By Ann Bleiker
The final three North American 2018 RAM Circuit Finals Rodeos wrapped up over the weekend and now 24 barrel racers plus two from the Mexico Circuit have been determined for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., March 21-24, 2019.
This past weekend saw the First Frontier, Montana and Columbia River crown both year-end and average winners to bring the 2018 RAM Circuit Finals Rodeos to a close. Cheyenne Allan dominated the Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo that was held in Yakima, Wash., Jan. 11-13. This was a date change from previous years when they held their circuit finals in November. Allan of Mabton, Wash., entered the finals as the top money earner thus far in the circuit and she didn’t let off the gas winning both the average and year-end titles to punch her ticket to Kissimmee in March. Allan was the only barrel racer to place in all three rounds to win the average in a total time of 41.70 seconds on three runs. Kacey Gartner was close behind with a 41.73. Allan finished the year with earnings totaling $40,215, the most money won in any of the 12 circuits. Her biggest win came in September when she won the Pendleton Round-Up. Teri Bangart was second in the year-end standings with $35,368 and will join Allan at the RNCFR representing the Columbia River Circuit.
The Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo wrapped up in Great Falls, Mont., this weekend with Tara Stimpson and Carmel Wright in the spotlight. Stimpson of Lodge Grass, Mont., took home the average title in a time of 40.34 seconds and earned her a spot in the RNCFR. Wright of Roy, Mont., was a close second in the average in a time of 40.41 seconds, but bigger news for Wright was that she moved from second in the circuit standings to the top spot to earn another trip to the RNCFR. Wright placed in every round and finished the year with $16,998, overtaking Shelly Anzick who entered the finals as No.1.
The First Frontier Circuit Finals took place in Harrisburg, Pa., Jan. 10-12 with April Masterson running away with the average title in a time of 44.90 seconds on three runs. Her closest competitor was Dawn Powell with a 45.73. Masterson of Lincoln, Vermont, will now be making plans to travel south in March to Kissimmee, Fla., to participate in the RNCFR. She will be joined by year-end winner Christina Mulford of Franklinville, N.J. Mulford entered the finals as the No. 1 barrel racer and after winning the first and third rounds in times of 14.82 and 14.71, respectively, secured the year-end title. She finished the year with $15,023 with Masterson finishing second with $14,028. Masterson moved from fifth in the year-end standings to second.
The Texas Circuit Finals concluded on Jan. 5 in Waco, Texas. WPRA barrel racer and veterinarian Kelly Bruner found redemption after a rough Wrangler National Finals Rodeo winning the average title in a time of 47.65 seconds over Cheyenne Wimberley with a 48.00. Bruner got off to a quick start winning the first round in a time of 15.71 seconds and got even faster in the second round winning it in a time of 15.66 seconds. Bruner would finish out of the money in the third round but took home the average title and a qualification to the 2019 RNCFR. She will be joined by reigning world champion Hailey Kinsel, who won the year-end title in the Texas Circuit with a total of $32,848. Bruner was second in the standings with $25,132.
The RNCFR will definitely be a mix of Wrangler NFR qualifiers and circuit champions. In addition to Bruner and Kinsel, who qualified for the 2018 Wrangler NFR and now the RNCFR, Lisa Lockhart (Badlands), Jessica Routier (Badlands), Nellie Miller (California), Ivy Conrado (Mountain States) and Kylie Weast (Prairie) have qualified and will once again do battle at a Championship event. They will face a former Wrangler NFR qualifier Shali Lord (Mountain States) along with circuit standouts Kris Gadbois (California), Cheyenne Allan (Columbia River), Teri Bangart (Columbia River), Christina Mulford (First Frontier), April Masterson (First Frontier), Lacinda Rose (Great Lakes), Kricket Gintner (Great Lakes), Carmel Wright (Montana), Tara Stimpson (Montana), Dona Rule (Prairie), Ericka Nelson (Southeastern), Sabra O’Quinn (Southeastern), Lori Todd (Turquoise), Leia Pluemer (Turquoise), Meka Farr (Wilderness and Andrea Jones (Wilderness). In addition two qualifiers, Luisa Herrera and Paulina Ochoa, from the Mexico Circuit will take their shot at the 2019 title.
Full coverage of the Texas, First Frontier, Montana and Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeos will be in the February issue of the WPRA News.