When it comes to the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) the show isn’t over until the last ride.
That was the case in the bareback event Sunday afternoon in the final day of competition, with Texas cowboy Richmond Champion just edging out leader Jake Vold who placed third in the go-round.
Champion ended up riding Stevie Knicks in a solid ride that earned him an 88.25, tied with Orin Larson for the day, and just one quarter behind the pair was Ponoka’s (now living in Airdrie) Jake Vold.
It was a challenge that Champion knew was going to test his grit.
“It’s kind of hard to just sit there and watch Jake and Orin winning round after round. It makes you rethink the game plan, but you can’t,” said Champion. “I had to stick to it and I knew I would have an opportunity somewhere along the way.”
He started slow in this year’s CFR but eventually built up his earnings putting him about $6,000 behind Vold prior to the final ride.
“Everybody showed up today. That was one of the best bareback rides I’ve seen in a long time,” said Champion.
Despite the competition, Champion, praised Vold (who ended up second overall) for a strong year, adding that the cowboy is rooting for everyone involved. That being said, the CFR win is great momentum for Champion heading to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Champion also won this year’s Ponoka Stampede.
A first Canadian title for steer wrestler Scott Guenthner was a great moment.
The Provost cowboy knew he had a good steer coming into the finals. Despite some struggles in the chute, Guenthner kept his focus.
He’s excited to have ridden Tyson and will be riding that horse again at the National Finals Rodeo. “Now I’ll go home and practice…and just stay sharp.”
That being said, it’s an honour to win the CFR, he offered.
World champion team ropers Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler proved they have what it takes to make a Canadian title.
This was their second Canadian win in a row.
It’s been a long haul this season, said Buhler. “I was at the outside looking in at Hanna.”
He praised partner Simpson for getting him closer to where they needed. “We’ve got good chemistry. We kind of always have.”
“It’s these situations where you’re not nervous. You know exactly what the other guy is going to do,” said Buhler.
For Simpson, even before the runs from every round, they would prepare by looking at video of the steers. The key to working together? “It’s the guys that are able to get through the hard times when you’re not doing so good,” explained Simpson.
The pair has walked away with a NFR title and now have two CFR titles under their belts.
Nanton’s Clay Elliot edged out world champ Zeke Thurston on the final saddle bronc event.
It was a close one with the pair a mere couple hundred dollars apart from each other. However, Elliot ended up with three rides in the last event. First with Black Hills, which had some struggles at the chute, then on Banshee, which wasn’t that top of a ride and finally with High Valley.
“He bucked me off in Ponoka this year and then I had a chance to get on him in Edmonton as well and I ended up winning Edmonton as well,” said Elliot.
Despite the third ride, Elliot said he most likely would have had enough points to win, but knew that High Valley would be a good opportunity for a strong ride.
“All of this happened within seven minutes…it just sums up to be a good day,” he added.
Elliot will be competing at the National Finals Rodeo with Thurston.
Tie down roping
For Louisiana tie down roper Shane Hanchey, winning the CFR (his third Canadian title) was a good step towards the NFR.
“Confidence is the main ingredient in this sport. This is a humbling sport,” said Hanchey.
The cowboy is sitting first in the world rankings.
This was one of the tougher CFRs he’s been to. Hanchey said there are accomplished cowboys in the tie down roping event and all of them have a chance at winning.
“I think everybody pretty much pulled a trick that roped all week,” said Hanchey. “Come to the last day, I let my hair down.”
While he wasn’t overly excited about the calf he drew, Hanchey just went into it and focussed.
Competing in Red Deer was an exciting experience. “I loved it. I’ll be back here next year hopefully.”
Ponoka’s own Wacey Finkbeiner ended up with the bull riding win despite being bucked off at the final day.
“I wish I could have finished it off with a bang and got that last bull rode…but the way I got it all worked out this week going five for six, and the average win and the overall win, it’s pretty special for me,” said Finkbeiner.
With several athletes getting bucked off in the final event, Finkbeiner said he didn’t focus on that, just on the ride itself.
The win is something that has him excited for the future. First to be invited to the Calgary Stampede and the potential of working towards competing at the NFR.
Much of getting through the week with a few injuries was possible thanks to the sports medicine folks, said Finkbeiner.
“It was a pretty painful deal…those guys, they’re worth their weight in gold,” said Finkbeiner.
In barrel racing, Oregon cowgirl Callahan Crossley walked away with the title and about $73,000 in CFR money won.
“I’m just really at a loss of words for how well the week went for me,” said Crossley.
This was her first title, riding her trusted horse Brownie, which is also 20-years-old.
“I am actually very lucky with him…he’s just known more for his consistency,” she said.
Crossley was up against 14-year-old Taylor Manning who was behind Crossley by about $12,000 coming into the final day. However, Manning knocked a barrel over in the last ride, which hurt her chances.