The best Canadian rodeo athletes converged on Edmonton for a week of tough Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) that saw two Ponoka area cowboys taking home a championship buckle.
Bareback rider Jake Vold got enough good rides in to hang on to win his second straight Canadian title, while team roper Tyrel Flewelling with his partner Roland McFadden secured the title with enough season winnings to buy a new truck.
Vold entered the CFR – his sixth straight appearance – with a huge lead in the standings and despite a slow start the first two nights, he couldn’t be caught and then put his stamp on the repeat by winning the go-round Sunday, putting up the highest score in bareback this year – an 89.25.
Vold also landed all six rides of the week.
“To repeat as the Canadian champ, I was probably twice as excited as I was when I won my first one last year and I never thought I could be more excited than when I did that,” said Vold, who ended the season with nearly $100,000 in earnings.
And just like last year, Vold knew early that he would be putting on the championship buckle. Last year, he clinched victory on the Friday night, while this time around the title wasn’t his for sure until after the Saturday afternoon performance. However, that didn’t mean Vold wasn’t going to give it his all right to the end this year.
“Last year, when I knew rather early on that I was going to win, I don’t think I was as focused and I let some money slip through my fingers,” he explained.
“This time around, I wasn’t going to let that happen, I was going to max out the amount of money and on Sunday everything worked out in my favour.”
Vold is the third cowboy to win back-to-back Canadian titles in the last 10 years. Dusty LaValley was the last one to complete the repeat – doing it twice, in 2010-11 and 2006-07 – while Kyle Bowers won the title in 2008 and 2009. In total, there have been 12 repeat champions in the event dating back to the inception of the Canadian championship in 1945 – 10 of those winning back-to-back (three of those did the feat twice), while two won it multiple times – Bob Duce with five from 1949 to 1953 and Dale Trottier’s record of six from 1969 to 1974.
For his part, Vold isn’t worrying about any records or what’s gone on in the part, his focus is on finishing off the season strong at the Chute-out event in Las Vegas that runs Dec. 10 to 12.
“Keeping an eye on the prize and on my goals has really helped in continuing to try and be a dominant force at each rodeo I’ve been at,” he stated.
“And things have changed, even from a few years ago when I came onto the pro circuit. It’s tougher now as everyone works hard to get better and try to one up everybody. For me, it’s just about keeping that confidence in myself and constantly learning something new.”
Once the Vegas event is over, Vold will take a brief rest before getting back on the training regime in order to start off next year with his first rodeo in Denver at the end of January and will once again look at the goals of winning at home in Ponoka again along with adding to his CFR title honours.
“Winning another Canadian championship would be the icing on the cake and it’s always great to win in Ponoka, and one always likes to make it to Calgary because winning there is life-changing,” he added.
Flewelling, who finished the season with $38,800, was glad to see two Ponoka area cowboys win the championship. He grew up in the Lacombe and Ponoka area and got his rodeo start with Vold in the Battle River High School Rodeo Association.
Winning wasn’t as secure as for Vold. “It took right to the end with Levi (Simpson) and Jeremy (Buhler) in the last round,” said Flewelling.
Simpson, who is also from Ponoka, finished second overall with just over $3,000 behind Flewelling who said his and McFadden’s goal was to stay second in the average. That strategy worked and earned them the win. The stock proved good enough to test every rodeo athlete’s skill.
Flewelling was able to see the stock in Ponoka before heading to the CFR and he knew it was going to push his skills. “It’s probably the best steers we ever had from there.”
“You just never know how the week’s going to play out,” he added.
With the prize money so high — first place earned $12,000, or $6,000 each for team ropers — a contestant in last place still has a chance to come back and win. In Vold’s case, he was sitting with a large first place margin at the outset of the CFR but two first place wins by Caleb Bennett dropped the gap by $24,000.
First place winners are invited to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo show in March where prize money is estimated at $50,000, says Flewelling. This was his fifth appearance at the CFR and third Canadian championship.
While there had to be a first place winner, Ponoka was well represented this year with Simpson taking second place in team roping. Zane Lambert was in the running for the championship in bull riding, but was bucked off on the last day, which landed him at second place, just $500 behind the leader.
Correction: In the original story it was stated that Vold was bucked off once during the week. That is incorrect, Vold completed all six rides of the week. We regret the error.