By Jolee Jordan
Kissimmee, Florida — What could be better than taking a weeklong vacation in sunny Central Florida in April, particularly if home is blustery South Dakota where temps this week are hovering in the 40’s? Only picking up a truckload of money and prizes while competing for a national championship in the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR).
Jana Griemsman set a goal in 2016 to win a Badlands Circuit title and thereby earn a trip to Kissimmee, home of the RNCFR. She nearly went one better, finishing the season 18th in the WPRA World standings with only an ill-timed illness to her horse in the final month of the season preventing her from possibly making her first trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
The cowgirl from Piedmont, S.D. took the unfortunate luck in stride. Knowing that all money won in Minot for the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo as well as that won in Kissimmee counts for 2017 WPRA World standings, she ensured her mare Brandy was ready for the chance to jump start the new year.
After giving Brandy some time to recuperate, Griemsman won her circuit finals rodeo for $8,435 and took home the year-end title with more than $25,000 won in just 13 circuit rodeos to cinch the deal.
Only problem, that was in October and her young son Laken, 3, was ready to see Mickey Mouse but would have to wait five months.
So did they make it to Disney World, just one of the many tourist attractions within a short distance of Silver Spurs Arena, home of the RNCFR?
“Of course,” laughs Griemsman. “Three trips. Not sure if Mom didn’t enjoy it more!”
The RNCFR is in its third year in Kissimmee. The crowning jewel of pro rodeo’s circuit system, designed with part time cowboys and cowgirls in mind, the RNCFR hosts two contestants from each of 13 circuits (12 in the US and a new circuit in Mexico). All competitors get two runs and the eight best in the average advance to Sunday’s Semi-Finals.
In between pool time and Mouse time, Griemsman has also been running barrels in Florida and keeping right on her plan.
She finished just out of the money in the opening go round with a run of 15.55 seconds but she poured on the heat with her second run in the Saturday matinee perf on April 8.
“On a two average run, I knew we had to be smooth, and I wanted to make sure to stay out of her way and let her work. During my run, she felt smooth and her turns were close.
“So I knew she would clock well but I was pleasantly shocked when I saw my time.”
In fact, Griemsman posted the fastest run of the rodeo, a blistering 15.09 seconds after Brandy dropped low and tight on three corners.
“Her style can be deceiving because she is so smooth,” Griemsman noted. “I’m so proud of her. We had a good opportunity on the ground which helped too.”
Griemsman ran fourth in the afternoon, taking the lead in the average as well as the round. Her closest competitor was Carmel Wright, the RNCFR champ from 2015, the first year it was held in Florida.
Representing the Montana Circuit, Wright is aboard her young mare Luna this time around, not Sweetheart, the mare who carried her to that victory. Silver Spurs seems to like the New Zealand cowgirl, no matter the horse underneath her. She posted a 15.28 to lead off the second go in the matinee before slipping to second behind Griemsman.
Running in the Saturday night, Tough Enough to Wear Pink perf, two-time RNCFR champ and WPRA World Champ Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi took top honors with her run of 15.44 seconds on her mare Steeley. The cowgirl is making her first runs back after giving birth to her daughter Tinlee on March 21. The run was just enough to bring Pozzi Tonozzi back for the final rounds on Sunday; she is representing the Mountain States Circuit after winning their finals back in October.
Texas Circuit cowgirl Ari-Anna Flynn was right on Pozzi Tonozzi’s heels on Saturday night, stopping the clock at 15.45 seconds. The daughter of multiple WNFR qualifiers Denny (bull riding) and Lynn (barrels) was solid on both her runs and placed fourth in the average behind Griemsman, Wright and WPRA World standings leader Tiany Schuster, who is also from the Texas Circuit.
Schuster picked up three checks out of a possible three, pretty much continuing the amazing trend she has set since the new season kicked off on October 1, 2016. With over $8,000 won here so far, she is just adding to the earnings records she has already set for the early going of the season; she’s won nearly $99,000 and will cross $100,000 with pretty much any check on Sunday.
Turquoise Circuit champ Lori Todd is coming back on Sunday after finishing fifth in the average and picking up her second check of this RNCFR, which also happens to be her first appearance.
Rounding out the field for the final rounds are a pair of Millers, no relation. The Prairie Circuit’s Emily Miller finished one one-hundredth of a second behind California’s Nellie Miller for sixth and seventh. Pozzi Tonozzi took the eighth and final spot.
All eight cowgirls will compete again on Sunday in a sudden death round. The top four will advance to the finals later in the day. That final round is also sudden death, a race for the lion’s share of the huge purse here and a prize line that includes a voucher towards a new Ram vehicle, a Polaris Ranger, buckle, saddle, boots and a whole lot of bragging rights. Oh, and the winner also gets a spot in the Calgary Stampede in July.
For Griemsman, she is hoping to become the second member of her family to own a National title: her husband Paul won the RNCFR in 2010. No one will be cheering louder for that accomplishment that Paul, who is on the road with the family as well.
The final performance of the 2017 RNCFR begins at 2:30 PM ET and will air on CBS Sports Network on April 23.
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.
Name, Horse, Circuit, Time, Earnings
1. Jana Griemsman, Chase It With Brandy, Badlands, 15.09, $6,254
2. Carmel Wright, Fortunes Last Xtrem, Montana, 15.28, $4,738
3. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Steele Magnolias, Mountain States, 15.44, $3,412
4. Ari-Ann Flynn, Tobys Poco Misterio, Texas, 15.45, $2,274
5. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, Texas, 15.53, $1,327
6. Calli Van Tassell, Lil Pep of Gold, Wilderness, $948
Average (advance to Semi-Finals)
1. Griemsman, 30.64, $6,254
2. Wright, 30.82, $4,738
3. Schuster, 30.96, $3,412
4. Flynn, 30.98, $2,274
5. Lori Todd, Wranglers Bedrock, Turquoise, 31.15, $1,327
6. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, California, 31.23, $948
7. Emily Miller, Namgis D 35, Prairie, 31.24
8. Pozzi Tonozzi, 31.25
Tracy Nowlin, DJG Madison, Prairie, $6,254
Pozzi Tonozzi, $3,412
Emily Miller, $2,274
Lisa Lockhart, Rosas Cantina CC, Montana, $1,327
Nellie Miller, $948
Amberleigh Moore, Cp Dark Moon, Columbia River, $948
Van Tassell, $948
Courtesy of WPRA