Calgary Stampede Penning Champions

The Calgary Stampede Team Penning Competition is traditionally held at the Stampede grounds.

Calgary – With the Saddledome out of commission, the 2013 Stampede Team Cattle Penning Competition presented by Calfrac Well Services was held at the Okotoks Agricultural Society grounds on Wednesday, July 3rd and Thursday, July 4th.  They might have competed in Okotoks, but the winners still got some glory as they were introduced to the Grandstand crowd on Friday.
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There might have been a happier winner than Wallace McComish of Stettler, but you would have had to work pretty hard to find one.  The winner of the prestigious Open class with teammates Larry Cressman of DeWinton and Vern Hamilton of Innisfail, McComish has had a fair share of success in previous Stampedes.  Last year, he and Cressman teamed with Russell Armstrong and earned reserve champion status in the 14 Class.  In 2011, McComish teamed with Russell Armstrong and Bob Armstrong to take the 14 Class championship.
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It’s the Open class champion’s buckle that McComish says he really wanted.  “It’s been a long time coming,” he says.  “I’ve been trying pretty hard to win that and I haven’t done it until now.  I’ve never won an Open.  You’re playing against the best and that’s why it’s a lot more rewarding to win.”
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Although McComish, Cressman and Hamilton are a new combination at Stampede, they aren’t a new team by any means.  “We compete together all summer in the Central Alberta Team Penning Association, so we’re very familiar with each other,” McComish explains.  “We’re all good friends, and that makes winning even more special.  We’ve teamed-up before, just not for this particular show – and we probably should have.”
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Team cattle penning is a race against the clock where each team of three riders has a maximum of 60 seconds to separate three specifically-identified cattle from a herd of 30 and direct them into a 16 x24 pen at the opposite end of the arena.  All three riders must work in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen, while keeping all the other cattle out.  Teams of riders enter the Stampede’s four classes based on relative skill and experience – in ascending order from 7 Class to 10 Class to 14 Class, with the highly-skilled professionals of the Open class at the very top.
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The Stampede’s Team Cattle Penning Competition, presented by Calfrac Well Services, is one of the sport’s annual marquee events.  This year’s edition drew entries from a remarkable 536 teams from across the continent, chasing an estimated total prize purse of $300,000.
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There were 60 teams entered in the Open class this year.  “We had four very even runs,” McComish says.  “That’s what it takes.  Our very first run ended up the second-fastest run of the Open class.  After that, we just had average runs.  We kept our last run very controlled because we didn’t want to take a chance of blowing ourselves out.”
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There’s usually a Thorlakson somewhere in the vicinity of a team penning championship buckle.  This year it was Tom Thorlakson of Carstairs who took the 10 Class with partners Naomi and Scott Fraser.  The 7 Class was won by Sandy and Larissa Price of Airdrie, who teamed with Laura Bird of Crossfield for the win.  In the 14 Class, the 2013 champions are Megan Bond of Calgary, Will Hanson of Fort Saskatchewan and Dusty Wigemyr of Arrowwood.
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McComish probably speaks for all the champions when he says, “I’m overwhelmed.  I’ve had so many rewarding experiences in this game, but the Calgary Stampede is Show Number One.  We’re raised around it.  You’re always cheering on the local guys.  To be part of it is huge.”
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The Stampede will be webcasting all events being held in the Big Top this year.  Visit http://ag.calgarystampede.com/big-top-ustream to see live streaming of action from the Big Top.

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