Ponoka’s Pankewitz back on track

Tyler Pankewitz took a Back Track to move forward in his Ponoka Stampede ambitions.

Hometown boy Tyler Pankewitz marks an 84 aboard Back Track to lead the bull riding at the Ponoka Stampede Friday.

Tyler Pankewitz took a Back Track to move forward in his Ponoka Stampede ambitions.

The Ponoka cowboy collected 84 points Friday afternoon for his eight seconds on a Kesler bull which packs the Back Track handle. That was enough to tie him for the lead after the second performance of the Ponoka Stampede, with the 84 Thursday night from Tyler Thomson.

“That bull hasn’t been out this year, I don’t think,” said Pankewitz. “So he was fresh. But he had a little different trip than I’d seen him have last year at the Calgary Stampede. He was jumping ahead and hesitating a little today, and before he’d just usually spin ‘er up.”

That tricky timing made ‘Panky’, as his bull riding buddies call him, have to put out some extra effort.

“Oh definitely. First he wanted me to the outside, and then I was off my rope and then on the inside. I had to work a little bit to ride him. But if it pays off in the end, I’m up for it,” he grinned.

Pankewitz is comfortably inside Canada’s Top 10 bull riders so far this season, but he was feeling like things weren’t quite rolling, until this past weekend.

“Things weren’t going too good, and then Sunday came along, and I got second in High River. Then Monday I got second at the Ponoka bull riding here in town, so hopefully it keeps on rolling on.

“I just drew the right bull to get a good score, and that gets your confidence up, and you think you can ride better.”

The 24-year-old went to the Canadian Finals in 2006, and was the 2007 Canadian PBR Champion. But he was forced to sit out most of last year after a frightening wreck at the Calgary Stampede. He was stomped on by a bull, and packed from the arena on a stretcher. And while his recovery has been amazing, Pankewitz admits to some lingering body challenges.

“I’ve been seeing a chiropractor (in Red Deer) because my neck was bothering me pretty good. But she seems to be fixing me up here since the winter time, and I’ve been feeling all right lately. I’ve got to have regular treatments, or else I get way too sore.”

While Pankewitz’s Calgary injury certainly garnered the most attention around the globe, he believes the problem stems back to an earlier incident.

“When I was in Australia at some big bull ridings, I landed real hard and sort of whiplashed my neck and ever since then, my eyes have been bugging me and stuff. I guess some muscles in your neck have to do with your head. I was having blurry vision and getting tired real fast. Everything was out I guess, so I went there every second day for a while, and she got me back in order.”

While chiropractor Nicole Fox is obviously an important lady in Pankewitz’s bull riding program these days, there’s another one with an even bigger role. Pankewitz married Ponoka’s Megan Gartner on May 9th and the two are renting a house just outside town now. The bull rider would like nothing more than to pick up a big cheque from his hometown Stampede to put towards something more permanent for the couple.

In other day two action at the 73rd Ponoka Stampede, there was a new lead set in the saddle bronc riding, when B.C.’s Delano Kjos spurred to 83 points on Shady Cat. Bashaw’s Heath Wallace had the top bareback mark of the day at 74.5, but he’s in fifth place, behind the 86 from Bobby Mote on top in the event.

The 16.93 second run from Lindsay Sears wasn’t budged in barrel racing, with Lauren Chad of Saskatoon best of the day, moving into fourth with a 17.44. In tie-down roping, Canadian champion Tyson Durfey turned in a snappy 7.6 second run to lead the way in the performance, but missing his first calf in the morning will keep him out of the Finals. Oklahoma’s Blair Burk put together a pair of good runs, and his total of 18.8 seconds puts him in second spot overall, behind Hunter Herrin. Steer wrestlers still have their hands full, but there was a change at the top of the leaderboard, as Jason Miller of Wyoming clocked two runs in 14.3 seconds. Matt Fawcett of Stettler and Levi Simpson made the biggest move in team roping, coming in to third overall with a 15.6 second tally.

Innisfail’s Cole Jamieson is on top in novice bareback, with Big Valley’s Wyatt Thurston the leader in novice saddle bronc. Lonnie West of Cadogan had an 80 to set the pace in boys steer riding.

In the pro chuckwagon racing, Obrey Motowylo posted the best time on opening night, crossing the line in one minute, 13 seconds flat. In second place was Rae Croteau Jr. in 1:13.82 and Jason Glass ran third in 1:14.13.

The Ponoka Stampede continues with daily 1 p.m. rodeo performances. The nightly wagon races go at 6:30 p.m.

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