By Jolee Jordan
Ellensburg, Washington — The annual Ellensburg Labor Day Rodeo has been friendly to California barrel racers in recent memory. 2017 WPRA World Champion Nellie Miller claimed the title in back-to-back years in 2016-2017 and was Reserve Champ a year ago.
In 2019 it was another Californian making waves as the final month of the rodeo year rolled over on the calendar on the long holiday weekend marking the end of summer.
Destri Devenport accomplished an incredibly rare feat in the world of WPRA rodeo barrel racing when she “40 per cented” the field during the Ellensburg Rodeo, the term used when a competitor wins every payoff during the event. She won $10,823 as the Ellensburg Champion.
Interestingly, Devenport didn’t intend to hit the rodeo road hard this season, moving back home to Escondido in the winter from time spent in Mississippi.
It seems her gelding, Buddy Rose, had other plans.
“I didn’t go to any rodeos until late spring,” Devenport told The Wrangler Network. “I took it slow and was just going to a few to get into the top 40 [of the WPRA World standings].”
“Then, I won about five rodeos right off the bat and my horse was just really feeling good so we decided to go ahead and push a little harder.”
In an era of big time barrel racing bloodlines and heavy emphasis on breeding, Buddy Rose is an anomaly—the 11 year old gelding is unregistered. Bought out of a sale barn for $200 and trained by Katelyn Albritton Johnson, the gelding was purchased by the Chouest family for whom Devenport worked while in Mississippi.
After running the gelding and qualifying for events like RFD-TV’s The American Semi-Finals, Devenport bought Buddy Rose and brought him with her when she returned to the West Coast.
The duo has proven a force this summer, picking up steam as the regular season winds down. After winning nearly $9,500 during August, Devenport blew it out over Labor Day.
After winning the rodeo in Couer d’Alene, Idaho on Sunday, August 25, Devenport headed for the opening round at Ellensburg, held on Wednesday, August 28. She ran fourth out of 79 runners, taking the lead with a blistering 17.10 second run and never relinquishing it. Rookie contender Carly Taylor came the closest with her run of 17.25 seconds.
“Buddy Rose winning the first round in Ellensburg WA this morning! (My favorite rodeo)!” she posted to Facebook following the win. “Amazing memories with Sydni at this rodeo! Thank you to everyone on my team!”
Devenport has had the help of friend and three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowgirl Sydni Blanchard and her #TeamFearless boot camps during the year. Blanchard holds the arena record in Ellensburg, a 16.91 second effort from her 2011 title winning year.
The top 36 runs from the opening round advanced to the performances beginning Friday night and Devenport made a trade to allow her to go to other rodeos. On advice from Blanchard, Devenport traded from a Sunday run to the only evening performance at Ellensburg Friday night, August 30. Running first out, she again set a high bar for the field, stopping the clock in 17.24 seconds on her second trip around the huge Ellensburg Rodeo Arena.
Stevi Hillman and her superstar horse, Truck, posted a 17.27 to take second in that round, giving Devenport more than $5,000 in earnings before the short go round began on Labor Day, September 2.
Devenport drew her lowest position on the ground in the short go, sixth out, but Buddy Rose soon proved it didn’t matter when he ran. Posting a 17.33 second run, two hundredths better than Ivy Hurst, who ran second to last, Devenport clinched the clean sweep with a big fist pump as she ran out of the arena for the final time.
Her three-run total of 51.67 was more than half a second better than Taylor, who finished as the Reserve Champ just ahead of Miller.
“This is my favorite rodeo. I’ve told everybody that’s been helping me this year that I just love this rodeo,” a slightly breathless Devenport told The Wrangler Network following the short round. “Nobody’s understood it until they got here.”
The big win in Ellensburg, a stop on the ProRodeo Tour, also allowed Devenport to qualify for the ProRodeo Tour Finale held in conjunction with the Washington State Fair in Puyallup beginning on Thursday, September 5.
“It was really important for me to do well here. I knew that with trying to get qualified for Houston, Calgary and potentially the Finals, I knew I needed to make three good runs,” Devenport said. “I had a lot of confidence in my horse this weekend, so I was just really focusing and making sure my horse felt good.
“I am finally getting a moment to reflect on the last week and I can’t even believe it! WOW! One of my best friends Sydni, won this rodeo in 2011 and I was lucky enough to be there to help her and walk her down the alley” she posted to social media following the rodeo. “She told me then that one day I would get the chance to do this… so It has been a personal goal for me to win Ellensburg for a very long time, but for Buddy Rose to do what he did is so crazy! He is truly the biggest blessing to me.”
She continued by thanking those who’ve helped her this year.
“Katelyn Albritton Johnson, you trained an incredible horse. I know what he means to you. And you know what he now means to me! He is a very unique quirky horse and I truly believe he chooses his people. I am forever grateful that I am able to be his person! He is my best friend!”
In addition to her winnings in Ellensburg, she picked up $2,393 for third in Walla Walla, bringing her weekend total to $13,217 which moved her from 33rd in the WPRA World standings to 28th.
Still a long shot to qualify for the Wrangler NFR by being inside the top 15 of the WPRA World standings as she is $33,000 behind right now, Devenport is planning to continue to rodeo hard and hoping to capitalize on the big payday available in Puyallup.
“Twenty-seven days is a long time and it’s a short time,” she noted of the days remaining until the regular season ends on September 30. “For me, I just want to make sure I keep my horse feeling really, really good and as long as he’s healthy and happy, the rest is in the good Lord’s hands.”
As the final few weeks of the season begin, the pressure continues to mount for cowgirls on both sides of the bubble as opportunities are getting more scarce.
There was no change to the names inside the top 15 following the long Labor Day weekend though there was some shuffling amongst their ranks. The challenge for the cowgirls outside of the top 15 is how much the cowgirls from 11th to 15th are winning.
Though her ranking shows 14th, Cheyenne Wimberley is likely higher than that because money won for a first in Armstrong, British Columbia has not yet been factored in. After an enormous weekend on the final week of August, she picked up another $7,055 over Labor Day.
Eleventh ranked Ivy Conrado picked up $4,644 for the weekend after placing good in Filer (Idaho) and Walla Walla, while Lacinda Rose (12th) won $4,208 in Ellensburg and Palestine (Illinois). Amberleigh Moore stayed on the right side of the bubble in 15th after earning $2,895 in Ellensburg, Walla Walla and Plains (Montana).
On the wrong side of the bubble are rookie Taylor, who jumped from 20th to 16th with her huge weekend. Taylor did put some space between her and second ranked rookie Megan Champion with her $9,722 weekend though Champion had a good week, earning $2,099. Taylor is about $10,500 from a spot inside the top 15.
Brittney Barnett continued to pick up checks, earning $3,648, but lost one spot to land 17th in the WPRA World standings this week. She is just over $11,000 from the 15th position.
Most of the bubble competitors are concentrating on the Northwest rodeos this weekend and will be visiting $8,838-added Lewiston (Idaho), $3,000-added Spokane (Washington), and $4,000-added Salt Lake City. Some may attempt to add in the $11,000-added Fort Madison (Iowa).
Most are banking on a big showing in Puyallup which adds $38,800 and offers $14,890 to any contestant that can claim both long round wins and victories in the semi-finals and finals. Every competitor from 11th ranked Conrado to 25th ranked Sabra O’Quinn will be in Puyallup with the exception of 19th ranked Jessie Telford, 20th ranked Jimmie Smith, the defending Puyallup champion, and 24th ranked Kathy Grimes.
Looking to play spoiler for those already solid in the standings (Stevi Hillman, Dona Kay Rule) as well as those on both sides of the bubble are Cindy Smith, Maddy Dickens, Ivy Hurst, Sidney Forrest, Alishea Broussard, Danyelle Williams, Christine Laughlin, Kiley Dalchow, and Abby Phillips.
Following Puyallup, the focus switches to the Pendleton Round-Up ($37,500 added) and the New Mexico State Fair Rodeo in Albuquerque ($11,000), and in the final week of the season, the Omaha River City Rodeo ($10,000 added), the only remaining 2019 rodeos with more than $10,000 in added committee purse.
Roping Regular Season for 2019 Comes to a Close
While the barrel racers are frantically trying to find their way into the top 15, the ropers of the WPRA have seen their regular season schedule come to a close. Once again the Ellensburg Rodeo featured a WPRA Breakaway Roping with Idaho’s Rylee Potter following the same path to victory that Devenport did in the barrel racing – winning both rounds.
Potter of Weiser, won the first round in a time of 2.4 seconds, with Sarah Morrissey hot on her heels with a 2.5 for second. Potter returned for the final round and roped her calf in a time of 2.8 seconds, this time edging Macy Fuller with a 3.0. Potter, who attended Treasure Valley Community College, won the average in a total time of 5.2 seconds. Fuller was second in 5.8. Potter added $2,166 to her 2019 total and more importantly picked up 160 points in the Wrangler Network Tour Bonus Standings.
1. Destri Devenport, 17.10, Buddy Rose (grade), $2,552
2. Carly Taylor, Diva Deniro, 17.25, $2,188
3. Lacinda Rose, RR Meradas Real Deal, 17.49, $1,823
4. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.53, $1,580
5. Amanda Waller, Streak A Roses, 17.55, $1,215
6. Callahan Crossley, 17.60, $972
7. Amberleigh Moore, Blue Duck Down, 17.63, $608
7. Ivy Hurst, Top of the Roc, 17.63, $608
9. Colleen Kingsbury, 17.74, $365
10. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 17.79, $243
1. Devenport, 17.24, $2,552
2. Hillman, 17.27, $2,188
3. Miller, 17.33, $1,823
4. Taylor, 17.35, $1,580
5. Dona Rule, High Valor, 17.43, $1,215
6. Rose, 17.47, $972
7. Danyelle Williams, Sonny (grade), 17.52, $729
8. Mary Walker, Perculatin, 17.55, $425
8. Cindy Smith, Wood B Asmokinbarbie, 17.55, $425
10. Megan Champion, 17.56, $243
1. Devenport, 17.33, $1,891
2. Hurst, 17.35, $1,418
3. Hillman, 17.38, $945
4. Miller, 17.42, $473
1. Devenport, 51.67, $3,828
2. Taylor, 52.21, $3,281
3. Miller, 52.28, $2,735
4. Hillman, 52.44, $2,370
5. Hurst, 52.55, $1,823
6. Moore, 52.74, $1,458
7. Rose, 52.77, $1,094
8. Tanya Jones, Rockin A Lil, 53.02, $729
9. Rule, 53.07, $547
10. Shayla Currin, Margarita Ichi, 53.25, $365
Breakaway Roping Results
1. Rylee Potter | 2.40 $751.29 (60.0)
2. Sarah Morrissey | 2.50 $621.76 (50.0)
3. Macy Fuller | 2.80 $492.22 (40.0)
4. Tate Bailey | 2.90 $362.69 (30.0)
5. Jennifer Casey | 3.00 $233.16 (20.0)
6. Bailey Beall | 3.20 $129.53 (10.0)
1. Rylee Potter | 2.80 $287.85 (40.0)
2. Macy Fuller | 3.00 $215.89 (30.0)
3. Janey Reeves | 3.80 $143.93 (20.0)
4. Amanda Hodges | 5.50 $71.96 (10.0)
1. Rylee Potter | 5.20 $1,126.93 (60.0)
2. Macy Fuller | 5.80 $932.63 (50.0)
3. Janey Reeves | 8.70 $738.33 (40.0)
4. Amanda Hodges | 8.80 $544.05 (30.0)
5. Jeana Goodwin | 10.30 $349.74 (20.0)
6. Jennifer Casey | 15.30 $194.30 (10.0)
Courtesy of WPRA