24 Ponoka Stampede Wrap 3

Champions don’t let rainy days deter them.

That was certainly evident during a third performance of the 88th Ponoka Stampede. The afternoon started with just a drizzle, which eventually turned into a downpour. However, that didn’t dampen the desire of some veteran competitors to qualify for the July first Finals, which features the top 12 finishers in each of the major events at the richest rodeo of the busy Cowboy Christmas run.

Lindsay Sears knows a lot about winning. The Nanton cowgirl is a two-time World Barrel Racing Champion, and a two-time Ponoka Stampede winner. But she’s been spending her time in recent years in Texas, with her barrel horse breeding program. So it was a bit of a surprise to see her name in the draw for this year’s Ponoka Stampede.

“I came home for some family events and my friend Angie (Meadors) talked me into making it into a fun trip and entering a few rodeos,” explains Sears. “I haven’t entered a rodeo in Canada since… well, I can’t remember the last time. It’s been a long time!”

Sears’ current superstar is Mojo – a stud out of her famous mare Martha, that took her to so many victories. But this would be Mojo’s first run since January, as he’s been on a long recovery from a major injury suffered last May. He’s also just coming off a busy breeding season. So when the rain got heavier just as she was warming him up, with both horse and rider soon soaked, Sears began to have second thoughts.

“These were not the conditions I wanted to have him come back on. It’s been too long a journey. I thought about turning out, but I saw the team roping horses and the broncs weren’t slipping at all, so I felt the ground would be safe.”

Being the first out was another advantage. But there was still the unknown. Was Mojo a ‘mudder’ and not bothered by sloppy conditions? Turns out he is, as they clocked a 17.58, tied for fifth spot overall.

“He’d never been in the mud, he’d never been to Canada. But he lets me help him out, which is so important in situations like today. I could help him stand up more.”

“I’m very proud of him. I don’t usually get emotional, but I did get emotional today,” Sears admits. “It was a lot to get to this point. A lot of people have done a lot of hard work on him. It’s a miracle he’s come back. We’re taking it one run at a time, but I’m so thankful to get to run him at all.”

Being near the middle of the qualifying pack, Sears isn’t fully confident her time will get her back for the Finals. She wouldn’t mind wheeling up the highway again on Monday, though.

“It’s been a minute since I’ve been this wet or cold. But hopefully we’ll get to come back, and the sun is shining. Apparently, my horse didn’t mind the mud, but I would prefer the sun,” smiles Sears.

Twice Texans Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira have earned the team roping world gold buckles together. This year, they hope to put some Ponoka cash towards that effort. They set themselves up for that well, by roping their first steer in 6.4, and then even in the moisture and mud, speeded things up and were 5.4 in the afternoon. Their 11.8 second total on two puts them in second place for the average, behind the 11.4 from Trey Yates and Jake Clay.

Canadian Champion Tie-Down Roper Haven Meged took care of business in the third Ponoka performance. He built on a morning 8.4 second run by following it up in the afternoon with an 8.5, to take over the lead in the event.

“I had a good calf,” says Meged. “I knew she ran hard but I was good in the first round, so I knew I had to go do my job and make sure I get her tied down. We were going pretty fast when I got off and there were a lot of moving parts, and it all worked out, thank God.”

“This is my favorite rodeo, it’s always been my favorite, since my rookie year getting to come here. I always look forward to it.”

“We drove all night from Greeley, CO and we got here at 5 am. It was a long drive, but it was worth it. Now we’re driving all night to Williams Lake, BC.”

Meged is grateful to the Stampede committee and sponsors for the bump up in the purse this year, and looks forward to the impact a cheque from here could have on his season.

“This is going to help me make the Canadian Finals. My season up here hasn’t been very good. Hopefully we finish up here Monday night and win this sucker. It’s eluded me twice.”

In fact, last year Meged and local favorite Beau Cooper looked like they were headed for a rope-off in the Showdown round, until Ty Harris bettered them both by a tenth of a second.

Bareback rider Weston Timberman is making a seamless transition from the college ranks to the pros, and the Montana cowboy put himself in contention for the Ponoka Finals with an 86 point ride on Duane Kesler’s Sleeping Giant horse, to tie for second place.

Timberman, whose Uncle Kelly is a world champion, and father Chris was also a bareback rider, was tickled to be at his first Ponoka Stampede.

“I remember when I was a kid my uncle would always say rodeoing in the States is cool, but if you want to really be a bareback rider and test yourself, you go to rodeos like Ponoka. Ever since then, I’ve been super excited to finally get my chance to come here, and it’s going pretty good so far,” grins the Montana man, who just picked up his second National College championship and is leading the World Rookie bareback standings.

While steer wrestlers again had their challenges, Landon Beardsworth got his down in the fastest time to date of this year’s rodeo, at 4.7 seconds.

“The steer had a good track record and I just knew I had to stay behind the barrier and everything else was going to work out, if I just did my job,” says Beardsworth.

The cowboy from Red Deer County was on Canadian Champion Scott Guenthner’s horse, and the two didn’t get in synch on the first steer, so Beardsworth is not factoring into the average.

“I just wanted to get some go-round money in the second round, and carry on some momentum for the rest of the ones this week.”

Idaho’s Jordan Spears was making his first Ponoka appearance in the bull riding, where he marked 83.75, to take over fourth place.

“It probably distracts you a little more, being in the rain like this, because you’re not thinking as much about riding the bull. You’re more so just trying to stay dry. It kind of simplifies it. You’ve got to smile and make the best of it. They always say at the end of every rainstorm is a rainbow, so you’ve just got to keep your head down and keep working through good and bad weather, and that’s a part of it,” says Spears, a four-time NFR qualifier.

Cody Fraser remains the bull riding leader at 86.25. Zachary Dallas still has the top saddle bronc riding mark. James Perrin of Maple Creek, SK was best of Thursday’s performance with an 83.25, which is just barely among the top twelve qualifiers, with three more rounds remaining. Orin Larsen is still the bareback riding leader with his 86.75, along with Emily Beisel in barrel racing with her 17.38, and Layne Delemont in steer wrestling at 12.5 seconds.

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