Central Alberta is going to be well represented when the challenge begins on championship million dollar Sunday at the Calgary Stampede.
A total of six area cowboys having already qualified for the final top 10 that compete July 14 — Ponoka’s Jake Vold, Craig Weisgerber and Zane Lambert plus Donalda’s Cody Cassidy, Stettler’s Riley Warren and Zeke Thurston from Big Valley.
Vold, a Ponoka native as well as two-time Ponoka Stampede champion and yet to win a Calgary title, took top billing in bareback’s Pool A by taking home $11,000. He won two consecutive rounds, with scores of 88 and 86, before dipping down and out of the money with 81 on day three before being bucked off in the last round.
Weisgerber won Pool A in the steer wrestling, earning $10,500 on four good runs — winning the first round with a 4.7 and tying for first the next round at 3.8 before missing out on the next two rounds with a 5.8 and a 13.1.
Cody ended up third in the pool at $9,000 that included second on opening day at 4.8 and a winning third round at 4.4, while breaking the barrier in the other two rounds for times of 16.3 and 19.2.
Lambert was one of three Ponoka bull riders competing, but the lone one to automatically qualify for the finals. His score of 85 — worth $3,500 — in the last round July 8 put him into the pool’s top four with a total of $8,500. He earned money on opening day with an 82 then added $3,500 more the next day with an 85.5 and needed a good result after being bucked off on day three.
Meanwhile in the saddle bronc, Thurston showed he may well be the one to beat as he looks for his fourth Calgary Stampede championship. He finishing at the top of the Pool A standings, continuing his great riding that helped him claim another win in Ponoka, with scores of 86, 85, 86.5 and 88.5 to earn $18,500 and a spot in the finals.
Lastly, Warren squeezed into tie-down roping Pool A top four with $7,500 in earnings, after posting an 8.9 in the last round which got him $1,500 and edged him past Marty Yates of Texas who took a no time July 8. Warren scored $4,500 on day one with a 9.2, followed by a no time and then a 9.4 worth $1,500.
In the bareback Bashaw’s Jacob Stemo, who equaled Vold’s 88 point ride on July 7 to win top day money of $5,500, missed out on qualifying after a double grab on the last ride. That, along with no money for earlier scores of 78.5 and 80 means he will have to reach the final through taking one of the two wildcard spots on July 13.
Over in the bull riding, a pair of Ponoka cowboys will also need the wildcard to have a shot at the $100,000. Jordan Hansen and Wacey Finkbeiner couldn’t catch up to the pack after disappointing scores early in pool action.
Hansen had an 81 to start then put up an 83.5 to grab $750, but could only manage a 78 on day three. His last round 83.5 earned him $2,500, but even with only four good rides it wasn’t enough.
Finkbeiner got off to a great start with an 84.5 to earn $3,500, but unfortunately he could only manage another $1,500 with an 85 on day three, as he came away with no money from a day two score of 80.5 and being bucked off in the last round.
One other area bull rider, Garrett Green of Meeting Creek, is also left waiting for Saturday after posting just one score, a 78 on day three.
Steer wrestling will feature the only two area cowboys competing in the second half of the Calgary Stampede qualifying rounds. Donalda’s Curtis Cassidy is being joined by Scott Guenthner of Consort, who both began their four day round robin on July 9.