Kissimmee, Florida — If big time career wins were stacked on a checklist, Ivy Conrado would have a sore hand from marking so many off so quickly.
In just her second full season as a WPRA member, Conrado has already racked up an impressive list of wins, most coming since the calendar rolled over from 2015. Well on her way to a first trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (check), Conrado has won the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (check), finished second at major winter stock shows in Denver and San Antonio (check, check) and has put better than $58,000 in her Wranglers in 2016 already.
Competing last fall as a rookie, she clinched a berth at her first Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) during the Mountain States Circuit Finals held in Rock Springs, Wyo., in October. Coming to Kissimmee, Fla., the home of the RNCFR riding a huge wave of momentum, Conrado’s first qualification at a major pro championship began well with a first place go round check in sixth place.
Conrado and her homegrown and trained mare Tibbie picked up the pace in round two, finishing third in the average behind the red-hot, newly minted $3 million cowgirl Sherry Cervi and Prairie Circuit standout Emily Miller.
On Championship Sunday, all times are erased from the board and the eight semi-finalists race for the national title in a two-run battle. First step, make the cut for the finals by being one of the four fastest in the semis.
On Sunday afternoon, Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion Callahan Crossley was the first to run; she and her great gelding Brownie put together a smoking run of 15.81, their best of the week, to lead the way.
Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo Champ Kristine Knauf ran second, posting a 16.14 aboard Apollo, and First Frontier Champ Nicole Yost came next with a 16.10 with her horse Peso.
Then came the gritty little sorrel mare who was raised by Conrado and her family in their Hudson, Colo., home. Despite a bobble on the second barrel, Conrado still stopped the clock at 16.02, her slowest run of the RNCFR but sitting second when she ran.
Next up was Columbia River Circuit Champ Pam Capper and her mare Jesse. Despite having the furthest drive to Kissimmee of all the competitors, the Columbia River Circuit was well represented, one of just two circuits to have both their contestants advance to the final day. The other was the Turquoise Circuit.
Capper was in the final four at the RNCFR a year ago and punched her ticket again with her first sub-sixteen second run at 15.95 seconds.
That pushed Conrado to third with Cervi up next. The WPRA’s winningest cowgirl had won the opening round here by nearly three tenths of a second and looked well on her way to another fast time with Atlas when the lanky gelding just barely clipped the third barrel on his approach, knocking it over and putting an end to Cervi’s quest to win another RNCFR to go with her 2000 title.
The semi-finals ended with Miller, who had been very fast in the opening rounds with her horse Pipewrench, and Sarah Kieckhefer and Okey. Miller made a solid run at 16.10, landing on the bubble in a tie for fourth and ensuring that Conrado was in. Then Kieckhefer blew the tie out of the way by posting a 16.06 to win fourth and move on to the finals.
The final four round begins after a short intermission, leaving less than an hour between runs. The order for the barrel race is randomly drawn and Capper drew the opening position.
Capper posted a solid effort at 16.07 seconds. Kieckhefer followed, matching her round one time of 15.90 to lead for her first national championship.
But then it was time for the little red streak. Blasting into the pattern, Conrado and Tibbie swallowed the first turn, inhaled the second and blistered around the third, putting together a flawless and incredibly fast run. The clock stopped at 15.47 seconds, the fastest time posted in the entire rodeo.
Conrado wore a sparkly blue shirt, the same one she wore to the victory in Fort Worth two months ago, and it may become her go-to apparel if things keep going this way. After watching Crossley and Brownie make a valiant effort to match her time and land second with a 15.76 second run, Conrado had another thing to check off her list: National Champion.
When the checks were all tallied up, Conrado picked up a huge $20,232 check, a $20,000 voucher for a new Ram vehicle, a new saddle championship saddle, new buckle from Montana Silversmiths and a new Polaris Ranger.
The connections in Kissimmee, which include Osceola County and Experience Kissimmee, rolled out the red carpet for the contestants at the 2016 RNCFR. All competitors, 24 in each event, received $1,000 in cash and were treated to awesome nightly hospitality, free stalls, and a tremendous experience.
For more information on the RNCFR, visit them on-line at www.rncfr.com.
1. Callahan Crossley, Columbia River, Brownie Bi Bogie, 15.81, $7,493
2. Pam Capper, Columbia River, Sheza Smooth Flight, 15.95, $5,620
3. Ivy Conrado, Mountain States, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 16.02, $3,747
4. Sarah Kieckhefer, Turquoise, Cruisen Okey Dokey, 16.06, $1,873
5. Nicole Yost, First Frontier, Red Hot Peso, 16.10
6. Emily Miller, Prairie, Namgis D 35, 16.10
7. Kristine Knauf, Great Lakes, French Bogie on Deck, 16.14
8. Sherry Cervi, Turquoise, Atlas Peak, 21.04
1. Conrado, 15.47, $7,493
2. Crossley, 15.76, $5,620
3. Kieckhefer, 15.90, $3,747
4. Capper, 16.07, $1,873
Total Money Won
Cally Thomas, $1,311
Knauf/Andrea Busby, $1,124
Courtesy of WPRA