When it comes to steer wrestling at the Ponoka Stampede, one clan has been dominant. The Cassidy’s, from just down the road at Donalda, have the family name on the champion’s plaque multiple times.
During the second performance of this year’s 82nd annual event, Cody Cassidy put himself in contention for another title for the crew.
Cassidy came out and tipped over his steer in just four seconds flat in the afternoon round. Combined with the 10.8 from the morning round of slack, he now leads the average with 14.8 seconds on two. The twelve fastest times qualify for Monday afternoon’s Finals, with the four best totals going to the Showdown Round.
“That was a good steer. He was slow this morning so I knew what my game plan was. It was a nice one to come back with,” said the younger of the Cassidy brothers. “It all came together, just in time.”
Given the size of this year’s pen of steers and some rain in the forecast, Cassidy projects times making it back to this year’s steer wrestling Finals may be a bit longer than last year.
Cassidy has been coming to the Ponoka Stampede since he was a youngster and his father Greg was competing. So he’s very familiar with the famous ‘long score’ run, which means both steer and cowboy hit the arena at higher speeds than most places.
“I love this rodeo,” Cassidy insists. “It’s basically my hometown rodeo. I’m only 45 minutes away, and I’ve got lots of family here, and on the committee. What more do you want out of a rodeo than what they do for us here?”
“I wish we had more just like it. Obviously, this is a huge production and it just doesn’t happen everywhere, but if I could go to fifty Ponoka’s a year, I’d have a really good chance to make the NFR. But there’s only one of ‘em.”
So Cassidy knows he has to make the most of this opportunity to win some major money, which could get him back to the Canadian Finals Rodeo after an unusual absence last year. But it may also be a chance to catch up to brother Curtis, who has three Ponoka steer wrestling titles on his resume, while Greg has one.
“I’m probably not going to come in at the top of the pack this year, but maybe with a good short go round, I can sneak up in there and maybe get a chance at the Final Four. I’d sure like to have one more,” he grinned.
A pair of second generation ropers took over the lead in their event Wednesday. Kyle Lucas of Carstairs and Grady Quam of Crossfield caught their steer in 7.6 seconds in the morning slack. Then they followed that up in the afternoon with a run just a tenth of a second longer, at 7.7. The 15.3 tally on two runs is a good bet to earn them a return trip to Monday’s short round.
“It’s pretty big to put together two good runs. It’s my first time doing it in the team roping,” said Lucas, who is also a handy tie-down roper. “I’ve had a little bit of luck placing in the rounds, but I’ve never put together two runs in the team roping. I’m just thankful I was able to do it today.”
Although Lucas has been a pro since 2013, he’s not afraid to admit the pressure at Ponoka is intense.
“It seems like each round you get a little more nerves, and you get thinking about the average a little bit.”
Quam is just 18, and a rookie pro this year. With both a father and an uncle (Rocky Dallyn) as coaches, he ropes more like a seasoned competitor, and not even the long score throws him for a loop.
“I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely unique and something we don’t get to do often.”
“After I roped my first one, Dad said just go do the same thing. He said if you put together two good runs, you’ll get back every time.”
Saskatchewan cowboys Tuftin and Tyce Mcleod posted the fast team roping time of the Wednesday afternoon round in 6.9 seconds.
Wimborne’s Shane Smith posted the quickest time in the tie-down roping Wednesday, with his 9.8 second run. But he’s back a little further on the combined times with a 26.3. The leader on two remains Texan Cory Solomon at 20.0 seconds.
The B.C. cowgirl who is leading Canada so far this season and used her Ponoka Stampede championship last year to help her win the Canadian barrel racing championship, was back in fine form. Carman Pozzobon smoked through the pattern in 17.676 seconds, to put her second behind the 16.560 from Texan Stevi Hillman.
The bulls made short work of most of the cowboys on the day. However, the rookie pro, Cody Coverchuk from Meadowlake, SK continues to put his PBR Canada experience to good use. Fresh off a Wainwright win last weekend, he made the eight second whistle on a bull called Kill Switch for 84 points. He joins Joe Frost, with his 85.75 score, as the only two qualified rides to date.
Three-time Canadian champion Dustin Flundra is back to his saddle after spending last year on the shelf recovering from a myriad of injuries. He looked back to his old self, spurring out a solid 84.75 score on Kesler’s Break Away, to sit tied for third, behind saddle bronc leader Sterling Crawley and his 85.75 mark.
There’s a new name on top in bareback riding, after JR Vezain teamed up with an old friend by the name of Alley Trail, for 86.5 points.
“I’ve had her a couple of times, but it’s been a few years. I cracked a new bareback riggin this afternoon, and I knew it was going to feel good,” grinned the Wyoming pro. “It was one of those ‘good vibe’ feelings, and she circled out there and was phenomenal. That’s a great horse, just lots of fun.”