By Jolee Lautaret-Jordan
Austin, Texas—During the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Michele McLeod had a special pair of earrings she wore. Riding her "back-up" horse Kellies Chick, aka Skye, McLeod posted the fastest time of the 2014 Wrangler NFR on her way to finishing fourth in the final WPRA World standings.
After winning her Group competition at Rodeo Austin's Ride for the Brand Cowboy Tournament™ and then following that win with a win in her Playoff Round, McLeod decided to crack out the silver Indian head jewelry once again for the Finals at the winter's final big stock show rodeo.
Turns out McLeod should probably wear them all the time.
Running against a tough field that included a four-time WPRA World Champ, three Wrangler NFR qualifiers and one of the top ranked cowgirls of the 2015 season, McLeod streaked to the victory. Again riding Skye, McLeod blew through the pattern inside the Travis County Expo Center in 15.21 seconds, the second fastest time of the entire rodeo.
"Slick is in the breeding barn," McLeod said, referring to her usual main mount, the great black stallion Slick by Design who carried her to her first Wrangler NFR in 2013. "Skye has been really good here in Austin. She likes this pen."
With the final round paycheck worth $7,520, McLeod stuffed $10,340 in total earnings into her pockets during Rodeo Austin.
Skye has easily proven her worth as one of the main mounts for Team McLeod which consists of Michele and daughters Katelyn and Lindsey (along with husband John and stepdaughter Jenna). Lindsey won the National High School Rodeo Finals in 2014 and Katelyn has ridden the talented mare by Darkelly and out of The Skye Chick to a great start as a rookie in the WPRA in 2015.
Owned by High Point Performance Horses (Charlie Cole and Jason Martin), Skye is filling in for Slick during the winter rodeos for Michele while Katelyn finishes up at college but don't expect a fight for the reins once summer comes.
"She will mostly run Skye," said the mom, adding that Katelyn has been traveling with her this winter to experience the different set-ups at the big winter rodeos. Katelyn graduates May 9. "She will go for the summer."
"I'm so blessed to have my girls with me. It makes it a lot of fun!"
Already ranked 46th in the current WPRA World standings, McLeod's name should pop up near the top 20 following the big win.
Rodeo Austin changed its format in 2015, trying out a tournament style rodeo similar to other big rodeos like Rodeo Houston and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Beginning with 80 cowgirls, each lady had one run in Group competition to try to advance to one of four Playoffs. The two fastest in each Playoff qualified to compete in the Finals on March 28.
McLeod needed the fast time to hold off the strong charge from fellow Texan Carley Richardson. Like McLeod, Richardson and Doda Flit, aka Radio, won both their Group and Playoff rounds to advance to the Finals. In fact, Richardson had posted the third best time following Group competition.
Richardson's 15.29 in the Finals came up a little shy of McLeod's mark but still earned the cowgirl $5,640 for the final run and $8,460 total for the rodeo, a nice little boost as the cowgirl making a run for her first Wrangler NFR berth.
Four-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi won third with a 15.36 while Romany Gordon took fourth with a 15.79. They won $3,760 and $1,880, respectively, in the Finals.
For more information and complete brackets, visit Rodeo Austin on-line at www.rodeoaustin.com.
Playoffs (Top two advance to finals):
1. Carley Richardson / 15.32 / $1,410
2. Britany Diaz / 15.33 / $940
3. Kyndal McCown / 15.35 / $705
4. Christine Laughlin / 15.55 / $470
1. Sherry Cervi / 15.31 / $1,410
2. Romany Gordon / 15.37 / $940
3. Lizzy Ehr / 15.45 / $705
4. Brooke Rix / 15.51 / $470
1. Michele McLeod / 15.43 / $1,410
2. Sabrina Ketchum / 15.61 / $940
3. Cassie Moseley / 15.70 / $705
4. Abby Pursifull / 15.81 / $470
1. Trula Churchill / 15.28 / $1,410
2. Alexa Lake / 15.33 / $940
3. Jaimie Hinton / 15.46 / $705
4. Sammi Bessert / 15.47 / $470
Name / Horse / Final Time / Total Money Won
Michele McLeod / Kellies Chick / 15.21 / $10,340
Carley Richardson / Doda Flit / 15.29 / $8,460
Sherry Cervi / MP Meter My Hay / 15.36 / $6,580
Romany Gordon / Ozzie (grade) / 15.79 / $2,820
Trula Churchill / A Streak of Rita / 15.91 / $1,880
Sabrina Ketchum / Marthas Six Shooter / 15.91 / $1,645
Britany Diaz / Dasher Dude / 20.71 / $1,645
Alexa Lake / Sure Down Dash / 25.38 / $1,645
Other Money Winners:
Brooke Rix / $1,880
Rachel Dice / $1,544
Liz Herrin, Kim Schulze, Kendra Dickson, Alicia Stockton, Jaime Hinton / $1,410 each
Kenna Squires / $1,275
Kyndal McCown / $1,175
Cassie Moseley / $1,125
Lizzy Ehr / $1,081
Sammi Bessert / $941
Abby Pursifull / $846
Chloe Hoovestal / $772
Shelby Herrmann, Megan Williams, Fallon Taylor, Stacey Grimes / $705 each
Nicole Laurence / $638
Teresa Turbeville / $516
Ivy Hurst, Taylor Jacob, Emily Efurd, Cheyenne Kelly, Christine Laughlin / $470 each
Callie DuPerier, Kelley Carrington / $423 each
Jana Riley / $412
C.J. Vondette, Lindsay Kruse, Martha Wright, Samantha Lyne, Kriss Griffin / $376 each
Kimmi Byler / $340