By Jolee Jordan
San Antonio, Texas — Less than $15,000 has separated Utah cowgirl Kimmie Wall from a trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) over the last two seasons. With the 2016 season just barely getting started, Wall seems determined that there will be no near misses this year.
Wall entered the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo ranked among the top 25 of the WPRA already with over $10,000 won in just five rodeos. Once in the Alamo City, the mother of two from Roosevelt has been steady and sure over the course of the sudden death format here which requires contestants to be among the high money winners to continue competing.
Wall had the second highest earnings of her preliminary set coming into the semifinals after winning a round and taking second during Bracket IV. She trailed only the red hot Ivy Conrado as the two night semifinals began on Tuesday, February 23.
Conrado continued her torrid pace in the first round of the semifinals, posting a lightning quick 13.83 second run that was two tenths better than Wall’s run aboard her mare Foxy. Conrado rides CFour Tibbie Stinson, a mare raised and trained by Conrado and her father Kelly at their home in Hudson, Colo. She currently leads the WPRA World standings with $38,000.
With the second place finish in the opening round of the semifinals, Wall looked secure to advance on to the finals on Saturday night.
The five ladies with the most money won after the two nights of SemiFinals I move on to compete in the final round for the title here. The final round is worth more than $14,000 to the fastest barrel racer. The Championship will be awarded to the cowgirl with the most money won following all go rounds and she will receive a $5,000 gas card along with other prizes and, of course, bragging rights for winning one of pro rodeo’s most lucrative events.
Not ready to rest on her laurels, Wall and Foxy came back in Wednesday’s round with an improved time of 13.97 seconds, good enough to tie with 2015 WNFR qualifier Cassidy Kruse for the round win.
Kruse switched horses, electing to ride Scooter on Wednesday, and the switch proved just what she needed to come back for one more run inside the AT&T Center. She has won $6,308, fourth best of the first set of semifinalists.
For Wall, the win put the cowgirl to the top of the list of money winners here with $10,942 already in her pockets. Conrado had a rare misstep, hitting the third barrel during her run but still finished second in the group with earnings of $9,409.
Fellow Colorado cowgirl Sammi Bessert placed in both rounds of the semifinals, splitting third both nights with runs of 14.21 and 14.04 seconds, respectively. Bessert and her gelding Tommy finished third in the group with earnings of $6,629.
Megan Mariluch shared the spot with Bessert in the first go while Shelby Herrmann was in the tie in the second go. Despite the checks, both cowgirls came up just short of advancing to the finals; in fact, Mariluch finished sixth by just $107.
The final spot in the Championship went to Rockdale, Texas cowgirl Kelly Tovar. Tovar won a round in her bracket aboard her speedy palomino Edwin but rode a mare borrowed from Kathy Thornton in her two semifinals runs. Despite failing to place, Tovar had just enough from her bracket winnings to earn a second consecutive trip to the finals here.
The field for the finals will be decided during the two nights of SemiFinals II held on Thursday and Friday. Three cowgirls come into the semifinals tied with $4,562: Kelly Schnaufer, Carmel Wright and Jackie Ganter, who was the only cowgirl to win two rounds in bracket competition. Four other cowgirls are within $1,000 of that mark including mother-daughter duo Michele and Katelyn McLeod, Morgan Breaux and Sarah Rose McDonald, who is the only cowgirl still competing here (apart from Tovar) who was in the finals a year ago here in San Antonio.
1. Ivy Conrado, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 13.83, $4,277
2. Kimmie Wall, TKW Bullys Famous Fox, 14.03, $3,207
3. Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 14.21, $1,604
4. Megan Mariluch, Mr. JB FireFame, 14.21, $1,604
1. Wall, 13.97, $3,742
2. Cassidy Kruse, Dash To Tim, 13.97, $3,742
3. Shelby Herrmann, Tees Cee Dees, 14.04, $1,604
4. Bessert, 14.04, $1,604
Total Money Winners
Alexa Lake, $3,422
Taylor Jacob, $2,851
Jill Welsh, $2,281
*Advance to Finals
Courtesy of WPRA