By Jolee Lautaret
Denver, CO — The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo has just one day left of preliminary competition prior to the championships being awarded on Sunday, January 25. One week has passed since the rodeo began its 10-day run but no one has passed current WPRA barrel racing leader Meghan Johnson.
Johnson and her mare Nellie Laveaux posted a two-run total of 30.39 seconds and, despite having 84 WPRA barrel racers take a run at her, she continues to lead the rodeo by four tenths of a second.
The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo invited 108 WPRA barrel racers, giving each contestant two full rounds of competition. They are racing for a share of the $35,250 added committee purse. The top 12 on two runs will return for the short round on Sunday.
During the sixth and seventh sets of 12 cowgirls, who competed on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 22-23, a couple of cowgirls gave themselves a chance to try and catch Johnson on Sunday.
In 2006 Layna Kight qualified for rodeo's Super Bowl, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and the cowgirl who hails from Florida always seem to be a contender with a top quality horse.
Early in the season this year, Kight is already ranked third in the WPRA World standings. Her new steed is Eyesa So Famous, a seven year old gelding she calls Cooper.
Kight has won over $10,000 already in 2015 and is looking solid to pick up some Denver cash as well. Kight was the fastest runner in the 12th perf on Thursday morning, posting a 15.44 second run that is currently fifth in the second go round.
Her two-run total of 31.20 seconds is hanging on for a short go berth so far, splitting ninth three ways with 2012 WPRA World Champ--and reigning Denver champion Mary Walker and Sammi Bessert.
Running in the 13th and 14th performances, Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, top Columbia River Circuit cowgirl Kathy Grimes fared even better than Kight. Grimes was the best in the 13th perf with her run of 15.41 seconds, good enough for fifth in the first round at the moment.
Grimes rides an eight year old black mare named KG Justiceweexpected whom she calls Issy.
"I raised her and she was my first embryo transfer endeavor," says Grimes, who won the Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo last November in Yakima, Wash.
"I trained her and she has excelled at futurities, derbies and in November, won our circuit finals average and qualified me for my first Ram National Circuit Finals!"
Grimes stayed consistent, turning in a 15.59 on her second run to land fourth in the average with a 31.00 on two runs. She will return on Sunday.
The 14th perf was won by Jill Tanner. The cowgirl who is part of the famous Cooper family from New Mexico posted a 15.49 second run to land in a split of eighth in the second go round.
Running in the same set, Colorado cowgirl Kelly Schnaufer scampered around the pattern inside the Denver Coliseum in 31.13 seconds to land eighth in the average.
In the Friday night perf, reigning Mountain States Circuit champion C.J. Vondette gave herself a chance at the finals with a run of 15.49, ninth in the first go round, but fastest of the eighth perf. She will run again on Saturday morning.
The preliminary rounds conclude on Saturday with three performances at 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The finals are Sunday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.
For more information on the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.nationalwestern.com and for continuing results, stay tuned to www.wpra.com.
1. Meghan Johnson, Nellie Laveaux, 15.25 seconds
2. Carlee Pierce, Streakin Easy April, 15.30
3. Shelby Janssen, Hot Playboy Chick, 15.37
4. Shelby Hermann, TS Doc San Lena, 15.39
5. Kathy Grimes, KG Justiceweexpected, 15.41
6/7. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, 15.43
6/7. Hope Sickler, 15.43
1.Johnson, 15.14 seconds
2. Lisa Lockhart, An Okie with Cash, 15.38
3/4. Hermann, 15.4
3/4. Kim Couch, Easy French Alibi, 15.40
5. Layna Kight, Eyesa So Famous, 15.44
6. Kali Jo Parker, Tuneful, 15.45
1. Johnson, 30.39 seconds on two runs
2. Hermann, 30.79
3. Lockhart, 30.93
4. Grimes, 31.00
5. Taylor, 31.04
6. Kelly Tovar, BB French Fooled Ya, 31.06
7. Couch, 31.10
8. Kelly Schnaufer, 31.13
9/10/11. Mary Walker, Perculatin, 31.20
9/10/11. Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 31.20
12. Natalie Bland, Texas War Jet, 31.21