Ponoka cowboys crowned champions at Canadian Finals Rodeo

‘Ponoka Pride’ might be bursting a button or two, after two of Canada’s newest rodeo champions are connected to the cowboy minded community. The 41st Canadian Finals Rodeo attracted more than 90,000 fans to watch pro contestants in their season playoffs, with more than $1.5 million at stake. The championships were handed out Sunday afternoon.

‘Ponoka Pride’ might be bursting a button or two, after two of Canada’s newest rodeo champions are connected to the cowboy minded community.

The 41st Canadian Finals Rodeo attracted more than 90,000 fans to watch pro contestants in their season playoffs, with more than $1.5 million at stake. The championships were handed out Sunday afternoon.

Jake Vold, who was raised in Ponoka, actually cinched up his first Canadian bareback title Saturday night.

He came into his fifth CFR with a more than $15,000 lead on the field, following a season where he won twelve rodeos. Then he managed to capture first at two of the rounds at Rexall Place, marking an 88.75 on Mucho Dinero Friday night, and then taking first place money again Saturday night with an 86.5 on Mile Away.

The $23,619 padded his lead to an untouchable position, and despite being disqualified Sunday for slapping his horse, he finished the year with $63,623.

“My week started slow,” commented Vold. “It was hot, cold, hot and then just cold again, but that’s just how it goes. That’s rodeo. I’m disappointed in my last day, but that’s why it’s such a humbling event.”

“But to have the dominant performance I had all summer, and coming here, to win a couple rounds felt pretty good. Definitely I accomplished my goals this year in Canada.”

Vold’s talent was evident early on in his career, but just when he’d get some momentum rolling and be in a position to capitalize on it, he suffered injuries. It would be easy to get discouraged, but Vold persevered, which made this victory extra sweet.

“This is huge. It makes all the time in the gym, the physio, the money I’ve got invested in myself, this makes it all go away. It is pretty sweet the way it all ends up. It was meant to be that way.”

Vold’s rodeo season isn’t yet over, because he’s one of the three Canadians headed to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas next month.

In the team roping, it was a shoot out to the finish, but when the dust cleared, season leaders Levi Simpson and Ryon Tittel rode away with the honors. It’s the second time Simpson, who lives in Ponoka, has claimed the header honors, but the first time his Colorado partner has won the heeling buckle.

“Actually for the past few years, I don’t think anyone who’s actually come in first has ended up winning it,” noted Simpson.

“Kolton (Schmidt) and Rocky (Dallyn) came on strong all week, putting the pressure on us. It’s been a little frustrating. But we just knew we had to catch the last cow and let it play out, and see how it worked.”

Simpson and Tittel roped their last draw Sunday in 4.6 seconds, but a slipped heel gave them an extra five seconds, so the 9.6 didn’t place. However, header Kolton Schmidt failed to catch his steer, dropping his team in the average, while Simpson and Tittel finished second there.

They each collected $14,686, for also splitting first in the opening two rounds.

“I darn sure wanted to take a consistent shot today, and I did, and I’m just thankful that my partner spins them fast enough,” smiled Tittel.

“It’s been a great journey. Meeting Levi was quite a blessing for me this winter, and I just enjoyed the whole summer with him and his family. They’re great people and it’s been real fun.”

“It means the world to me,” added Simpson, about his second championship. “I’ve been waiting since 2011 to try and do this again, and to be able to do it with Ryan is awesome.”

Bowden cowboy Ky Marshall was able to walk away from Edmonton with his first rodeo title, as he claimed the All-Around honors.

Marshall had the lead heading into the final Sunday, after placing three times and earning $10,447 in the bareback riding. But it wasn’t until three-time champion Kyle Thomson bucked off his saddle bronc that Marshall clinched the award.

“It’s always been my goal to be a Canadian champion in the All-Around,” stated Marshall, who also competes in tie-down roping.

“Coming in here Sunday, it’s nervous because you know there’s still a lot of money up for grabs, but it all worked out in the end, and it feels great.”

Donalda’s Curtis Cassidy made a big haul out of Edmonton, where he competed in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Not only did he earn his eighth High Point championship, he also finished first in the average for the roping.

That gave him $38,154 in that event, and he was runner-up for the title, but he also cashed in another $20,421 in the steer wrestling, where he ended the year in third place.

“My main goal when I come here is to win a championship in either one of my events,” said Cassidy. “But to win the High Point is still great.”

Cassidy wound up the season with earnings of just over $101,000, and that was significant in his books.

“That was one of my goals for a long time was to win $50,000 in the regular season, and to win a hundred thousand after the CFR between the two events. To win a hundred after it’s all said and done is pretty cool.”

“To come into Sunday after a whole season and still have a chance at a championship, or two, is darn good.”

Cassidy is also Las Vegas bound, where he made the top 15 in the steer wrestling.

For the second time in his career, Tanner Milan of Cochrane grabbed the Canadian steer wrestling championship. But it took a round-winning 3.5 second run Sunday in order to clinch the honor in a tightly packed race. His CFR account had $42,393 at the end of the day, which was quite a triumph considering he was kicked in the knees by a horse in the back alley opening night.

The 2014 saddle bronc championship was decided by the closest margin. Tyler Corrington of Minnesota took the honors by a mere $238. He, too, sealed the deal by finishing first in the final round, with an 86 mark.

He walked away with $48,146 of Canadian Finals earnings, for a $78,668 season. Edged out was his travelling partner Cort Scheer, but don’t feel too sorry for the Nebraska rider. He picked up the Ram Top Gun award as the top money winner of the CFR, with earnings of $62,984. Both bronc riders are on the NFR roster, along with Dustin Flundra of Pincher Creek.

Another first time winner came in the barrel racing, when Steffanie Mather of Medicine Hat turned a solid performance all week long into a championship buckle. She picked up a cheque in all six rounds on her horse Bucky to win the average, and a total of $38,442 in Edmonton. But it was also a big week for Innisfail’s Sydney Daines. The RDC Soccer and Basketball team member raced to three firsts and a second place finish, setting the fastest time of the week Sunday, and collecting $44,210.

“We’ve saved eighteen years for her college education,” joked her father Duane Daines. “And she earned that in just one week at Edmonton!”

Dakota Buttar of Kindersley, SK turned 22 on Friday, and he celebrated by riding his way to his first Canadian bull riding buckle. He rode five of his six bulls, winning the average, and $47,684 at the CFR. He was season leader coming in, and wound up with an $82,810 year. Matt Shiozawa of Idaho was the top tie-down roper coming into Edmonton, and he also parlayed that into his first championship, by winning two go-rounds, and tying for second Sunday. He made $39,668 at the CFR, for a $65,062 season. Ponoka’s Tyler Pankewitz had his best week ever in Edmonton, riding five of his six bulls and finishing second in the average, to collect $31,492.

Dantan Bertsch of Eastend, SK won the novice bareback title, with the novice saddle bronc buckle going to Lane Cust of Ardmore. Coy Robbins of Camrose won the boys steer riding.