By Jolee Jordan
Waco, Texas—It’s no surprise that momentum earned during the regular season carries straight over to the new rodeo year for many cowgirls, particularly given that the new season is less than two weeks old.
Kylie Weast just punched her ticket to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, her first time to compete under the lights in Las Vegas will come in two months time. Though her spot was pretty well assured early into the 2018 season, Weast and her tough mare Reddy added more than $4,000 in the final month of the regular season with limited hauling.
As the calendar slid over to October, Weast found her schedule getting much more hectic, beginning with her first qualification to the All American ProRodeo Series Finals in Waco, Texas.
The All American Series is made up of all the smaller rodeos on the pro rodeo schedule, those that add less than $5,000 per event. Only those contestants who have competed in at least 30 of the rodeos on the schedule are eligible to compete, designed to boost support of the smaller events in the pro rodeo season.
The top 30 money winners earn a spot in one of three brackets in Waco where the event is held in conjunction with the Heart O’Texas Fair and Rodeo and has hosted a WPRA barrel race every year since 2010. Each bracket competes in a pair of sudden death go rounds with the three high money winners after round two advancing on to the Semi-Finals on Saturday, October 13.
Saturday’s performance is made up of the Semi-Finals and the Finals, a two-run sprint for the title and every dollar won counts for the 2019 season. After the Semi-Finals run, the four fastest move on to the next round where the slate is wiped clean for another run. The winner of that round is crowned the champ and takes home the lion’s share of the purse at $7,500.
Weast competed in the middle bracket here in Waco and wasted little time taking command of the Extraco Events Center pattern. She won the opening round of Bracket B with a time of 15.95 seconds, the only run of the night to break into the fifteens.
Though the six-year old mare has had a winning record since hitting the barrel racing scene as a futurity horse in 2017, her trainer and jockey has noted that the gritty mare is sometimes hard to be around.
“She’s hard to deal with on a daily basis,” Weast says with a laugh. “You have to kind of meet her in the middle and manage her every day.”
It seems Weast has the management style conquered as the pair returned the following night for another good check, this time winning second with her time of 16.03 seconds.
Wednesday night was a great night for the connections of the stallion Designer Red. Reddy, who is registered Hell on the Red is by JL Dash ta Heaven and out of Designer Ruby by Designer Red.
Meanwhile, the second go champion was Stevi Hillman, who was hitching a ride on the great Wrangler NFR and PESI stallion Slick by Design, also by Designer Red. Hillman was just out of the money in the opening go round but bounced right back with the only sub-sixteen of the night on Wednesday, a smooth run of 15.95 seconds to win the round.
“I am so incredibly thankful to Highpoint Barrel Horses for the opportunity to swing my leg over such an outstanding animal. He is a true gentleman and so fun to ride. Thank you Slick for a great run tonight,” Hillman posted to her Facebook account.
“I planned on running Truck at the All American Finals, but he hurt himself at home....again.... and needed a couple weeks off, so I was super grateful to get the chance to run Slick here. Looking forward to running again Saturday night in the short round.”
The round winning check of $2,779 proved to be exactly how much it took to advance to the next round as Hillman tied with Ericka Nelson for second and third in the bracket.
Nelson and her super solid gelding Friday earned two third place checks. In between her two runs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, she watched as Hurricane Michael side-swiped her home in Century in the Florida panhandle.
“All American Finals Round 1, Friday won 3rd,” she posted on social media on Tuesday night, just hours before the catastrophic hurricane roared ashore near Panama City. “I am thankful for every run. Please say a prayer for my FL peeps in the path of the hurricane.”
Fortunately, the west end of the panhandle was mostly spared the devastation wrought by the powerful Category 4 storm but elsewhere the destruction is overwhelming as the storm continues its onslaught in Georgia and the Carolinas. The membership of the WPRA prays for the safety of those in the storm’s path and for those now dealing with the recovery efforts.
Back in Waco, Weast was the overall winner of the bracket with $4,863 won, the best thus far in the rodeo for barrel racers. The bracket was competitive all the way through with only one barrel knocked over in twenty runs.
Hillman’s advancement is significant as well. A finalist a year ago, she was the All American Finals Champion back in 2016.
The All American ProRodeo Series has hosted a WPRA barrel race since 2010 and no cowgirl has won more than one title here: Hillman has a chance to be the first as does 2014 Champ Sarah Rose McDonald who will compete in Bracket C.
The PRCA announced just recently that 2018 will be the final year of the All American Series.
The final bracket of preliminary competition begins on Thursday night and among the scheduled competitors is the number one cowgirl in the All American Pro Rodeo Series standings, Tiany Schuster who also happens to be the arena record holder here at the All American ProRodeo Series Finals. She set that mark a year ago at 15.66 seconds.
Also on the docket are Wrangler NFR bound cowgirls Kelly Bruner and Ivy Conrado along with outstanding circuit cowgirls Callahan Crossley and Nikki Hansen. Hansen won a go round in this bracket last year.
For more information on the All American ProRodeo Series, visit www.prorodeo.com/prorodeo/tours-circuits/all-american-prorodeo-series or www.hotfair.com. Stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Bracket B Results
- Kylie Weast, Hell on the Red, 15.95, $2,779
- Lacinda Rose, RR Meradas Real Deal, 16.11, $2,084
- Ericka Nelson, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 16.19, $1,389
- Tammy Fischer, LK Sheza Hayday, 16.23, $695
- Stevi Hillman, Slick by Design, 15.95, $2,779
- Weast, 16.03, $2,084
- Nelson, 16.10, $1,389
- Nicole Laurence, 16.19, $695
*Advance to Semi-Finals