By Kristen M. White
Nellie Miller certainly never planned to be in the northwest during late summer, or to be making a run at all the major fall rodeos this year. Of course she never imagined she’d have the chance to make the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this year either – but sometimes things change.
And that’s exactly where Miller’s at, after having a summer to remember. She’s currently 18th in the world standings, on the bubble with a shot to make the NFR, thanks to a continued string of success. The latest came in Ellensburg, Wash., where she won the three-run average by almost half a second.
“My horse was really consistent in that arena, it seemed to fit her well,” Miller said. “She’s been good everywhere, in all different arenas – I can’t complain about that!”
Miller and her horse, Rafter W Minnie Reba – or Sister – started strong by winning the first round in Ellensburg, and never looked back. Miller’s time of 17.23 seconds in that round set the bar high, and even though she was just the fourth runner out, no one ever caught her.
“She made a good run and I was pretty confident in it, but I still didn’t think it would probably win the round because it was so early,” Miller said. “There are so many good horses, it’s hard to win first.”
In the second round, Miller was again up fairly early, and this time Darby Fox won the round in 17.20 seconds, but Miller was behind her in 17.42 seconds for second place.
“Before the finals I had a lot of confidence, because Sister had worked so well in the first two rounds, and she seems to get better the more I run her,” Miller said.
Crews hand-raked the ground in between each run in the finals, which Miller said was very beneficial. She ran mid-pack, and clocked a time of 17.27 seconds, good enough for second again, behind Jana Bean’s rodeo-best run of 17.03 seconds.
Miller’s consistency was too much for anyone else to catch. She won the three-run average in 51.92 seconds, followed by Bean in 52.44 seconds and Fox in 52.49 seconds.
“I haven’t run in Ellensburg in probably six years, and they changed the ground this summer, so it was a lot different than the last time I was there. It really made it nice,” Miller said. “I’ve always liked the rodeo and I like coming up here – the weather is nice and it’s just fun. Plus, it’s always nice to win!”
Miller said her plans have definitely evolved through the summer as she’s made her presence felt at many rodeos.
PHOTO BY: Dan Hubbell
Miller was on a bit of a hiatus for the past few years with her two young daughters (now 4 and 1), but she said she knew this year 8-year-old Sister was ready to go harder. Combined with the fact that Miller’s recently retired mom can help watch Miller’s children on the road, she gave it a go this spring.
She found success at many rodeos this summer, including a big win in Salinas, Calif., and so she decided to keep entering and see where things led. The Cottonwood, Calif., cowgirl made sure she got in her count for the California Circuit so she can give the circuit finals a go in October, but as things continued to go well, she looked to expand her road trips.
“Ellensburg really boosted me up I think. Before this, it was kind of going to be a real long shot (to potentially make the NFR), but after this weekend …” Miller said. “Now I have to stay out and try for sure, because I’m pretty close and it’s worth a shot.”