Journal on the Road

National Circuit Finals Winners

April 3, 2011

After two rounds, one short round of eight and one short round of four, champions are crowned at the National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.

By Larri Jo Starkey

In 2010, two team ropers left the National Circuit Finals Rodeo disgusted.

They were disgusted with themselves and their roping.

“Last year we didn’t do any good at all,” said Ross Lowry of Summerville, Georgia, the team’s header. “I missed the first steer, broke the barrier on the second – it was terrible. We went home.”

But as they left, his partner said, a little wistfully, “We’re going to ride around in the back of those trucks next year.”

At the National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, all the teams make two runs. The top eight move to the short go and immediately after that go, the top four run again.

The winners are paraded around the arena in the back of a pickup loaded with their winning loot – saddle, buckle, whiskey and a voucher for a new pickup.

Stephen Britnell of Maryville, Tennessee, Ross’ heeler, was right, though they might not have guessed that earlier April 3.

In the round of four, they had what might have been a bit of bad luck.

“Well, the first two teams missed,” Ross said, “so when it came down to us, we wanted to be fast because Luke (Brown) and Martin (Lucero) still had to go, and they can be fast any time they want to be. We really didn’t plan on the steer falling down.”

As Ross roped the horns and turned the corner, the steer fell. Stephen, a patient professional, waited for the steer to get back up as the seconds ticked off inexorably then heeled him handily.

“The key to Doc Bar’s success as a sire,” said Charlie Ward, “is that he’s so consistent in his type. His colts are uniform and possess a lot of sense. They’re easy to train, they have a lot of natural ability – every one of them is cowy.” Learn more in AQHA’s The Doc Bar Bloodline.

Stephen and Ross stretched their steer in 10.5 seconds and headed for the exit to watch what they were sure would be the winning run.

“We rode out, Luke and Martin rode in the box, and we just sat there and they went out of sight over there (in the far corner),” Ross said. “We couldn’t see the steer but we could tell by Martin’s reaction that he got a (single) leg.”

The five-second penalty for catching just one leg instead of two put Stephen and Ross in the back of the pickup, parading around the arena with their new buckles and saddles and bottles of whiskey. The time didn’t set a record, “but the result is the same,” Stephen said.

Ross said he felt especially fortunate because he nearly lost his good horse in January.

“I am very blessed to be riding ‘Curly,’” Ross said. “He got sick in January and I didn’t get to ride him. The first week in March, I rode him in a rodeo. I’ve taken him two or three places since then, just kinda trying to get him built up enough to ride him out here, because he makes all the difference in the world.”

The 19-year-old Curly Bar Doc has been Ross’ partner for eight years.

“He was just a blessing,” Ross said. “He came out of nowhere and has been good ever since.”

Stephen has also had his horse, CR Sonofadoc, for eight years.

“He’s sure an honest little fellow,” Stephen said. “He does a big man’s job. He was a reining horse reject. I took him home and spent a couple of months with him, and we’ve been on the rodeo trail ever since. He’s sure been a blessing to me. He’s a major investment in my family.”

Other winners from the National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City

Steer Wrestling – Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Oregon

Barrel Racing – Tana Renick, Kingston, Oklahoma

Tie-Down Roping – Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Washington

All-Around – Seth Jack Murphy, South Heart, North Dakota (steer wrestling and tie-down roping)

Team Championship – Columbia River Circuit

To see more photos from the National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, watch the slide show below. Click on each photo to see the caption.

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