By Jolee Jordan
Pendleton, Oregon — The world famous Pendleton Round-Up arena is playing host to some of the season’s most pressure packed runs as the 106th Round-Up marches on this week. With its spot on the schedule—just 15 days remain in the 2016 regular season—not to mention its huge committee purse of $35,000 added money, which is more than double of any rodeo remaining on the 2016 schedule, contestants are finding their entire seasons on the line here on the Pendleton grass.
While all eyes are on the cowgirls and cowboys who are fighting for a position in the $10 million Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), there are some interesting circuit battles playing out here as well. With the change in professional rodeo to allow money won at circuit finals rodeos and the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) to count for World standings beginning this year, those circuit races could be just as important in determining who’s in Las Vegas in December 2017.
After two performances of the legendary rodeo, the top two cowgirls from slack—Texan Stevi Hillman and Utah’s Kimmie Wall have not been budged from their positions atop the leaderboard. Both cowgirls are virtually assured a spot in Vegas with Hillman ranked seventh and Wall sixth.
The course at Pendleton is truly the most unique in pro rodeo. Because the rodeo is held on a grass field, the barrels are set on the dirt track which encircles it, stretching the size of the pattern to keep the turns in the dirt while the straights cover the grass. The enormous size of the pattern has led barrel racers to dub this run “the green mile.”
Jana Bean made a move to defend her position at 14th in the WPRA World standings with a good run in the slack as well but she has been moved down the list following a tough set of ladies who competed in the Tough Enough to Wear Pink performance on Thursday here at the Round-Up.
Washington’s Pam Capper is trying to cinch up her first trip to the WNFR and surely came to Pendleton with a ton of confidence. In the last two years, she’s won second and third here, even claiming the short go victory in 2015 while posting the fastest time of the rodeo. With a two year haul of more than $14,000 to bolster them, Capper and her mare Jesse smoked through the huge pattern in a time of 30.02 seconds, bumping Bean from the third spot.
The position was to be short lived as Teri Bangart fired up the gelding she calls, “Goodone,” the same horse who carried her to a fifth place finish here a year ago.
Bangart has had a solid 2016, highlighted by a win at the Eugene (Ore.) Fourth of July rodeo, and finds herself ranked 10th in the Columbia River Circuit standings. She traveled to Pendleton from her home in Olympia, Wash., needing a little extra dough to ensure her spot in Yakima at the Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo.
Saying Goodone is “a pretty cool horse with lots of personality,” Bangart guided the 12-year old gelding through the pattern, becoming just the third WPRA barrel racer to crack 30 seconds on the 2016 pattern, which is elongated from its normal size.
Though Capper was bumped to fourth and Bean to fifth, both are assured a position in Saturday’s short round as just one performance remains to determine the 12 finalists. With the size of the payout here, these runs on the famous “Green Mile” may be the ones that send them both to Vegas.
Current Leaders (after slack)
1. Stevi Hillman, Morning Traffic, 29.64 seconds
2. Kimmie Wall, TKW Bullys Famous Fox, 29.77
3. Teri Bangart, Streaking Honor Kid, 29.85
4. Pam Capper, Sheza Smooth Flight, 30.02
5. Jana Bean, UR One Famous Rebel, 30.28
6. Darby Fox, Always on Go, 30.29
7. Carmel Wright, Fortunes Last Xtreme, 30.31
8. Sydni Blanchard, Mr. Famous Jess, 30.33
9. Cayla Melby, Docs Frosty Blue Bar, 30.39
10. Paige Willis, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 30.45
11. Mindy Goemmer, Cuchara Fancy N Fast, 30.48
12. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 30.59
13. Jordan Minor, Doc Genuine Leo, 30.59
Courtesy of WPRA