Calgary – It’s an old question: is the energy of youth superior to the wisdom gained by experience? Apparently, if you combine the two, like the winning combination Friday night in the 14 Class Team Penning finals, it’s a formula for success.
At 61, Pat Bolin of Stettler has been Team Penning for many years, winning the Open class in 2012. On the other end of the age scale is Carstairs teenager Josie Abraham, who is 16 years old, although she’s been penning for ten years. \”It’s my first buckle at Stampede,\” says Josie, who has made it into the top 20 once before. \”It’s very exciting.\”
Bridging Bolin and Abraham is Lesley Marsh, 35, who won a regional championship with Abraham and has done a fair bit of penning teamed with Bolin, too. Marsh, from Arrowwood, AB, has been competing at the Stampede for 12 years, winning a buckle in 2004. Since then, she says, she’s scored a lot of seconds and thirds, but had to wait ten years for another Stampede win.
The Stampede’s Team Cattle Penning Competition has drawn 551 teams from across the continent this year, with a total prize purse of $272,787.
A total of 107 teams began the 14 Class competition with two rounds of qualifying on Thursday at the Okotoks Agricultural Society. With a winning aggregate time of 125.79 seconds on 12 head of cattle, Abraham, Bolin and Marsh will split a cheque for $16,938 while also collecting Stampede championship buckles.
Graham Armstrong and his twin brother Justin, who won 14 Class buckles in 2012 at Calgary, were forced to settle for a Stampede reserve championship. With a time of 131.18 seconds, the Armstrongs, who are based in Armstrong, BC, and Ben Thorlakson of Carstairs, AB, will split the runner-up cheque of $11,292.
Team Cattle Penning, a race against the clock, allows a team of three riders on horseback 60 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30 and direct them into a 20-foot-by-20-foot pen at the opposite end of the arena. Teamwork is paramount, with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen. 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, to the travelling professionals of the Open Class.
In the hard-fought 7 Class, Bruce Stewart of Cochrane, AB teamed with Mason Cockx of Strathmore, AB and Mike Street of Penticton, BC to take the Stampede buckles and split the winner’s purse of $21,044. The winning aggregate time was 150.90.
It’s a bit of a haul from Quesnel, BC, to Calgary, but the trip proved worthwhile for the trio of Spencer and Leonard Gamache and Sue Norquay, whose time of 152.35 made them reserve champions in 7 Class. Of the 154 teams entered in Class 7, all but the top 20 were eliminated in two preliminary rounds held in Okotoks on Thursday.
Team Cattle Penning action will continue in the Saddledome over the next two evenings – the Open Class on Saturday, July 5, and the 10 Class on Sunday, July 6 – with third rounds beginning at 5:30 p.m. and finals immediately following both nights.