Levi Simpson rode out of the Daines Ranch last June with a buckle as the team roping winner. The 2011 Canadian heading champion put himself in good position to do that again this year, after turning a steer in 4.8 seconds during the opening performance of the Innisfail Rodeo.
But a few things have changed since then. His roping partner, for instance, is now Ryon Tittel from Colorado, instead of Montanan John Robertson.
“This winter down in San Angelo, (TX) roping at the rodeo, I roped with him at a jackpot,” explained Simpson. “After that, John and I weren’t doing that good, and decided we’d be done for the year. Ryan called me and asked if I wanted to keep going a little bit. We entered up, and went over to the California rodeos. Then he decided he wanted to come up here and hang out for the summer.”
Ponoka gains a summer visitor, Simpson gets a handy heeler. The two had already won Luxton and Leduc, before the snappy Innisfail run.
“Usually, I enter (Innisfail) for later in the week, so you get a second run, and you know what the steers are,” added Simpson. “But Ryon’s going to fly home for the weekend, and get some stuff done at home. So we entered early. I’ve been here enough times, and it’s the same kind of thing. Just try and go fast, and see how it works.”
It worked well, and the timing was extra special, since Friday was Tittel’s birthday! Simpson hopes the run will stand the test of the rest of the field.
“I’d like to make it two in a row. I’d be all right with that. Even if it doesn’t, it should win good money. I’ll take that any day.”
The other change sees Simpson trying his hand at the tie-down roping at a few rodeos.
“I’m just trying to play more, having some fun,” he grinned. “Not very good yet, but fun.”
The bareback riding lead was taken by Justin Randle, when he spurred to 85.5 points on Calgary Stampede’s Muffled Cries. Randle, from Fort Vermilion, remembers coming to Innisfail as a youngster, when his dad Kenton was one of Canada’s top bareback riders. The 32-year-old is having his best season ever, after jumping in the truck with Ponoka’s Jake Vold and four-time Canadian Champion Dusty LaValley.
“It’s nice to be riding good, but it’s even nicer to be drawing good,” said Randle.
It was advice from Vold that was key to Randle’s ride in Innisfail.
“Jake was on him at the Canadian Finals last year, and he won the round, and he had a lot of good things to tell me about that horse, so I was pretty excited. It felt great.”
“Just right out of there, he’s got some little moves, and stuff he likes to do in the chute that doesn’t let you get a good shot at him, but after that first jump, he sets you right on your riggin, and you get to go to town.”
Not far behind Randle was Big Valley’s Colter Harden, who was pumped to come up with 84.5 on Calgary’s Tootsie Roll.
Only three of the thirteen bull riders got a qualified mark, but best of the bunch was a young rookie from Dewinton.
Like Randle, Brock Radford is a second generation cowboy, and his father Max was on the chutes helping him get out on the Calgary Bull Gingas Kong. The 19-year-old stuck on the spinner for 89.5 points, and it could be a career milestone for the young cowboy.
“It was pretty fun. It felt good to get one knocked out like that,” said Radford, who also competed in the steer wrestling.
“I’m pretty happy to be winning it. If I win it, it will be my first pro win.”
The other timed event leaders from slack weren’t bumped from their positions, so it’s still Cochrane’s Straws Milan leading steer wrestling, with a time of 4.6 seconds, while Erik Dublanko of Thorsby is the fastest tie-down roper with a time 9.1 seconds. Laci Suitor of Duchess is the barrel racing leader with a time of 15.877 seconds. It’s a mark of 80 on top in the saddle bronc riding, turned in by Adam Gilchrist of Maple Creek, SK, while Rylee Storey of Clive was the best in a strong section of boys steer riding, with a 75.5.
There’s plenty of rodeo action today at the Daines Ranch, with performances at 1:00 pm and 7:00, while the buckles will be presented during Sunday’s final performances, which starts at 1:00 pm.