By Jolee Lautaret
Denver, CO — Mexico State University student Meghan Johnson studies agricultural business in school but in her "other life" as a professional barrel racer, she has figured out how to make the business work in her favor inside the rodeo arena.
Johnson ran during the opening day of the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Friday, January 16, 2015. In fact, she was the first WPRA barrel racer of the 2015 edition of one of pro rodeo's lucrative winter stock show rodeos. Chasing the cans around the Denver Coliseum aboard her great mare Nellie Laveaux in both a matinee and evening performance on Friday, Johnson ran times of 15.25 and 15.14 seconds, respectively, in her two go rounds.
With the rodeo now nearly half over, no one has touched Johnson atop the leaderboard in either go round. Her two round time of 30.39 seconds is a full four tenths ahead of second ranked Shelby Hermann, the Stephenville, Texas cowgirl who ran in the same set as Johnson.
Johnson grew up in Deming, N.M., before moving east down I-10 to attend school in Las Cruces, and trains horses along with her mom Jody. Jody trained Nellie and Meghan finished the mare. Now 13 years old, Nellie has been Johnson's main mount for seven years.
"She used to race on the racetrack in Louisiana and Texas," says Johnson of the mare's background. She goes back to First Down Dash and Special Effort.
As for the unusual name, Johnson says Nellie goes back to a mare named Marie Laveaux.
"Like the song, I imagine," says Johnson. In fact, Marie Laveau was a voodoo priestess in New Orleans in the 1800's, immortalized in numerous songs.
Together, the team captured a go round win at the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) and qualified to the Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo as well.
"I'm still attending NMSU and I graduate in May with my bachelor's degree," says Johnson. "But I am not college rodeoing this year because I wanted to pro rodeo more."
The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo allowed 108 WPRA barrel racers, giving each contestant two full rounds of competition. The top 12 on two runs will return on Sunday, January 25 for the short round.
In the third performance Saturday morning, January 17, Abby Pursifull took top honors with a 15.50 second run on her mare Pearl Snappin, aka Pearl. Pursifull trained the seven year old mare and landed fifth in the current first round rankings.
The fourth performance—Saturday matinee--was won by Kim Couch and her horse Easy French Alibi, aka Fancy. Their 15.40 second run in the second go landed her in a tie with Hermann for third in the round. When paired with her first go time of 15.70, Couch is currently ranked fourth in the average.
The third set of WPRA barrel racers competed in performances five and six on Saturday night, January 17 and Sunday matinee, January 18. Both were won by reigning WPRA Reserve World Champion Lisa Lockhart and her outstanding gelding An Okie with Cash, aka Louie. Lockhart and Louie stopped the clock in 15.55 and 15.38 seconds, respectively. She is sitting seventh in the first round, second in the second round and third in the average.
The Sunday night, January 18 win went to three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Carlee Pierce and her super young mare Streakin Easy April, aka Lolo. Pierce won $63,750 after finishing sixth in the average at the 2014 Wrangler NFR.
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
2. Carlee Pierce, Streakin Easy April, 15.30
3. Shelby Janssen, 15.37
4. Shelby Hermann, TS Doc San Lena, 15.39
5. Abby Pursifull, Pearl Snappin, 15.50
6. Christine Laughlin, 15.51
1. Johnson, 15.14
2. Lisa Lockhart, An Okie with Cash, 15.38
¾. Hermann, 15.40
3/4. Kim Couch, Easy French Alibi, 15.40
5. Kali Jo Parker, 15.45
6. Taylor Jacob, 15.48
1. Johnson, 30.39
2. Hermann, 30.79
3. Lockhart, 30.93
4. Couch, 31.10
5/6. Mary Walker, 31.20
5/6. Sammi Bessert, 31.20
7. Natalie Bland, 31.21
8. Pam Capper, 31.30
9. Callie DuPerier, 31.31
10. Ivy Hurst, 31.32
11. Shelly Anzick, 31.51
12. Britany Diaz, 31.52