Just like that renegade black steer, Lindsey Thorlakson saw her championship hopes slipping away Friday evening.
Just as the Thorlakson trio was ready to start celebrating victory in the Calgary Stampede’s 14 Class Team Cattle Penning Competition, the stubborn bovine bolted back up the middle of the Pengrowth Saddledome infield. But with a stirring second effort, Thorlakson and her teammates corralled the cantankerous critter, rounded it up with its two mates, slammed the door, and finished the job.
And suddenly Thorlakson, at 22, has three Stampede championship cattle penning buckles in 12 months and change.
“That was a horrible feeling, for a few seconds,” the Carstairs, Alta., gal later admitted with a smile. “The steer turned, put on the brakes, and got back between us. But we knew we had a little room to breathe (as the last trio out in the 10-team final), and we’d been doing pretty well so far, so we just wanted to finish it off with some consistency.”
As it turned out, the winning squad of Thorlakson, Russell Armstrong of Armstrong, B.C., and Pete Molnar of Langley, B.C., authored a comfortable margin of victory in cashing a winners’ cheque of $16,500. With a 43.27-second run in the final, their aggregate time for 12 head of cattle clocked in at 123.18 seconds, more than seven seconds better than the 130.80 turned in by the second-place team of Calgary’s Amy Carver, Ken Crawford of Okotoks, and Sal Howell of Calgary, who will spit the reserve champions’ prize of $11,000.
That 43.27-second run also stood up as the fastest time of the final, which saw plenty of high jinks from two pens of restless cattle.
“After (Friday’s third go), with all those fast runs, you’re thinking, ‘Wow, these herds are soft. People are going to have some smokin’ times,’ ” noted Armstrong, 20, who was riding Mary, an 11-year-old quarter horse mare. “But it just never really came together for a lot of teams. It seemed like one thing went wrong on every run.”
The 14 Class, which is the second-highest caliber Team Cattle Penning competition at the Stampede next to the Open Class, began with 110 entries on Thursday at the Okotoks Agricultural Society, with the top 20 teams moving on to Calgary after two rounds of competition.
Armstrong and Molnar, whose team cattle penning partnership goes back “a lot of years,” noted Molnar, “ever since he was just a little guy,” both celebrated their first career Stampede team cattle penning win.
“It would have been nice to finish with a bang,” said Molnar, who competed aboard Rebel, a 20-year-old Quarter Horse gelding and cattle penning veteran. “But we got ‘er done, and that’s what counts.”
Thorlakson, who had no Stampede titles to her credit on Canada Day 2009, now has three. She was the only two-time cattle penning champion at the ’09 Stampede, as a member of the winning 10 Class and 7 Class teams. And it’s an eight-year-old quarter horse gelding known as Doc’s Little Sky, whom she affectionately calls Little Man, who’s carried her to victory all three times.
“This feels pretty awesome. It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “I had really good luck last year, but we definitely had to earn it today.”
Team Cattle Penning, a race against the clock, gives 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 16-foot-by-24-foot pen at the opposite end of the arena. Teamwork is key, with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen.
A pair of defending champions in the 14 Class came oh-so-close to repeating on Friday. Phil Mainey of Victor, Mont., seeking his fourth Stampede buckle in nine years, had the best aggregate time of the bunch with his teammates Drew Lewis and Larry David after the first two rounds, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. Meanwhile, Kurt Robson of Carstairs authored Friday’s best time – 23.05 seconds – in the third round, along with teammates Jennifer Robson and Shaylene Hunter, but followed it up with a 54.77 in the final.
The third go-round and final in 10 Class start at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 10. The third round and final of the Open Class will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 11, while the 7 Class third round and final begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 12. The Saddledome will play host in all three competitions.
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