 17.19, $599
5. McLeod, 17.40
6. Bessert, 17.45
7. Gadbois, 17.47
8. Jacob, Sissy B Gold, 18.98
9. Breaux, 22.48
10. Melby, 22.54
11. Tovar, 23.78
12. Laughlin, 27.17
1. Hillman, 51.84, $4,854
2. Wall, 51.89, $4,161
3. Moore, 51.96, $3,467
4. Capper, 52.13, $3,005
5. Gadbois, 52.21, $2,312
6. Bessert, 52.30, $1,849
7. McLeod, 52.36, $1,387
8. Jacob, 53.78, $925
9. Jane Melby, 57.08, $693
10. Breaux, 57.47, $462
Total Money Won
Jane Melby, $5,779
Cayla Melby/Breaux, $1,233