It would be tough to find a more excited person in all of Ponoka Thursday afternoon than Craig Weisgerber. The pro cowboy got the fans stomping their feet for the ‘thunder rolls’ at the 87th annual Ponoka Stampede when their hometown cowboy slid over his steer in 4.1 seconds, to take over top spot in his event, with 8.4 seconds on two runs.
“The thunder’s the best. I love it when these people get fired up. This is the place to rise to the occasion,” confirms the good-natured 34-year-old. “It’s the Ponoka Stampede. It’s the wildest in the west. There’s no better feeling than doing good at this one, especially being the hometown.”
“All these people cheering for me, my hands hurt from the high 5’s, this is just great, I’m having a blast,” bubbles Weisgerber, moments after the big run.
“First run this morning, I knew I had a good steer. I just knew I had to be safe and make it work. Sure as shoot, it did.” Stopping the clock at 4.3 seconds set him up well for the afternoon, where Weisgerber drew the same steer he’d won some money on at Innisfail just a few weeks before.
“I was just trying to stay behind the barrier. When you’re good on your first one like that, you kind of want to safety up. I still don’t know where I was on the barrier, but it had to have been tight. I kind of had a good game plan, but whenyou’re coming down the alley, there is no game plan. You’re just going, and reacting. It all worked out.”
Naturally, Weisgerber pays tribute to the Bo Anderson horse named Reggie that he loves to run, and his hazer, two-time Canadian champion Scott Guenthner.
Making his fourth appearance in the Finals, Weisgerber can hardly wait for Sunday.
“This is going to be mine. I’m going for it. This would mean everything to me. If I could walk out of here with the Ponoka buckle, this is happy as I could probably be at rodeo.”
“As excited as I get in the arena, that’s as excited as this crowd should be because this is the coolest rodeo in the world,” Weisgerber proudly states.
The bull riding roster from Sunday is slowly filling up, after there were three more qualified rides. The highest mark among them was an 86.75 from Jordan Hansen, who acknowledged Vold’s Uncle Kranky might not have been his choice in the pen.
“He wouldn’t have been my first pick,” says Hansen. “I knew he’s a good bull. He bucks, but is kind of tricky. I knew I’d have a good chance if I stayed on and did my job.”
“It was a little unorthodox trip for him. He usually actually starts spinning to the right for a couple rounds, and then jumps out of it. But not today. He wanted to go left, which worked out good for me since I’m left-handed. It went into my wheelhouse.”
“I’ve made the 12 round here (at Ponoka) a few times, but never moved on into the four round. So I figure this would be as good a year as any to change things up,” smiles the Amisk cowboy. “This is a bucket list one, so we’re off to a good start.”
Trenton Montero put his name on the Sunday list so far in the bareback riding, after marking at 85.5 on Vold’s Snap Chat, to tie for fourth.
“I knew he was going to be all there, I knew he was going to throw some moves at me, I knew he was going to be pretty droppy,” says the Idaho competitor. “I knew I had a match here that I’d better really cock my hammer for. It’s a really good horse that gave me an opportunity to come back again on Sunday.”
The 89.25 from Kade Sonnier on the opening day is still on top, while it’s an 89.25 also leading the saddle bronc riding from Chase Brooks. Veteran Cort Scheer got his name in the running in that event Thursday when he matched moves with Vold’s Pedro for an 84.50, for sixth place.
“Yea, two old guys going at it,” jokes Scheer, who’s back in action after getting his neck fused and his shoulder fixed last year. “But I’m pretty sure I’ve got more grey hairs than he does! I was stoked to draw him. Nowadays, I don’t really know a lot of the horses. I knew I had a shot on him. That’s a good horse. I won Grande Prairie on him one year. Me and him, we have a pretty good history.”
Idaho’s Bo Pickett put himself in the hunt for Sunday’s tie-down roping finals with a total time of 18.4 seconds Thursday, behind the 16.1 from leader Tuf Cooper. There was no touching the barrel racing time of 17.20 from Carlee Rae Otero, but Bryanna Haluptzok of Minnesota is hanging inside the top 12 yet after her 17.78 second run. The fast team roping time of the performance was 4.9 seconds from Trey Gallais and Tristen Woolsey, but it was their only qualified run. Kash Koch and Colten Fletcher moved into second overall, with their total of 12.1 seconds on two head.
There’s another chance for competitors to win cash and qualify for the Finals Friday afternoon at 1:00 pm.