The Calgary Stampede hit the half way point, but it was like a whole new rodeo. Pool B contestants made their first appearance, as they work to secure a Showdown Sunday spot over the next four days.

If they gave away bronzes for second place, bareback rider Steven Dent would have a roomful. But they don’t, so in the opening round Dent looked after business, and spurred his way to first place. He did so with an 88.5 on a Kesler horse named, fittingly, Must Have.

“I’d seen him a couple times, and both times, guys had double grabbed on him,” said the Nebraska cowboy. “I knew he was going to be a handful. At the start he really hits you on the head and drops out of there. I just kept fighting.”

“He was dang sure testy right out of there for about five jumps and then came to my feet. That was my game plan. I thought if I could stay hooked, and pick him up, I’d get along with him better, so it worked out.”

Dent earned his way to the stage and happily received the first Stampede trophy bronze he’d ever earned.

“I’ve won the short round, and they don’t give a bronze for that. I’ve never won a bronze. I’ve always wanted one of those things. I bet I’ve won second ten times in rounds by a half point here or there.”

“Having to watch all those good bareback riders go, I was holdin’ my breath. I probably looked red in the face,” he chuckled. “Gosh, I’m just excited to finally get one.”

Dent was equally happy about starting his Pool B experience off on the right foot, with the $5500 payout.

“I think it’s always way easier to have a good Calgary if you win money the first day. It seems like if you don’t, then you’ve kind of got to press there at the end. Now you can just relax, pick horses up and ride like you want to.”

Dent is coming off the second best fourth of July run of his career, picking up top three cheques at some of the biggest rodeos.

“It helps to come in here winning. When you’re hot, you’re hot. I’ve been drawing good and that makes you feel like you’re riding good, and just gives you confidence and makes it fun and easy.”

“I’d never won a bronze and I’ve never won the hundred thousand either so that’s my two goals for the week.”

There were a few showers watering down the infield at the start of Tuesday’s rodeo, but that didn’t dampen the speed machines in the tie-down roping. In fact, there was a new fast time set in the event, by a man no stranger to Stampede day bronzes. Matt Shiozawa sizzled through his run in 6.6 seconds, just a tenth slower than his Stampede winning Showdown run in 2010.

“I got a good start and these calves are especially good. It seems like most of the time when I make a run that seems fast, it’s almost like it’s really smooth, but it did not feel fast at all,” described the Idaho cowboy, who’s $5500 richer.

“I was first out today so I had nothing to go on, it’s all mental at that point. I’m glad my mental picture was on today. This is a loaded set (of ropers). All sets up here at Calgary are tough, but this is a little mini-NFR right here.”

It’s the third Stampede for Callahan Crossley, and already it’s her best ever. This year she decided to run her sister’s horse, an eight-year-old mare they call Laurie Darlin’, and it was a good call. They sped around the pattern in 17.22 seconds for fast time of the day, and the $5500.

“I have my sister with me,” Crossley said. “It’s the first time they’ve gotten to come, and she’s been helping me do everything and telling me what to do.”

Crossley was the first barrel racer of the day and being on top of the ground was another plus.

“It’s definitely an advantage, especially here, to be first out. I was a little bummed I was first out in the mud, but it obviously helped still.”

Crossley is from rodeo and horse training family. Her sister Jordan is married to team roper Riley Minor, and she’s grateful to be able to use their horse.

“She’s just fast. All I try to do is hang on. She’s really quick. I just want to stay on and get around the barrels on her. I know she’ll be fast enough.”

It’s a first Calgary Stampede bronze for Crossley, so she’s excited about her Stampede prospects.

“This is the most money I’ve won here already.”

They gave away a pair of bronzes in the saddle bronc riding, for two outstanding rides. Jacobs Crawley got some serious hang time during his eight seconds aboard Kesler’s Believe Me, in an 86.5 point effort.

“She was getting some air,” he said. “That was a cool horse!”

“It’s usually in the bareback riding but it was to my luck they moved it over today into the broncs, and it worked out.”

“It’s nice to come in here and get a good cheque on the first day. That’s always fun because the ‘first cheque monkey’ is off your back and there’s a lot of opportunity around this joint, so it’s fun to come out here and relax and enjoy Calgary.”

Crawley has always enjoyed the break from the road and the hospitality the Stampede offers, but he’ll do so at a different pace this year.  

“Our dynamic changed a little bit. My wife and I have a little boy this year. He’s changed us a little bit, but all for the better. We still have a lot of fun.”

The 86.5 mark was matched by Rusty Wright, in a rematch on Navajo Sun.

“I’d been on her here in 2016. and I won the semi-final round on her. I knew she really bucks, so I was really nervous there today getting on her. I did things a little bit different than I did last time I got on her. I felt like I rode her a little better today.”

The two bronc riders earned $5000 apiece to sit on top of the Pool B standings.

Derek Kolbaba made it through Tippin’ Point to emerge with the highest bull ride of the day. The 86.5 points earned him $5500.

“I had never heard of him, never seen him,” admitted the Washington cowboy, about his bull. “But I think it almost helps us to just go into it with a clear mind and ride ‘em jump for jump. That’s what we had to do, but after about the first or second round I knew that he was a darn good bull, and I’d better not waste him.”

“It’s dang sure a good way to start it off. Anytime you get the opportunity to come up here north of the border and ride at, I think, one of the biggest rodeos in the world, it’s an awesome feeling. To come out the way we did on Day One is perfect.”

This is my first one, so it’s pretty special. There’s a lot that goes into this rodeo that’s more than just the prize money but the experience and everything that goes along with it.

Texan Matt Reeves grabbed the $5500 steer wrestling bonus in just 4.3 seconds in the Day Five action.

“Man, it’s awesome to get started off fast, because then you can just keep seeing your start and going and getting ‘em,” said Reeves. “I didn’t have very much luck last year, so it was good to do good.”

Reeves was happy to be reunited with his family for a few days during Calgary and he enjoyed a belated (July 6th) birthday celebration with them.

“Not a bad way to start 40!” he grinned.