Dennison catches fire for another Navajo Nation Fair win

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, September 13, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

Barrel racer Kassidy Dennison of Tohatchi, N.M. gets her horse, Eagle, around the second barrel during Sunday afternoon's performance at the 66th annual Navajo Nation Fair Rodeo in Window Rock. Dennison completed the her run in 15.68 seconds.

N o matter the place or time, Kassidy Dennison has grown accustomed to making an appearance at every winner circle.

At this year's Navajo Nation Fair, she took two victory laps inside the Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena and amassed $13,211.88 in total winnings.

The Tohatchi, N.M., cowgirl finished third in the ladies breakaway event and tied for first in the barrel racing event as she was named the women's all-around winner at one of the world's most prestigious Indian rodeo.

She also claimed the rodeo's final four showdown in both of her events.

"I've always been the one to say that consistency wins championships," said Dennison. "The more consistent you are, the more likely you'll be a champion."

On Sunday, she managed to craft another stunning performance like the one we saw last year when she capped the barrel racing event with a mind-boggling 17.58 second run.

This time around the Tohatchi, N.M. cowgirl improved that mark with staggering 15.68 run in the short round as she tied Parker, Ariz., cowgirl Jill Welsh for the barrel racing crown. Both cowgirls finished the average race with an identical 47.94 run.

"Coming into this final day I knew Jill had a good lead," Dennison said. "I was just happy that I competed against her because she is one of my hero's. She had some health issues a few years back, but she came back and I was just so happy to see her compete."

"To tie with her is a big honor because she is an amazing girl and she has an amazing horse," she added.

Welsh completed her short round run in 15.88 seconds and finished second to Dennison, but with two first place checks in the earlier rounds the Parker, Ariz., cowgirl collected $4,252.23, which was the highest paid amount in the barrels.

Donna Small of Lame Deer, Mont., picked up third place honors in the average with a 48.73 aggregate ahead of Autumrain Chee (48.84), Charmayne Gene (49.40) and Brittany Bird (49.90).

In the bonus round, Dennison recorded a much slower time as she crossed the finish line in 16.31 seconds.

"My horse stumbled in between the second and third barrel," Dennison said of Eagle her prize-winning American Quarter Horse.

Even with that mishap, Dennison still won the showdown as Chee, Small and Welsh were assessed a five-second penalty for dropping a barrel in their runs.

In the breakaway roping, Dennison was penalized 10 seconds for breaking the barrier in her second round draw and despite that she came through with flying colors as she recorded a 2.6 in the champion round.

That final run gave her an aggregate of 17.7 seconds as she watched six other ropers take their turns.

Four of those ropers missed their draws before Fort Defiance, Ariz., cowgirl Serena Dahozy looped her calf in 3.2 seconds.

With that run, Dahozy momentarily seized the average race with a 11.0 clocking on three heads.

But in a one-shot deal, Coyote Canyon roper Nyera Yazzie turned in a 2.9 run, which ultimately gave her the title and a hefty sum of $3,435.93 at the pay window.

"I have to admit that I was a little nervous," said Yazzie, who roped three calves in 9.9 seconds for the title.

"But my older sister Odessa came up to me and she reminded me that I had this," she added. "She just told me to go out there and rope."

Yazzie said she put herself in contention by roping two draws in 7.0 seconds to setup Sunday's finals.

"My first calf I wanted to be clean so I could start off my week with a good run," she said. "I wasn't trying to be fast, but I wanted to stay consistent all the way through."

As a first-time average winner at the NNF, Yazzie said she was coming off a bad weekend prior to the fair and wanted to make amends.

"I was in a slump," she said. "But I am really happy it worked out for me because I really worked hard for this and I really wanted it."

By finishing second in the average Dahozy walked away with $2,148 while Dennison earned $3,238 of her total winnings.

On Friday, Dennison and Yazzie will be competing in the 8th annual International Finals Rodeo at the New Mexico State Fair as wild card entrants.

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