RODEO: Plenty riding on one run for barrel racers
Jan 04, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
There isn't much margin for error in a barrel race, in which fractions of a second can mean the difference between a big pay day and a disappointing performance.
For the women competing in the 80th SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo, which begins tonight and concludes Jan. 12 at Ector County Coliseum, their fleeting time in the ring might be especially nervewracking.
Kevin Evans, vice president of Odessa's annual rodeo, said barrel racers will have only one run instead of two for the "first time that I can remember." That means the event will have only one payout scale instead of three -- prize money is typically awarded for each round and the two-round total -- and the competition will be cranked up for the 197 entrants.
"It's going to be really tough," said Lindsey Ewing, a professional barrel racer from Midland. "But it's going to pay really good."
Last year's all-around winner in barrel racing, Paige Conrado, is returning to defend her title. She was a freshman at Odessa College when she won last year and, according to OC rodeo coach Kelly Doster, has since turned pro and returned to her native Colorado.
The field includes several other women with Permian Basin ties -- Odessa's Karen Coskrey, Tonya Parrish and Katelyn Scott, Midland's Lisa Crosby, Cecily Crouch and Dena Milner, Gardendale's Rainy Graham, Andrews' Debbie Bloxom and Alpine's Debbie O'Neill -- along with some of the most accomplished barrel racers in the world.
Scheduled to compete are seven of the 15 women who competed in December's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, including world champion Mary Walker of Ennis and WNFR average winner Brenda Mays of Oregon. Former world champion and Texas Tech cowgirl Lindsay Sears also is slated to race, as is current world standings leader Fallon Taylor of Whitesboro.
Washington's Liz Combs, who was the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association champion each of the last two years, will be in Odessa as well.
Barrel racer Kelsey Gunnier, who is not competing in Odessa but was selected as Rodeo Queen, said the field is as deep as it gets.
"It's pretty good," Gunnier said. "We have a lot of the girls."
Evans said the 197 entries, many of whom will compete in slack beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, is about 60 more than usual. He said the increased field, and accompanying time crunch, is one of the reasons for limiting the barrel racers to one run instead of two.
Evans said the move also follows a trend within the sport of rodeo.
"It's nothing against barrel racers or anything else," Evans said. "A lot of rodeos are going to it, and we decided to go to it this year."
Barrel racers such as Ewing, who was the Women's Professional Rodeo Association Rookie of the Year in 2010, just hope to make the most of their one ride through the rodeo ring. The 26-year-old Midland High graduate is starting her season at the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo and bringing back an old friend of sorts in the process.
Ewing said she'll ride on her "good horse," a 12-year-old registered as Law Man's Champ and nicknamed Shark, for the first time in about two years. She said she kept the horse shelved while he recovered from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
"I'm just excited to finally get to run him some more," Ewing said. "I consider him my good indoor horse that I like to run."
Contact Adam Zuvanich on twitter @OAzuvanich, on Facebook at OA Adam Zuvanich or call 432-333-7649.
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