It was a banner night for central Alberta contestants at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton.
Rocky Mountain House cowboy Rowdy Hays led the charge, taking first in steer wrestling with a snappy 3.9 second run, to collect the $11,003 they hand out to the top gunner.
With his second place finish in the first round, that means he’s already earned over $19,000, and the weekend hasn’t even started! To top it off, the 24-year-old is well on his way to a Canadian championship, opening up a ten thousand dollar lead in the standings over Curtis Cassidy.
Naturally, it’s hard to wipe the grin off Hays.
“It’s been great right now,” he bubbled. “It’s awesome.”
It’s Hays’ first time competing in the CFR, but not his first time in the building, with his brother JD having qualified twice before in the bulldogging, and his dad Gerald a long time hazer here.
“My Dad’s down there, and my brother, and my Mom and my Grandma and aunt are here, so it’s good.”
Hays was comfortable with the steer he’d drawn, even before the go-round started Thursday night.
“When we threw them down ahead, I actually ran him, and made the same kind of a good run.”
Hays insists he’s not paying attention to his leading position in the buckle race, at least not yet.
“We’ll check that on Sunday, and we’ll make sure it’s still number one,” he chuckled.
“I’m riding Murray Milan’s horse, Peggy Sue, and Baillie (Milan) is hazing. It’s been working good all year. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing every night, I guess.”
But season leader Cassidy, of Donalda, did his part to keep pace, splitting second in the round with a 4.1 second run.
Bareback rider Jake Vold of Ponoka had to sit out a good chunk of the season recovering from a badly broken ankle, but looked in great form Thursday night on September Skies, chalking up 85.50 points.
That held top spot, until defending Canadian champion Dusty LaValley nodded his head on Northcott’s McCarty Rose, for an 86.75 to win first.
He retains his hold on first place overall, but Vold does earned $8182 for second on the night.
Another Ponoka cowboy, Luke Butterfield, went to the paywindow in the saddle bronc riding.
He won $2539 for fourth place, despite having his fingers crunched in the chutes moments before getting on his bronc Majestic Rocket.
Best mark of the night in the eliminator pen was season leader Taos Muncy of New Mexico, who spurred to an 83.75 on Calgary’s Shosone Mountain.
Bowden’s Ky Marshall won the novice bareback riding with 79 points on Coconut Roll, and he’s leading his event.
Coleman Watt of Hardisty won novice saddle bronc riding for the second night in the row.
Team ropers had another impressive evening, and the kids put on a school, with 17-year-old Kolten Schmidt of Barrhead and his heeler Tyrel Flewelling of Lacombe winning the round in just 3.8 seconds, just a tenth off the arena record.
Schmidt stuck a loop on the head of their steer in the blink of an eye, and that meant Flewelling had to be fast in his reaction.
“Roping behind Kolten, I’ve been used to that all year,” stated Flewelling.
“He gets out faster than anybody, so you’ve got to be ready.”
“He’s full of energy, full of life. It’s been outstanding. He calls me old, and I’m only 25!” added the Lacombe cowboy. The two pick up $3171 each for the win.
In the tie-down roping Tyson Durfey made it two in a row, taking first once again, this time with a 7.6 second run, padding his lead overall. South Dakota’s Lisa Lockhart took first in the barrel racing with a 14.595 second run. The bull riding went to Chad Besplug of Claresholm, who spurred to an 86 on Ramrod.
Saskatchewan’s Brian Symington was first in the boys steer riding.
The CFR continues this evening with a 7:00 pm performance at Rexall Place.
Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor of the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer.