By Jolee Jordan
Kissimmee, Florida — It’s been 13 years and three locations—spanning more than 2,300 miles—since Shelly Anzick claimed her first Ram National Circuit Finals (RNCFR) title aboard her horse Buster in 2005. She earned that victory when the event was held in Pocatello, Idaho, a drive not too far from her home in Montana.
In its more than 30 years, the crowning event of professional rodeo’s circuit system has moved from Idaho to Oklahoma City to Guthrie. In 2015, it landed in Kissimmee, Florida, hosted by Osceola County, and it will remain here through 2024. The tournament style rodeo will pay out three quarters of a million dollars in the next four days.
Twenty-six competitors earn a spot here, two from each of the 12 circuits within the United States as well as two representing the Mexican Rodeo Federation. The positions are given to circuit year-end champions as well as the winners of the average at each circuit finals rodeo while the Mexican Tour Finale determines the qualifiers from south of the border.
All contestants compete in two preliminary rounds with the eight best in the two-head average advancing to Showdown Sunday. No previous times carry forward to Sunday and the eight semi-finalists race to be among the top four to advance to the final round. The Final round is also sudden death, held later in the same performance.
The winner of the Finals will be named the National Champion and take home a $20,000 voucher from Ram towards a new vehicle, a Polaris RANGER UTV, a pair of exotic boots from Justin, a trophy saddle from Cactus Saddlery, and a Montana Silversmiths buckle. All money won counts towards 2018 WPRA World standings, giving the winner a nice jump toward a possible berth at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
Anzick is one of two former RNCFR champions in the mix this year along with two-time RNCFR winner—and two-time World Champion—Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi.
Anzick is a four-time champion of the Montana Circuit including last season, a victory won after a torrid late season run through the circuit. Riding her horse Scooter, Anzick sealed the victory by winning two rounds of the Ram Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo in January, punching a ticket to her fourth RNCFR.
Interestingly, the first performance of the 2018 RNCFR was held on Thursday morning, April 5 and is known as Rodeo Preview Day, an educational performance designed to introduce new fans to the sport. Many of the spectators are local school kids, enjoying a break from the classroom as they learn about rodeo.
Despite the early morning hour, the contestants came with no sleep in their eyes nor drag to their steps. Anzick was the second cowgirl to compete, making her first appearance inside the Silver Spurs Arena. She blasted the field which included Pozzi Tonozzi and two Finalists here previously, Tiany Schuster and Callahan Crossley. Anzick took the lead in the opening round by nearly three tenths of a second after stopping the clock in 15.45 seconds.
Badlands Circuit Champ Jessica Routier is sitting second. She piloted her outstanding young horse Missy to a time of 15.72 seconds while Alexis Baratka, 2017 rookie from the Great Lakes Circuit, rode her mare Lucy to third currently with a 15.88 second run.
The first round will end in Friday night’s performance with the headliner likely being Kaley Bass. Bass is a three-time WNFR qualifier who lives in Kissimmee. She’ll be joined by fellow WNFR qualifiers Taci Bettis, Carley Richardson, Nikki Hansen, Kellie Collier and Shali Lord.
For more information on the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR), visit them on-line at www.rncfr.com and www.prorodeo.com. For continuing updates on the ladies barrel racing, stay tuned to www.wpra.com.
1st Go (In Progress)
Name, Horse, Circuit, Time
1st Perf, April 5, 2018
1. Shelly Anzick, Scooten ta Fame, Montana, 15.45
2. Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West, Badlands, 15.72
3. Alexis Baratka, Queen Red Cash, Great Lakes, 15.88
4. Jennifer Barrett, Beduinos Prospector, Wilderness, 15.93
5. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, Texas, 15.94
6. Tracy Nowlin, DJG Madison, Prairie, 15.99
7. Wendy Chestnut, Sun Frost Merridoc, First Frontier, 16.01
Suzanna Hill, Cee Booger Man CL, Southeastern, 16.01
8. Callahan Crossley, Brownie Bi Bogie, Columbia River, 16.04
9. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Steele Magnolias, Mountain States, 16.06
10. Trula Churchill, The Cool Zippy Zevi, California, 16.50
11. Nicole Riggle, Cashin N On Fame, Turquoise, 21.19
12. Nas Yeverino, Mexico, 22.32
Courtesy of WPRA