By Jolee Lautaret
Reno, Nevada — It was just over a week ago, after claiming the championship at the Livermore Rodeo, that Jill Welsh said she couldn't wait to get to Reno.
Now, the whole world can see why.
Welsh competed on Tuesday, June 23 and literally blew the doors off the competition in the opening go round, held during the morning slack.
Welsh and her great gelding Custer posted a 16.88 second run, the fastest of the 2015 Reno Rodeo so far. In fact, she posted the first sub-seventeen second run in the first round here since 2011 when Robyn Herring's 16.98 first round run in the slack catapulted her to the Reno Rodeo Championship and the coveted silver spurs.
Welsh is looking to collect her first set of spurs this year and is well on her way after putting up a 17.04 in the Tuesday night performance. That time is currently third in the go round but her two-run total of 33.92 seconds jumped to the lead by just over three tenths.
Welsh had confidence coming into the rodeo as she has placed well here before and because she is riding a hot streak begun with a blistering run to win Livermore in her last out. She notes that her horse is one that won't get past a barrel so she looks for big, wide open pens like the Reno Livestock Events Center.
While some horses might give up some room, and thus time on the clock, with the fences so far from every barrel, it's just the set up the Arizona cowgirl likes for the very turny 2004 palomino son of PESI stallion Frenchmans Guy out of the Dash ta Fame mare Dashing to Fame.
After battling through two bouts with cancer in the last three years, Welsh is optimistic about her summer with Custer and it could begin with a Reno Rodeo Championship after the final round on Saturday, June 27.
The Tuesday set of WPRA barrel racers proved to be quite tough all around. Along with Welsh, current WPRA World number two, Sarah Rose McDonald slid into second in the second round with her sub-seventeen in the evening perf. McDonald's 16.98 is just four one-hundredths behind leader Kaley Bass. She moved to fifth in the average with 34.62 on two runs.
Former Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowgirl Sherrylynn Johnson moved to second in the opening go round with her fast run of 17.20 seconds. She is currently splitting ninth in the average with another former Wrangler NFR stand-out, Barbara Merrill, who also ran Tuesday.
South Dakota cowgirl Calyssa Thomas also had a good day on Tuesday, posting times of 17.36 and 17.28 to sit sixth and seventh in the rounds. She moved to sixth in the average, just behind McDonald and Monday's fastest cowgirl, Christina Richman.
Richman and rookie Katelyn McLeod lit up the rodeo on Monday night, stopping the clock at 17.19 and 17.16, respectively.
The Reno Rodeo has past the halfway point with just three sets of WPRA barrel racers left before the Championship Round. Wednesday's group includes local favorite, and Wrangler NFR qualifier, Lita Scott as well as the 2014 Reno Rodeo Champ, Christine Laughlin and perennial top 25 cowgirl Pam Capper, who finished third here a year ago.
For more information on the Reno Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.renorodeo.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Jill Welsh, French First Watch, 16.88 seconds
Sherrylynn Johnson, Leading Tradition, 17.20
Kassidy Dennison, Sierra Hall of Fame, 17.31
Kaley Bass, Wonders Cowboy Dan, 17.33
Barbara Merrill, Famous Jayda, 17.35
Callie DuPerier, Rare Dillion, 17.36
Calyssa Thomas, TRcashenbadger, 17.36
Ruth Haislip, Famous Scarlett, 17.39
Christina Richman, Xtrared, 17.42
Danna Whitford, 17.47
Sarah McDonald, Fame Fling N Bling, 16.98
Katelyn McLeod, Kellies Chick, 17.16
Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 17.29
Welsh, 33.92 seconds on two head
Katelyn McLeod, 34.93
Cervi, Atlas Peak, 34.98