It’s the homestretch dash for contestants eager to reach their CFR and NFR goals for 2017, and every penny counts.

Team ropers Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler picked up 1500 of those precious dollars by snagging first place at the weekend Oldstoberfest Rodeo. They did it in a shiny 3.9 second time.

“It seems we’re under four seconds about once a year,” noted Simpson, of Ponoka. “It doesn’t happen too often. But we’ll take it!”

Simpson comes across as pretty laid back despite the pressure cooker position he and his heeling partner find themselves in. The World Champions are both in 16th spot in their respective world standings, in a high stakes game where only 15 get the invite to Las Vegas. While they’ve been placing pretty regularly in Canada, it’s been a tougher go south of the line for them in the late summer. Like at Pendleton, where Simpson missed their first steer, and Buhler’s horse slipped and fell on their second run.

But while it may seem precarious as the September 30th deadline looms, it’s not totally unfamiliar territory. Last year, the talented duo was just on the other side of the cutoff line, in 14th spot, and not feeling safe.

“Having people chasing you is definitely a better place to be in,” admits Simpson. “But that’s how our year’s gone, and hopefully we can change things (yet).”

The two proved last year that coming in to the NFR in bottom hole doesn’t haven’t to keep you a long shot for a world title. So don’t bet against their chances yet.

“We’re staying up here and going to Brooks and Hanna. Then we’ve got two Champions Challenge Events in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.”

The money up for grabs there could make all the difference for the two cowboys, who are feeling good, and ready for the challenge. Even though both Simpson and Buhler have identical season earnings for the year of $63,851, Simpson is $7,940 out of 15th for headers, while Buhler is in by $215. That’s not unheard of, given times when headers and heelers will switch partners during the year, or with situations like the Salt Lake City rodeo and its unique qualification system. But while getting qualified for Vegas is job one, these two are also focused on Canada, where they currently hold down the number one spot in each of their races. The Olds win helped them gain some ground at the top, but because they’ll be in South Dakota, they won’t be able to compete at the Grass Roots Series Final in Calgary the same time. They’ll be closely watching to see if their season leader honors get snatched away.

Like all team ropers, Simpson and Buhler are especially excited about competing in Edmonton this November for ‘equal money’, meaning each competitor gets the full payout, instead of having to slice the daily purse down the middle.

“It will mean last place team will have as good a chance as first. You can essentially win about three times what you did all year long,” says Simpson.

“It would be really nice to go in there and bring home some of those new dollars, and a Canadian championship too. We’ve had good luck up here the last few rodeos, so hopefully that carries on into the last few of the year, and we’ll see how it all ends up.”

Meanwhile, Manitoba raised bronc rider Tyrel Larsen added some oom-pah-pah to his step by winning Oldstoberfest with an 83.5 point ride on C5 Rodeo’s High Valley, for $1396. That puts him just $444 behind Troy Crowser’s 15th place seat, after Crowser collected a piece of last hole at Olds.

Bareback rider Luke Creasy was committed to trying to get back to the Canadian Finals this year, despite his main address being in Texas now. He was shut out at Olds, but plans to be back for both the last two regular season events, plus the Grass Roots Finals. He’s holding down his CFR spot but Cole Goodine is making a charge, and Bobby Peters and Dylan Bilton are also jockeying for those last few spots.

Tie-down roper Kyle Lucas made the biggest move in his event, using his share of third place at Olds ($1238) to move into the twelfth and last qualifying spot, bumping back Dean Edge. Randall Carlisle and Blair and Clayton Smith are all lurking as well. Steer wrestler Joe Guze got enough at Olds to move ahead of Baillie Milan, who’s now holding down last spot. Shayna Weir was the fast barrel racer at Olds, moving her up the ranks to within shooting distance of a CFR spot, but she’ll need to keep placing her last few chances. Cole Davison and Cory Kidd finished third in the team roping at Olds, to muscle in front of the likes of Kevin Schreiner, Kolton Schmidt and Jesse Popescul.

Stateside, the call to ‘Let ‘er Buck’ at the famous Pendleton Round-Up proved profitable for bareback rider Jake Vold. He teamed up with Vold’s Dancing Queen to two-step out of there with 85 points and the first round win. He wound up second in the average, to collect $11,044. He’s now topped $90,000 for his world earnings and sits tenth. But Orin Larsen is determined to join him in Las Vegas, helping his cause with $6900 of his own out of Pendleton, plus $2208 from Puyallup (where Vold also won $1328) and $2541 from the New Mexico State Fair, to sit 12th for the world.

Both Clay Elliott and Zeke Thurston made the Pendleton short go, with Elliott taking home $3426, and Thurston $1131. Thurston also won Lewiston, ID, for $4145, while Layton Green was the victor at Spokane, for $1396, and caught $650 out of Puyallup. There’s no slow for steer wrestler Scott Guenthner yet, as he won Spokane in 4.4 seconds ($1942) and pulled cash out of Puyallup ($2650); while traveling partner Tanner Milan got $2498 out of the same show. Curtis Cassidy is still traveling hard to keep his NFR hopes alive, helped by a win at St. George, UT ($2017) and a bit out of Sale Lake City ($362).

Other cash collectors included the world’s 11th place bull rider Jordon Hansen, who split the first round at Puyallup, for a $3254 payday; tie-down roper Al Bouchard, who won the second round at Pendleton ($3597) and Morgan Grant, who placed fourth in the average there ($3754).

There are two performances of the Dallas Sunstrum Memorial Pro Rodeo in Brooks, with three performances of the Hanna Indoor Pro Rodeo this weekend. Those are the last two opportunities for contestants to be among the top ten in the Grass Roots Series standings, who are eligible to compete in those Finals, September 29th and 30th in Calgary.

Edmonton City Council announced its decision to close the Coliseum permanently as of January 1st, 2018, which means the 44th Canadian Finals Rodeo will be the last in that building. CPRA President Terry Cooke released a statement saying while disappointed, he knows there is a path forward, and will continue conversations ‘that serve the best interests of members and the sport of rodeo’.



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