By Jolee Jordan
Houston, Texas — Just one week ago, 2012 WPRA World Champion Mary Walker was dashing around Arizona, gathering up the sunshine and the dollars in the Grand Canyon State as the champion of the Tucson Rodeo and a competitor on the Wrangler Champions Challenge tour which visited Scottsdale on Feb. 28.
Walker and her big brown powerhouse, Latte, have since made their way back to their home state of Texas but the miles did nothing to dampen their momentum.
Competing in the second Super Series (or bracket) of the 2016 edition of RodeoHouston, Walker stomped all over her competition in three straight go rounds to earn even more than she did in Arizona.
A part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, RodeoHouston offers one of the biggest paydays on the WPRA schedule. Only 40 cowgirls are invited into the rodeo, divided into five Super Series of eight cowgirls each. Each Super Series pays three rounds with the top four money winners moving into the next phase, the Semi-Finals.
There are no averages paid this year in Houston but if they had, Walker would have won her group by an astounding two seconds. She won the opening go round of Super Series II on March 4 with a time of 14.29 seconds.
Brittany Kelly and her fast grey pony, Possum, were the next best at 14.56 seconds.
On Saturday afternoon, again Latte and Walker dominated, stopping the clock at 14.25 seconds with Sarah Rose McDonald second at 14.62 seconds.
With her semi-finals spot already assured, Walker set the pace as the first runner on Sunday afternoon, March 6, by posting the best time of this year’s rodeo thus far at 14.08 seconds. Incredibly, it was better than six tenths ahead of Jana Bean’s second place finish at 14.73.
Walker maxed out her earnings at $9,000 to easily advance to the next round. She is the only competitor in Houston to do so in 2016 at this point.
The high drama in the set was actually to see who could join her with several ladies having a shot on the final day.
While Kelly failed to place on the final day, her second place finish in round one along with a third in round two was good enough for $3,000 and a split with Bean for second and third in the final Super Series standings. Kelly moves on along with her husband Dugan, who won Super Series II in the team roping with partner Cody Snow. They are the second husband-wife team to advance to the semi-finals this year along with Isaac and Britany Diaz.
Bean bounced back from a tipped barrel in round two to clinch her spot aboard her horse Freedom. Freedom helped Bean to her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2014 before suffering an injury in late summer that year and these were some of the pairs first runs back together.
Meanwhile, Sarah Rose McDonald followed the same path that helped her to the semi-finals at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo last month, hopping on her back-up horse Jewel. Jewel is owned by Callie and Trip duPerier but is in McDonald’s trailer this winter to back up her great mare Bling.
After missing the money in round one, McDonald made the switch and picked up a pair of checks to clinch her spot in the semi-finals. She won $2,750 on two nights in Houston, finishing fourth in Super Series II.
At the conclusion of Super Series V, the two night semi-finals will commence on March 16-17 with ten ladies each. From that point on, all advancement is based upon fast times with no previous times carrying forward. The four fastest from each semi-finals move directly to the March 19th Championship while the remaining 12 get one more chance in the Wild Card Round on March 18.
The top two from the Wild Card join the other eight finalists for the Championship, a two-run shootout for the title and the $50,000 payoff guaranteed to the winner of the final run.
Super Series III kicks off on Monday, March 7 and will feature former RodeoHouston Champ Sherry Cervi, a four-time WPRA World Champion who is on the verge of making history as the WPRA’s first $3 million cowgirl. She is just $7,234 from the milestone and is still the only cowgirl in WPRA history to earn more than $2 million.
Also on the schedule for Super Series III are the reigning WPRA Rookie of the Year Jackie Ganter and former WNFR qualifiers Taylor Jacob, Cassidy Kruse and Christine Laughlin. Completing the field are 2015 Ram National Circuit Finals Champ Carmel Wright, 2016 San Angelo Rodeo Champ Pam Capper, and top five 2015 rookie Paige Willis.
Super Series II Results
1. Mary Walker, Perculatin, 14.29, $3,000
2. Brittany Kelly, The Opossum, 14.56, $2,000
3. Jana Bean, Dash ta Freedom, 14.81, $1,000
4. Michele McLeod, Streakinflingindisco, 14.91, $750
1. Walker, 14.25, $3,000
2. Sarah Rose McDonald, Foxys Driftin Jewel, 14.62, $2,000
3. Kelly, 14.78, $1,000
4. Meghan Johnson, Flying Frenchman, 15.19, $750
1. Walker, 14.08, $3,000
2. Bean, 14.73, $2,000
3. Vickie Carter, Lil Pep of Gold, 14.78, $1,000
4. McDonald, 15.17, $750
Total Money Winners
1. Walker, $9,000*
2/3. Kelly & Bean, $3,000*
4. McDonald, $2,750*
5. Carter, $1,000
6/7. Johnson & McLeod, $750
*Advance to Semi-Finals
Courtesy of WPRA