It was one of the most exciting finishes to a Canadian Finals Rodeo.
The last CFR ever at Northlands proved to be among the most competitive in several years, entering the final performance with the champions to be determined on the last go-round.
Several local and area cowboys were in the running, but only three would be the last winners at Northlands.
Ponoka’s Levi Simpson and his team roping partner Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood were able to add a Canadian title to the world championship won last year, while Bashaw’s Layton Green earned his first ever Canadian championship in the saddle bronc. Unfortunately for Ponoka’s Jake Vold, a fourth CFR title would be wretched from his hand by the slimmest of margins.
Simpson and Buhler were excited to be named Canadian champs, with just over $59,000 each in earnings, after having a dream season last year that culminated in a world crown at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
“Coming in number one, being consistent and being able to stay number one is great,” said Simpson, noting being pushed during the week definitely helped.
“I’d rather have to get a 4.0 (second) run each time and have the training take over, than just having to grab one.”
The pair got off to a rough start, posting no time in the first three go-rounds, but turned things around in time to make ground and be within striking distance on Sunday.
“Having a great Saturday I think gave us an advantage coming in,” Buhler said.
“Levi did a good job turning and we just let our hard work from the season carry us over. We don’t pay attention to just being safe, we just go with our game plan because there are a lot of great teams out here.”
Green finished strong — placing in the top five in the last four performances — on his way to setting a record for money earned at just under $107,400. That included more than $29,000 earned at the CFR.
“It’s really special to win, it’s been a dream since as far back as I can remember,” said Green, who beat his friend and current world champ Zeke Thurston.
“This was a great week and to walk out with a great friend Zeke, knowing one of us was going to win was wonderful in itself. The way this season has played out, I’ve been second to Zeke a few times like Ponoka and Calgary, so to beat him here though feels pretty good.”
Despite starting the CFR with a huge lead, Green wasn’t worried about the pressure.
“You just have to tell yourself to forget about it all and just do your best. Being able to win this last one at Northlands is a cherished memory I’ll always have,” he said.
Vold had a fourth championship taken out of his hand by Seth Hardwick by little more than $800.
“Coming in, I didn’t do myself any favours,” he said, referring to his no score on Saturday. “I had a chance, but there’s no excuses. I hesitated a little and that wound up being the turning point this weekend.”
Vold will rest and look forward to a few weeks downtime before he heads to Las Vegas for his second straight NFR, “I still feel good about what I did and am excited about going back to Vegas.”
With this, the 44th edition of the CFR and the last at Northlands, the people took to the seats in record numbers with more than 90,000 showing up for the six performances. However, with next year’s venue still up in the air, several of the cowboys took a glance back at their time competing in the soon to be closed building.
“There’s a lot of great memories here,” said Vold, “I think my first CFR was when I was eight, but sometimes change is good.”
Ponoka bull rider Tyler Pankewitz is looking forward noting, “It’s going to be interesting to see what the future holds, it may well be bigger and better next year.”
The rest of the CFR champions were: steer wrestling – Jason Thomas, tie down roping – Logan Bird, barrel racing – Carmen Pozzobon and bull riding – Garrett Smith.