Friends, partners and fellow competitors. That’s how Rudy Neiborg and Troy Pollitt describe themselves. And today, in the final performance of the Cowboy Classic Rodeo in Red Deer, they’ll be going head to head for the steer wrestling championship of the Foothills Cowboys Association.
Neiborg, who calls Rimbey home, had a strong start to his Finals, winning both of the first two performances with times of 4.2 and 3.7 seconds. Pollitt was 4.3 and 4.7 seconds to sit 30 championship points behind Neiborg.
But the tables turned Saturday night and it was the Eckville cowboy in the spotlight. Pollitt won the round in 4.2 seconds and that moved them into a tie at the top in the points race, with 90 apiece.
“It was a nice steer,” noted Pollitt. “My travelling partner Rudy had it this afternoon and won the go-round, so I knew I had a good steer. I just had to use him. Luckily, we got ‘er done.”
Neiborg hazes for Pollitt, who rides his bulldogging horse. So the two travel together, use the same horses and now share the best shot at a coveted buckle.
“We were just talking about that,” grinned Pollitt. “It should make for a super Sunday.”
Pollitt has the slight edge in the average race, but it’s splitting hairs. He’s at 13.2 seconds, Neiborg is 13.4.
“I gotta keep it in my head, and stay consistent and do what I’ve been doing all weekend,” said Pollitt. “Hopefully we both draw good steers that will let us see who’s best.”
Pollitt has been battling an injury suffered earlier in the season — a dislocated kneecap.
“Thank goodness for anti-inflammatories, to keep the swelling down. Physio kept me going throughout the year. It’s slowly getting better, but it seems every time it starts getting better, I come back and start rodeoing again.”
Neiborg won the FCA title in 2008, but Pollitt hasn’t got his buckle yet.
“It’s the one title that’s eluded me so far, so we’re going to fight hard for it,” he said while smiling in Neiborg’s direction.
“It will make for good competition,” added Neiborg. “We travel together all year. This is the way it should be. It’s fun. I just gotta haze for him.”
“It’s the way we hoped for at the start of the year, one-two the whole way through,” commented Pollitt.
Meanwhile, it’s another battle of Central Alberta in the calf roping. Another past champion, J.T. Robinson of Big Valley came through with an 8.3 second run, to make up ground on Curtis Butterfield, who’s from Stettler.
“It worked out good,” said Robinson, after his run. “I didn’t think Curtis and Mace (Perozak) would both have trouble. I drew a good calf. That was the one Mace had the first night. I knew I could do something with him.”
It’s a tight race, with both Robinson and Butterfield showing 70 points, but Robinson has a slight edge in the average.
Eckville’s Jake Brown made a move in the bronc riding Saturday night. He won the night with a 77.5 on Partee Girl, and with his round one victory he sits on top with 80 points.
“I’d seen my buddy Brendan Laye get on him the night before, and he was second in the round. He was just a really good horse. I was excited to have him, and it just worked out really good,” stated Brown.
But in between the two good rides was a buckoff, and Brown admits that shook the confidence a bit.
“It was a little bit of a hit, but I kind of turned that into a positive thing and figured out where I went wrong, and turned it around tonight.”
Brown will be matched up with the saddle bronc of the year for the FCA this afternoon — Rummy from Pengelly’s.
“I’m pretty excited about that. My buddy Reed Sparks won a rodeo on him and Chad Thomson also won a rodeo on him. He’s really good. I’ve never been on him, but I’d better not fall off him, because they’ll bug me if I do!”
In the bareback riding, Australian Luke Quartermine is in front with 80 points, but Cole Goodine of Carbon has a one-point edge in the average. Bobbie Goodwin of B.C. has the most points in barrel racing, but Ponoka’s Shayna Dodds has three clean runs and leads the average.
It will be virtually impossible for anyone to budge Saskatchewan’s Dakota Buttar from the bull riding championship after he won his third round in a row Saturday night. Clay Ullery and Kasper Roy had the highest point tally in the team roping. Innisfail’s Dylan Bilton is the novice horse riding leader.
The FCA champions will be determined in this afternoon’s 1 p.m. performance at Westerner Park.
Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor to the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer