Nobody ever said rodeo was easy. While every pro cowboy looks forward to the hectic summer run when they have a shot at a lot of cash in a short amount of time, getting around to all the events and staying healthy are two major challenges.
The Ponoka Stampede is a must do on every list, as one of the top ten paying rodeos in the world. So Canadian champion steer wrestler Tanner Milan knew it was an important opportunity for his plans of making it back to the Canadian Finals, and qualifying for his first National Finals Rodeo.
When the Cochrane cowboy took 11.9 seconds to throw his first steer Tuesday at the Ponoka Stampede, he knew he had some ground to make up. Problem was he could hardly walk after that run.
“The ground was a lot wetter this morning,” explained Milan, about the post Monday night rain conditions. “I caught up really quick but my feet just stuck, and they figured I hyper-extended my knee and stretched out my MCL a little bit.”
“It’s a little tender but with a few days of icing and taking care of it, it should be pretty good.”
While that’s the kind of injury most likely to sideline your typical soccer player, Milan simply regrouped and saddled up for his next one, with a little bit of help.
“Lots of ice and Sports Medicine (Team help), some massaging, and lots of pain pills,” he winced.
To the cheers of his fellow bulldoggers, Milan got a picture perfect start and flipped over his second steer in just four seconds flat.
“I got my knee brace cinched down a lot tighter and the ground was a lot better this afternoon. I had a really good steer, and got a lot better go.”
Milan’s total time of 15.9 seconds was well back of Hunter Cure’s leading time of 9.9 seconds, but it was among the qualifying top 12 times, earning him a third steer in today’s Ponoka Stampede Finals. It’s an unusual year, with Craig Weisgerber of Ponoka managing to nail down the last spot in the steer wrestling Finals with a long 17.4.
“The steers this year are fresh, so they’ve never been touched or chased down. It’s a lot different when you’re running fresh cattle,” commented Milan, who came to Ponoka after winning a big $5575 cheque at Reno.
Milan, whose brothers Straws and Baillie also compete, credits the family horse Smoke, purchased this winter, for their recent successes.
“It’s been a great year, and I’m just on cloud 9, riding it out right now,” he grinned. Recent paydays at Wainwright and Sundre have pushed him to the top of the heap in the Canadian standings, and he’s also now sitting tenth in the world.
“I darn sure want to go for another Canadian championship and be at Edmonton again. But one of my main goals this year is to make the NFR. I want to be there so bad. I just hope I can get that done and be in Vegas in December.”
Milan has already earned $2124 at Ponoka, and has a shot at a whole lot more if he can get two more fast runs under his belt. Joining he and Weisgerber in the Finals will also be Rowdy Hays from Rocky, who’s collected $2317 in the first two rounds.
Heading into the Finals with the fastest total on two runs in tie-down roping is Hunter Herrin, who added a smooth 8.5 second run to his morning’s 7.7 time, for a 16.2 second total.
“Ponoka’s been one of my favorites,” declared the Oklahoma cowboy. “I think the first year I came here was maybe 2007, and I set the arena record at 6.6, and I just try to come every year. I’d hate to miss it.”
Herrin also claimed the Ponoka roping title in 2009, the first year of the Showdown. With this year’s bump up in the Showdown prize money, he’d love to do it again.
“I know right now I’ve got probably one of the best horses to ride here, and he played a big factor today. Last year Rambo was the horse of the year in the PRCA in calf roping, and he’s pretty good,” grinned Herrin.
He’s one of the cowboys whose good fortune meant he had to juggle his July first road plans, with his travelling partners not making the Ponoka Finals and heading off to Cody, WY, and he joining them in St. Paul, OR, before returning to Canada for the Calgary Stampede, which starts Friday. Now they just have to figure out horse plans and how to shave hours off driving routes.
“I’m going to have to pick and choose. I’ve got to tie another one down and make the Final Four, but if I do that, it will be decision time. I hope I have to worry about it,” he grinned.
Rimbey’s Dean Edge and Cody Brett of Silver Valley are the only two Canadians to make Ponoka’s roping Finals.
Wade Sundell rode his way to the saddle bronc Finals by making an 84.5 point ride on Double Vision Tuesday.
“That’s a young horse of Outlaw Buckers. They said it’s been really good, and darn sure he lived up to what they said,” stated Sundell, who’s happy to be staying in Ponoka overnight. “What a jam-up good horse. You couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
“I’ve been planning my week, and I was banking on coming back, and that would make my week go out perfect, so everything’s working good. So long as we can come out on top tomorrow, that’d be awesome.”
Meanwhile Layton Green of Meeting Creek became the only Canadian to qualify for the bronc riding finals, with his 83.25 on Card Shark. Brad Harter had the top mark of the ‘long go’, with his 84.75 earning him $4932 for first.
Cadogan’s Clint Laye collected $3478 for his 87.25 point bareback ride early in the long round. Locals making the cut include Jake Vold and Bowden’s Ky Marshall. Both Ty Pozzobon of B.C. (81.50) and young Lonnie West of Cadogan (81.25) had strong enough bull rides Tuesday to qualify for today’s Finals, with Scott Schiffner earning $3849 for his early 88.25 point ride at the top of the heap. World Champion Sherry Cervi was the only barrel racer fast enough Tuesday to make the top 12 cut, with her 17.569 putting her in third place. Texan Mary Walker won $4404 for being best in the long round, at 17.473. In the team roping, Ponoka’s Brett Buss and Klay Whyte of Airdrie are the leaders going into the Finals with their 12.7 second total. Other locals to join them include Justin and Brett McCarroll of Camrose; Logan and Keely Bonnett of Ponoka; and Tel Flewelling of Lacombe with his partner Kurt Fletcher of Wainwright.
As the novice events concluded, it was Lane Cust of Bluffton claiming the novice saddle bronc riding with his 73.75 point ride Tuesday for $1412; Wyatt Gleeson of Sundre in novice bareback collecting $1361 for his 77.5; and Irricana’s Luke Ferber splitting first in steer riding with Grady Smeltzer of Claresholm with 78.5 scores, both earning $1670.
Tension ran high as eight drivers running two heats were trying to survive the semi-final round and looking for a spot in Wednesday’s final in the chuckwagons.
When it all played out, Evan Salmond, Jason Glass, Kurt Bensmiller and Kirk Sutherland survived the semi-final round and will comprise the $50,000.00 Tommy Dorchester Winner-Take-All Championship final heat. Jordie Fike ended up in the crying hole and missed the winner-take-all final. Obrey Motowylo would have qualified for Monday’s final, but penalties proved costly and eliminated the the former Ponoka champion.
On the day, it was Evan Salmond who not only qualified for Monday’s final, but did it in style by winning his second day money of the week with a penalty free run of 1:18.26. From barrel number four in the eighth heat, Salmond, driving the Phoenix Rentals outfit was the fast man on the day by just 8 one-hundreds of a second over Jason Glass who ran in the same heat number eight. Third and fourth belonged to two other drivers in the semi finals as Kurt Bensmiller nosed out Kirk Sutherland for third place, with Rick Fraser filling out the top five on the night.
The Ponoka Stampede Finals start at 1:00 pm today, with the best four in each event advancing to the Showdown Round with its $7500 bonus. The evening action, which includes the Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash, starts at 6:30 pm.