By Jolee Jordan
Houston, Texas — After nearly three weeks and seventeen performances, it’s almost time to dole out the big bucks at the 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Just two performances remain before one WPRA cowgirl will all but assure herself a position in the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo after picking up RodeoHouston’s championship.
RodeoHouston’s tournament style rodeo begins with 50 ladies who each compete in three go rounds in individual Super Series rodeos. The field is pared to just 20 for two semifinal rounds which cut the field in half once again. All competition is sudden death, putting the pressure on to come up with the big run every time they run down the alley.
The four fastest from each semifinal have advanced to the Championship on Saturday, March 19. There are still two positions available, given to the fastest runners from Friday’s Wild Card Round. The 12 ladies in the Wild Card are the ones who did not advance from the semifinals.
The final night will feature two rounds: the Championship with ten ladies and the Shoot out with the four fastest from the Championship coming right back to the action for a chance at RodeoHouston’s gigantic $50,000 first prize.
There were three former RodeoHouston champs competing during the first semifinal on March 16 and two were able to keep their hopes of adding to the trophy case alive. Reigning champion Nancy Hunter and Fuzz stopped the clock at 14.18 seconds, good enough for second place. Along with a pair of round wins in bracket competition, Hunter is already $8,000 to the good.
Meanwhile, Mary Burger and her buckskin gelding Moe held off the other former champ, Sherry Cervi for the final spot into Saturday’s finals by just three one-hundredths of a second. Burger has won $3,750.
Cervi, the WPRA’s newly minted $3 million cowgirl still has a shot to advance through the Wild Card round on Friday night, a route she has taken to the Championship Shoot-out in the past.
Experience did not dominate on Wednesday however with a pair of Houston rookies filling the other two spots into the Championship. They came from opposite coasts, one from Florida and one from California, meeting in the middle for a chance at $50,000.
The round win went to the East Coast with Megan Swint and her mare Sissy. Swint posted a run of 14.10 for the win. After a slow start, Swint has now placed on her last two runs and her time on Wednesday was her best of the rodeo. She has now won $4,000 inside NRG Stadium.
Dice and her little red mare Katie took third with a run of 14.37 seconds. She has won $4,000 as well. Interestingly, both Dice and Hunter qualified through Super Series IV.
Lisa Lockhart has won just about everything there is to win in professional barrel racing but a title at RodeoHouston is one that has eluded her. She and her great buckskin Louie have come very, very close in the past, winning second the last two years.
Lockhart kept her chances very much alive with a win in Semi-Finals #2; her time of 14.01 seconds was the fastest run of semifinals competition and gapped the field by two-tenths. She is the high money barrel racer with $11,000 won.
The fight for the remaining qualifying positions was very tough with just four one-hundredths of a second separating second from fifth.
Oregon cowgirl Brenda Mays was in the finals here a year ago and she punched her ticket for a second straight trip aboard her speedy mare Dora with her run of 14.22 seconds to punch her earnings up to $5,000.
Carley Richardson was hot on her heels at 14.23 seconds with her grey gelding Radio while Britany Diaz and Rootie just held off Sarah Rose McDonald by one one-hundredth of a second with her run of 14.25. Diaz also returns to the Finals for the second straight year.
Richardson has won $6,750 while Diaz has earned $5,250.
With Richardson and Mays qualifying, all four semifinals from Super Series IV move into the Finals.
Wild Card Round
On Friday night, the rest of the semi-finalists will get one more shot to advance to the Finals. Only the two fastest will move on, making it one of the most exciting rounds before Championship Saturday.
The field consists of the WPRA’s all-time money winner Sherry Cervi, who is seeking her fifth title at RodeoHouston, as well the WPRA’s current standings leader Ivy Conrado. Also in the mix are two of 2015’s final four here, Kaley Bass and McDonald.
For more information on RodeoHouston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
1. Megan Swint, Bar Bee Stealing Sue, 14.1, $3,000
2. Nancy Hunter, Flit N Fizz, 14.18, $2,000
3. Rachel Dice, Tivitosatthegogobar, 14.37, $1,000
4. Mary Burger, Sadiesfamouslastwords, 14.48, $750
1. Lisa Lockhart, An Okie with Cash, 14.01, $3,000
2. Brenda Mays, Judge My Fame, 14.22, $2,000
3. Carley Richardson, Doda Flit, 14.23, $1,000
4. Britany Diaz, Dasher Dude, 14.25, $750
Wild Card Round
Sarah Rose McDonald