Season-changing week for some contestants

The week known as Cowboy Christmas is a whirlwind of activity that can be a huge downer or a monumental lift for ProRodeo contestants.

For some, it’s a chance to stockpile a mound of cash in a short amount of time, and it can mean the difference between making December travel plans for Las Vegas or staying home. This year was no different, with the week of July 1-7 catapulting a number of competitors to new heights in the world standings.

For the second consecutive year, the top earner was a barrel racer. This time, it was three-time World Champion Sherry Cervi, who banked a whopping $31,349 at 11 rodeos across the United States and Canada.

“It feels great anytime you can win money but especially that much in a span of a week,” Cervi told Women’s ProRodeo News managing editor Ann Bleiker. “I think back in 1999, I won the most money of all the barrel racers but to be the overall winner is such a great feeling. I have had an incredible two weeks if you include the win from Reno, I have won over $40,000.”

Three-time World Champion Sherry Cervi was ProRodeo's big winner at this year's Cowboy Christmas.

Three-time World Champion Sherry Cervi was ProRodeo’s big winner at this year’s Cowboy Christmas.

The huge haul came after Cervi earned checks at all 11 rodeos in which she competed, and her biggest pay day was a $6,101 check in St. Paul, Ore. Cervi, who won world titles in 1995, 1999 and 2010, used two different horses, including her 11-year-old palomino mare, MP Meter My Hay “Stingray,” during the busy week.

Cervi’s five-figure pay day moved her from off the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo “bubble” to first in the WPRA world standings with $70,026, just ahead of previous leader Fallon Taylor, who has $66,953.

Trevor Brazile was the No. 2 money-maker, raking in $28,828 to jump from 17th to third in the team roping heading standings. He also earned some tie-down roping money, but $23,526 came in the team roping with partner Patrick Smith, who moved from 13th to third in the heeling standings.

Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, picked up all-around titles in Greeley, Colo., Livingston, Mont., and Window Rock, Ariz., and eclipsed the $100,000 mark in season all-around earnings for the 16th consecutive year. Brazile, whose week began with his truck broken down on the side of the road outside Ponoka, Alberta, now has a lead of more than $51,000 over Rhen Richard in the PRCA all-around standings and is in the driver’s seat to record his 11th all-around gold buckle.

Smith’s total put him fifth overall among the big Cowboy Christmas money winners.

Barrel racers Kelli Tolbert ($24,771) and Brenda Mays ($23,809) were third and fourth, respectively, in Cowboy Christmas earnings, with Tolbert jumping to 11th in the WPRA world standings and Mays moving into eighth place.

All totaled, 11 contestants won more than $20,000 during the week, with a total of 62 PRCA cowboys banking at least $10,000.

One of the big winners was bareback rider Jake Vold, whose $20,133 nearly tripled his season earnings and moved him to 17th in the world standings. He now has a chance to qualify for his first Wrangler NFR because of his one-week windfall.

The 26-year-old Red Deer, Alberta, cowboy won the Ponoka Stampede with a career-best 91.5-point ride on Calgary Stampede’s Stampede Warrior. That ride sparked his big week and changed the scope of his entire season.

“Ponoka is an amazing rodeo, and it was awesome to ride that well here and to win this rodeo is a dream come true,” Vold told PRCA media staff. “I’ve never been able to do anything good here before, so to be able to check this one off the list is special. It’s a great format, and the four horses they threw in the pen (for the showdown round) were unbelievable. It was fun to be a part of.

“I’ll probably go to a few more rodeos now, and I still have some goals up in Canada that I want to accomplish, but all that money counts toward the PRCA standings (and the Wrangler NFR), too.”

Bareback rider Jake Vold made a huge move during this year's Cowboy Christmas.

Bareback rider Jake Vold made a huge move during this year’s Cowboy Christmas.

Six-time World Champion Cody Ohl was the top tie-down roping winner and seventh overall at Cowboy Christmas after pocketing $20,717, and the top-notch week moved him to 10th in the world standings. Ohl has been spending a lot of time this season with his three kids and wife, Jenny, and he’s now in position to qualify for his 19th Wrangler NFR while only going to 35-40 rodeos thanks to his profitable Cowboy Christmas.

“I seem to get on a roll about this time of year and it carries me through,” Ohl said to PRCA media staff. “I still ride my same little horse Pearl (the 2009 American Quarter Horse Association/PRCA Tie-Down Roping Horse of the Year) and that makes it easy and fun. I had good calves this week and I was able to capitalize.”

Shane Proctor, the 2011 world champion bull rider, was tops in his event thanks to a $19,161 haul, and his impressive week moved him to 12th in the world standings. He’s now in contention for a third straight trip to the Finals after being off the radar much of the season.

Cowboy Christmas also resulted in a couple of cowboys now being in the mix for a gold buckle. Steer wrestler Hunter Cure, a 2009 Wrangler NFR qualifier, earned an event-best $16,355 to move to third in the bulldogging world standings, and 2011 Wrangler NFR saddle bronc rider Tyler Corrington’s event-high $19,072 put him second in the standings heading into the second week in July.

Both cowboys could be factors down the stretch as the season rolls on.

Tyler Corrington was the top earner among saddle bronc riders at this year's Cowboy Christmas.

Tyler Corrington was the top earner among saddle bronc riders at this year’s Cowboy Christmas.

These stories illustrate why I love Cowboy Christmas so much, because the week has such transformative powers. Contestants go from being long shots to world title threats and from off the leaderboard to locks for the Wrangler NFR.

It’s one of the wildest and most entertaining weeks in all of sports, and ProRodeo is all the better for it.

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