By Jolee Jordan
Waco, Texas — Exactly one year ago, Taci Bettis finished off her first season in professional rodeo. The newly minted WPRA Rookie of the Year celebrated earning her first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo by having a big week during the All American ProRodeo Series Finals. She earned more than $10,000, finishing as the Reserve Champion, part of a huge kick-off for the 2018 season that would see Bettis clinch a second Wrangler NFR trip by spring.
The Texas cowgirl is hoping for more of the same as the 2019 season entered its first weekend on October 6-7 and she took a big step in that direction with her performance in Bracket A of the 2018 All American ProRodeo Series Finals.
The All American ProRodeo Series is made up of the smaller pro rodeos during the season—those that add less than $30,000 in total prize money. Standings are kept based on money won as well as bonus points for each rodeo entered.
At the end of the season, the top 30 competitors get an invite to the All American ProRodeo Series Finals held annually in conjunction with the Heart O’Texas Fair and Rodeo in Waco. The payout in the WPRA barrel race is more than $60,000.
Though she finished 42nd in the All American standings, Bettis made the cut to compete here after several ahead of her failed to make the required rodeo count of 30 rodeos in the series, a number Bettis hit right on the head.
The Finals are set up tournament-style. The 30 contestants are broken into three brackets of ten and given two preliminary rounds. There are no averages paid out, just two rounds of competition, and contestants strive to be among the top 3 money winners from their bracket in order to advance to the Semi-Finals. The Semi-Finals and Finals are held during the final night of rodeo action, October 13; the nine Semi-Finalists make one run and the top four return for a second, sudden death go round for the Championship.
Because all money won here in Waco counts toward 2019 WPRA World standings, the All American Finals can be a big boost towards the new season, just as it was for 2017 champion Kellie Collier and for Bettis.
Bettis rode her steady equine partner Smash at Extraco Events Center and once again, his consistency paved her path to victory. On the opening night of the rodeo, Bettis won second in the round behind KL Spratt with a quick time of 15.88 seconds. That earned her $2,084.
Spratt just wrapped up her first pro rodeo season, landing third in the WPRA Rookie of the Year standings with more than $32,000 won. She earned her first trip to Waco by finishing 18th in the All American standings. She won the first round aboard her horse OK by running a time of 15.84 seconds, a win that netted her $2,779.
Twenty-four hours later, Bettis won second again, this time stopping the clock at 15.96 seconds during the final round of Bracket A.
The winner on the second night was Emily Miller, the 2017 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) champion. Miller was fifth in the 2018 All American standings to earn her spot in Waco.
She came up big in the sudden death format; riding her horse Chongo, she did exactly what she had to in order to advance to the next round by winning the go with a time of 15.84.
Bettis was the overall bracket winner after earning $4,168 in two nights. She also picked $2,237 for a second place finish in Hempstead, giving her a $6,000-plus jump on 2019.
Bettis will be joined in the Semi-Finals by the two round winners, Miller and Spratt, who picked up $2,779 each.
Other money earners in the bracket were Sally Conway, who was third on night one, and Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, who grabbed the same spot in round two. Georgia cowgirl Kelley Carrington was the only one besides Bettis to place in both go’s, taking fourth twice.
The All American Finals takes a night off on Monday but continues with Bracket B on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The contestant list includes reigning champ Collier as well as Kylie Weast, the Oklahoma cowgirl who is headed to her first Wrangler NFR this December. Stevi Hillman, who is ranked second in the All American standings, will also compete in Bracket B, along with fellow Wrangler NFR cowgirls Tammy Fischer and Jana Bean.
For more information on the All American ProRodeo Series, visit www.prorodeo.com/prorodeo/tours-circuits/all-american-prorodeo-series or www.hotfair.com. Stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Bracket A Results
1. KL Spratt, KK Cash Colours, 15.84, $2,779
2. Taci Bettis, Bogie is a Smash, 15.88, $2,084
3. Sally Conway, MP Hay Smith, 16.03, $1,389
4. Kelley Carrington, Slice of PeachFame, 16.15, $695
1. Emily Miller, Namgis D 33, 15.84, $2,779
2. Bettis, 15.96, $2,084
3. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Babe on the Chase, 16.01, $1,389
4. Carrington, 16.17, $695
Pozzi Tonozzi, $1,389
*Advance to Semi-Finals
Courtesy of WPRA