Zeke Thurston wanted to make sure there was no question this time around.
The 2016 world champion and three-time Calgary Stampede champion was missing one crucial buckle in his collection.
At Canadian Finals Rodeo 46, Thurston, 25, had the saddle bronc Canadian title wrapped up before he even rode his final horse on Championship Sunday.
Heading into the final day, Thurston had season earnings nearing $90,000, almost $50k clear of the nearest competitor. He led the aggregate going into the final round with wins in three of four performances.
“I feel great I had a good week, drew some good horse and made some good rides. Felt like I rode solid all week. Got a couple go-round wins and placed in every round. Couldn’t ask it to go any better,” Thurston said Sunday after officially collecting the championship buckle.
Thurston was an 84.25 on Kesler Rodeo’s Copper Cat Sunday, finishing third on the day and first in the aggregate overall, riding all six horses for the week.
Not only did he win with a season earnings total of $110,785.68, a Canadian season record, he finally captured that elusive Canadian title.
“It’s awesome. That’s one I’ve been gunning for, for a while. I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I didn’t like I would before this one, took a little bit longer… surely there will be more of them to come,” Thurston said.
Eckville’s Ben Andersen, in his first CFR had a championship Sunday to remember. Andersen, who was in the novice saddle bronc last year, posted a 90-point ride on Northcott Macza’s Get Smart in his first CFR as a pro and win the final round.
“Last year I was in the novice and I was nervous the whole time. This year I came in and I was calm, it’s awesome, I love it,” said Andersen.
Orin Larsen, 28, of Inglis, Man. not only defended his 2018 aggregate title, but decided he wanted the big prize as well. Larsen won three straight rounds, culminating with an 89.50 on Calgary Stampede’s Zulu Warrior that brought the Centrium to its feet.
“Most of the time I’m busy doing what I’m doing, but when you hear the crowd roar like that, you must be doing something kind of special,” Larsen said.
He ended up winning the overall season standings, collecting $80,578.34 and taking the title over defending champion Richie Champion.
“It’s unbelievable. Ever since I was a kid, putting my hand in a rigging I thought I always wanted to do this and always wanted to be in this position. It was a dream come true. Just really fortunate to be here,” Larsen said.
Scott Guenthner, 29, who won the 2018 Ponoka Stampede finished the week off on a heater at CFR 46. The Provost, Alberta cowboy in his third CFR captured second straight CFR championship buckle.
“Feels good, kind of another dream come true for me, having a new family made it a long week. Pulled through,” he said.
“I did what I did last year. My first two rounds weren’t the greatest, I’m kind of a weekend guy. Just stay focused, each run is it’s own.”
Guenthner’s wife gave birth to a baby just 10 days ago and has been at the cowboy’s side all week long. The win this year with his family in tow has been pretty special.
“It’s pretty special, especially have a 10-day old baby at CFR. Give it al to my wife, she’s a trooper. She came to every perf, didn’t miss anything. The baby has been awesome,” he said.
Shane Haunchey of Sulphur, Lousiana took the title in the tie-down roping, also collecting the aggregate championship. He earned $57,089.67 on the year.
Matt Sherwood and Hunter Koch finished as the aggregate winners in team roping and just narrowly captured the season title with 74,616.07 of total season earnings.
Stacey Ruzicka won the aggregate in a thriller in the ladies barrel racing, with an 87.874 average over six performances. She didn’t quite do enough to knock off Brooke Wills of Kamloops, who won the final two days and captured the overall title with $60,657.37. She posted the fastest time of the week on Thursday. Lacombe’s Justine Elliott was fourth overall.
Riley Warren won the high point championship with $47,818 earned from two events. Jacob Gardner was the all-around championship winner.
Edgar Durazo of Moctezuma, Mexico, won the bull riding, although it came down to the final ride. Ponoka’s Jordan Hansen posted a 89.75 Sunday before Durazo and ended up winning the CFR aggregate 517.50 on all six bulls. Durazo finished fourth Sunday with an 87-point ride, but still won the overall with $106,641.01 of season earnings.
The stock award winners was bareback horse from Kesler Championship Sundance Kid, saddle bronc horse Northcott Macza’s Get Smart and bull Outlaw Buckers’ Blackstone After Party.
Saturday night during the performance, saddle bronc rider Dustin Flundra was voted the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Cowboy of the Year.