BY ZACHARY CORMIER
While she may not have won her first Canadian championship, Red Deer County’s Sydney Daines was able to leave Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton with a smile on her face after the final performance of the Canadian Finals Rodeo on Sunday afternoon.
“I think overall it was just a great time and experience. We got to meet up with all of our friends and family and we created a lot of great memories together,” said the 20-year-old ladies barrel racer of the biggest weekend in Canadian rodeo, which features the best cowboys and cowgirls from all around Canada competing for the title of Canadian champion.
This was Daines’ second time qualifying for the CFR, which only allows the top 12 competitors in each of the major rodeo events to compete.
After finishing the regular season in ninth in the Canadian standings to solidify her spot, the young cowgirl was able to put together six solid runs over the course of the weekend, finishing fifth in the second performance, Thursday night, fourth in the Friday night and Saturday afternoon performances and second in the Sunday afternoon performance to pick up a decent chunk of money.
Sydney and her horse, Flame, were also one of only two teams to make it through the week without knocking over a single barrel and were able to put up an aggregate time of 89.327 over six rides, enough to secure second place in the average, just a second behind Canadian champion Nancy Csabay, for a nice $9,164.35 cheque.
“You can’t complain when you come out with some money and obviously fifth in Canada, which is great. It was a great year,” said Daines, who came out of the weekend with a huge $23,000 cheque to more than double her regular season earnings.
Daines, who is currently pursuing her education degree at U of A, said she was especially proud of how Flame performed on the dirt at Northlands.
“For him, he’s not very consistent. That’s one of his struggles, I guess. He doesn’t really run the same race every time. He runs really fast but sometimes you don’t know what he’ll do. So for him that was a big challenge to defeat. I guess now that he’s getting older he’ll be a little more consistent.”
She added that while there’s still one more major rodeo left in 2016 — the Canadian Western Agribition Rodeo in Regina, which counts towards the 2017 standings — she’s not sure whether her and Flame are going to make the trip out.
“He’s the only barrel horse I have, so if I do go, I would be running him,” she said, noting that it might be better to let Flame rest over the winter.
Daines wasn’t the only Red Deerian to make a trip up to CFR.
Boys steer rider Carter Sahli finished the week fifth in Canada. The Annie L. Gaetz Elementary school student rode one of the five heifers he got on, posting a score of 76.5. While the one ride wasn’t enough for the defending Calgary Stampede Novice Tour champion to add a Canadian championship to his list of accolades, it did allow him to win a go-round and pick up a $1,000 cheque.
It was a tough week for team roper Travis Gallais. The Red Deer County header and his roping partner Devin Wigemyr of Brooks were only able to post one clean run, a 4.8 second blitz during Sunday’s performance, throughout the week as illegal head catches and misses on the back end shut down their hopes of taking home the big prize. Luckily Gallais, a former Canadian champ, and his new roping partner didn’t leave Edmonton empty-handed; their run on Sunday afternoon was good for a third place prize in the final go-round, so they’ll each be heading home with around $3,000 in CFR winnings. Gallais and Wigemyr finished with an aggregate time of 33.9 over three catches, leaving them out of the average.