The pressure was on Friday at the Calgary Stampede as Pool B contestants had their last chance to score a spot straight through to Showdown Sunday.
Tim Bareback rider, Tim O’Connell.
He’s the reigning world champion, but Tim O’Connell came to Calgary hungry for some hardware. It came down to crunch time, but he finally got it done. The cowboy from Zwingle, Iowa drew a horse called Beaver Fever, and the two raised the temperature in the arena to an 87.5 point level. It was enough for his first trip to the Stampede stage as a go-round winner.
“This is my first bronze,” declared O’Connell. “It’s taken me 12 tries to get a bronze, actually 13, because I made the Finals my first year, and that didn’t go so hot. Well actually, I made the Final Four and hung up, and it broke my riding hand, so I had to relinquish my spot in the four round. So I’m looking for some redemption on Sunday!”
O’Connell was more than thrilled to collect the $5500 and the unique statue.
“It’s amazing. It feels like my first ever NFR round win. You see all your buddies with these bronzes, and you come up here and you’re like ‘man I really want a bronze’! I’ve had I think six second places finishes, so it’s like like ’one of these days’…” grinned the good-natured cowboy, “…things are going to work out. I was telling my wife this morning on the phone ‘this is like my second to last chance to get a bronze this year, but I’d really like a little one so I could graduate to a big one. It’s so fun to take a victory lap in front of that many great outstanding fans.”
O’Connell knew his Friday horse well, because he recalled she ‘handed him his stuff’ when he was trying to ride with his broken hand, in order to make the NFR.
“She bucks just as hard as she did then. She’s really up, and really down, and puts a lot of stress on your riding hand. I was really happy I didn’t have a broken hand this time, and could go at her the way I should!”
O’Connell finishes his Pool B work with $14,000 to show for his efforts, to top the qualifiers list. Even though he didn’t win a go-round, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen also makes the cut ($12,000), followed by Mason Clements ($11,500) and Tanner Aus ($8,000).
It was the best of days, and the worst of days, for legendary bull rider J.B. Mauney. He strapped on to the bull called Cowahbunga and somehow hung on for the eight second jerking, dropping, spinning adventure, which the judges rewarded with an impressive 90.5 points. Out of shape at the whistle, Mauney hit the ground hard and was motionless as the bull spun back around. The North Carolina veteran was taken from the arena by stretcher.
Following the rodeo, Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine spokesman Dr. Ralph Strother outlined what happened to the cowboy.
“His principle injury was a dislocated (right) shoulder,” he explained. “It was put back into place. He was evacuated with very smooth teamwork from the arena. He’s stable, alert, talking and we’re transporting him to the hospital now for a full assessment, and then we’ll make a decision after that as to what happens next.”
Mauney did finish first in Pool B with $15,000, but it’s unclear yet whether he’ll be able healthy enough to get on for Showdown Sunday. Also qualifying from Pool B were Tanner Byrne ($12,500) who was 87.5 points on Crooked Nose Friday. Brennon Eldred booked his ticket for Sunday ($10,500), along with Sage Kimzey ($8,500).
Jacobs Crawley rides saddle bronc.
For the second time, saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley took the victory lap in the saddle bronc riding, but was unsure whether he’d be making the trip to the stage to collect the bronze until several re-rides were taken. But just like the first time, he did indeed win the first place paycheque, this time for an 88 point ride on a horse called Cow Camp.
“That horse was a horse I’ve watched here before, and at the NFR. It’s a great bucking horse, and strong. Today was a pen of some buckers and I was glad to have that one and do my job. It was a lot of fun,” said Crawley, the 2015 World Champion.
“I was feeling like I needed to win today, hands down. I was going to try to win the round today and leave it all out there. If that didn’t work, I was going to come back tomorrow, guns a-blazin’,” he laughed.
Crawley was also trying to keep up to his younger brother Sterling, also riding in Pool B. When the dust settled and the re-rides wrapped up, it was Cody DeMoss first overall with $15,000. Then came Sterling Crawley ($13,500), followed by Jacob ($12,000) and then World Champion Zeke Thurston ($8,000), all qualifying for Showdown Sunday.
They did it again…Showmance and Tiany Schuster were the speediest duo on the track. Only this time when the clock stopped, it was a new Stampede barrel racing record – 16.99 seconds.
“One of my best friends had it, Tammy Fisher,” said Schuster. “I was looking it up last night.”
“When I got that first barrel cornered perfectly, I just went ‘yah!’ and on we went.”
“Normally I don’t win, I just place. Today and yesterday I was a winner. I’m not used to being in the winner’s circle. I won’t lie, it’s kind of nice,” she smiled.
The $5,500 gave Schuster enough, despite what she considered a disastrous run her first day, to get straight through to Sunday ($11,750). Topping the Pool B barrel racing qualifiers was Lisa Lockhart ($15,000), and also in that group are Sherry Cervi ($12,500) and Stevi Hillman ($10,500).
The dominators in Pool B tie-down roping didn’t give an inch, and kept up their winning ways. But it was a new face on the stage taking home the trophy bronze, when Timber Moore got his third cheque in four days. This time it was the big one, for a 6.9 second run. That give the Texas competitor some insurance and he makes it back to the Sunday action with a total of $13,500. There were two names at the top of Pool B, with both Matt Shiozawa and Caleb Smidt earning $15,000 each. Fred Whitfield will also be back Sunday, with his total of $8,000 qualifying as well.
Oklahoma’s Stockton Graves knew he needed to do some winning in the steer wrestling if he wanted a day off Saturday. That’s exactly what he did, and he wound up with the biggest pay of the day for his 4.0 second run. The $5500 bumped him to $11,500 for Pool B, just $500 behind leader J.D. Struxness of Minnesota, who actually did the hazing for him. Defending Stampede champion Seth Brockman’s $9,000 was enough to bring him back to Sunday, and with a 4.2 second run that placed Friday, Donalda’s Cody Cassidy gets to avoid the Wildcard Saturday scramble with his $7,500.
Luke Ferber, Junior Steer Riding finalist.
It was a thrilling day for just-turned 15-year-old Luke Ferber in the Tier One Junior Steer Riding finals. The competitor from just up the road at Irricana had the lead coming in with an 81, but Texan Mason Spain put on the pressure with his own 81.5 Friday. Ferber’s first steer fell down, so he was given a re-ride, where he maximized his opportunity for a 76 score and 157 points on two rides.
“She came right around to the right, and then I started spurring because I didn’t think I was going to win unless I did,” said Ferber.
It was Ferber’s fifth and find trip to Calgary in the steer riding.
“It’s amazing. I feel like a celebrity.”
“This one is the last notch in my belt that I needed. I’ve won all the big rodeos in Canada now, Ponoka, Strathmore, Calgary, the CFR. It’s a pretty good feeling.”
Ferber plans to go on and become a bull rider in the future.
Wildcard Saturday will allow all the Stampede rodeo competitors who didn’t qualify out of their Pools another chance to get to Sunday. Only two from each event will make the cut to bring it to ten who get a chance to ride for the $100,000 ultimate Calgary Stampede prize.