By Jolee Jordan
Calgary, Alberta Canada — There’s a common saying, “age is just a number.”
Oklahoma cowgirl Mary Burger seems to prove the truth of that saying daily but there is a number with which she is very familiar.
The sixty-seven year old grandmother has stolen the headlines in 2016 since streaking to the lead of the WPRA World standings with her big victory at RodeoHouston in March. However, the 2006 WPRA World Champion hasn’t let off the gas a bit since that win; she collected over $10,000 over the Fourth of July and carried her position atop the standings into the 2016 edition of the Calgary Stampede.
Billed the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Stampede is celebrating its 104th rodeo this year. Only 20 cowgirls get the chance to compete for their share of the huge $2 million purse which is capped by the $100,000 prize that goes to the Showdown winner on the final Sunday of the rodeo.
All competitors are divided into two pools of 10 contestants and given four sudden death go rounds in which to win money. Five spots are paid daily; at the end of the fourth go, the top four money winners advance directly to the Semi-Finals on Sunday, July 17. The remaining six aren’t finished . . . they get one more shot through the Wild Card Round, held on Saturday. The two fastest from that round also move into the Semi-Finals.
The final Sunday of the Stampede is one of high expectations and excitement. The ten semi-finalists will compete in one round with the four fastest moving into the Showdown. With the slate wiped clean, the four ladies will make one final run for $100,000.
As the current year World leader, Burger punched her spot in Calgary with the Houston win and arrived in Canada with her tough buckskin gelding Moe in tow. Registered as Sadiesfamouslastwords, Moe is a seven year old son of the Frenchmans Guy son, Sadies Frosty Drift and out of the Dash ta Fame mare, Porky and Bess. Both grandsires are part of the WPRA’s Pro Elite Sire Incentive Program (PESI).
The pair quickly became the darlings of the Calgary crowd after stacking win upon win. The pair opened their Stampede with a round one win with a run of 17.46 seconds. Ivy Conrado, who has been second in the standings to Burger since Houston, followed again, winning second in her career debut in Calgary with a run of 17.66 aboard her mare Tibbie.
Though the ground conditions deteriorated somewhat during the next two rounds, one thing didn’t change: Burger and Moe atop the leaderboard. With runs of 17.72 and 18.08, Burger won rounds two and three, earning a well deserved standing ovation from the crowd during her victory lap on Sunday, July 10.
The committee put in extra time to fix conditions for the final run of Pool A on Monday, July 11 and the work showed in the times put forth. With the final run looming, Burger was securely advancing to the Semi-Finals, as was Conrado, who placed in all three rounds.
Sitting third was Kelley Schnaufer, one of the longshots of the Stampede, who qualified through the WPRA’s Tour program. The WPRA Tour designates a number of rodeos during the season as stops on the tour and contestants earn points for wins at those rodeos. Schnaufer was ranked 48th prior to Calgary and should be moving up the ladder after placing third on the first three days with her horse Jess.
With the top three pretty solid for advancement, there was just one spot still in play with Canadian cowgirl Julie Leggett sitting fourth but Taylor Jacob moving into contention after switching horses and placing second in round three. WPRA World Champs Mary Walker and Fallon Taylor had some money won too, giving them a chance to move on with a win on Monday afternoon.
Burger and Moe would wow the crowd one more time, laying down the rodeo’s best time of 17.33 seconds to win the final round by four tenths of a second.
“I just tried to do my thing,” Burger humbly told the CBC’s Melisa Hollingsworth after her sweep, noting that the roar of the crowd gave her goosebumps. “I’m in awe.”
Conrado was second again with Jacob making the move she needed aboard Madonna, a mare owned by the Ringstaff family. Her third place finish coupled with Leggett ending just out of the money, allowed Jacob to slip into the fourth and final spot for advancement.
Because all pool money counts for WPRA World standings, along with Wild Card and Semi-Final earnings, Burger will extend her lead in the standings with $22,000 won in four days. Half of the $1000,000 to the Showdown winner, along with all other Showdown winnings, also counts for the WPRA World standings, meaning fans could be watching a big preview to the battle that will culminate in Las Vegas at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December.
Conrado finished second in Pool A with $13,000 while Schnaufer earned $10,500 to finish third. Jacob won $8,000 to round out the Semi-Finalists.
Pool B begins on Tuesday, July 12. Among the competitors are reigning Calgary champ Lisa Lockhart along with 2015 WPRA Rookie of the Year Jackie Ganter, Canadian Champ Nancy Csabay, 2015 WNFR cowgirls Vickie Carter, Deb Guelly, and Michele McLeod. Leading 2016 rookie Cayla Melby will also compete along with Reserve National Circuit Finals Champ Callahan Crossley, top WPRA tour winner Paige Willis and current top ten cowgirl Kimmie Wall.
Pool A Results
1. Mary Burger, Sadiesfamouslastwords, 17.46, $5,500
2. Ivy Conrado, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 17.66, $4,500
3. Kelley Schnaufer, Jess Undeniable, 17.77, $3,500
4. Mary Walker, Perculatin, 17.83, $2,500
5. Cassidy Kruse, JKR Assured Win, 17.90, $1,500
1. Burger, 17.72, $5,500
2. Julie Leggett, FDI Cash to Burn, 17.86, $4,500
3. Schnaufer, 17.97, $3,500
4. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, 17.98, $2,500
5. Conrado, 17.99, $1,500
1. Burger, 18.08, $5,500
2. Taylor Jacob, Sissy B Gold, 18.16, $4,500
3. Schnaufer, 18.20, $3,500
4. Conrado, 18.27, $2,500
5. Leggett, 18.29, $1,500
1. Burger, 17.33, $5,500
2. Conrado, 17.78, $4,500
3. Jacob, 17.86, $3,500
4. Sarah Rose McDonald, Fame Fling N Bling, 17.98, $2,500
5. Walker, A Frosty Please, 18.02, $1,500
Total Money Won
1. Burger, $22,000
2. Conrado, $13,000
3. Schnaufer, $10,500
4. Jacob, $8,000
5. Leggett, $6,000
6. Walker, $4,000
7. McDonald, $2,500
8. Taylor, $2,500
9. Kruse, $1,500
Courtesy of WPRA