Rookie wins ladies barrel racing championship

(Times photo - Donovan Quintero)

Breakaway roper Laci K. Begay tries to get the rope over the calf’s nose on Sunday during the final round of the ladies’ breakaway competition of the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeo.

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Navajo Times

SAN CARLOS, Ariz., Oct. 17, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Barrel racer Sunny Storer races around the second barrel on Sundayat the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeoin San Carlos, Ariz.

BOTTOM: Team ropers Rawley and AJ Ben do not waste too much time roping their steer on Sunday at the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeo in San Carlos, Ariz.

Every morning while at the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeo, Sunny Storer and her mare "Bullet" would take a stroll inside the quiet and empty Apache Gold Casino & Resort Pavilion.

Storer and her father would familiarize the 8-year-old mare with the arena.

Come championship Sunday, all that walking, talking and preparing paid off.

The underdog mare, who suffered respiratory problems early in the season amongst other issues, led Storer to their first-ever IIFR ladies barrel racing title.

"She's a tough, tough little horse, I'm so fortunate to have her," Storer said of the rodeo athlete.

"I couldn't have asked for a better soldier to come to battle with."

Storer and Bullet, considered underdogs and rookies of the competition, qualified for the IIFR for the first-time ever this year under the All-Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The two placed third in the first performance with a time of 17.15.

In their second performance they placed first with a time of 16.79, in the third they placed second with a 16.87 and their fourth they tied for second with a time of 16.96.

The two ran an average time of 67.77 for the title, just .02 seconds less than reserve champ Sharaya Edgewater's average time of 67.79.

Storer said the victory started last year, when after many years, she finally decided to buy her AIRCA card and compete for a shot at the finals.

"This is the first time I've given myself a chance," she said.

"I told myself when I bought it I was going to win the world and I did."

There were a couple times throughout the season where she and Bullet had to regroup.

Early on she found that the mare had a respiratory problem, but her vet said to run her hard, so Storer did and it worked.

Then, in the weeks leading up the IIFR, Storer noticed Bullet started missing the first barrel.

So, they got her hooves done, got her shots and even got her to the chiropractor.

Storer said she did anything she could to get Bulle back into the groove.

"It's worth it," Storer said. "I don't mind it - she's my baby. I don't have kids so she's my kid. I love every second of it."

Storer was one of 10 new world champions crowned at the IIFR this year.

Blaine Redhorse teamed up with Myles John (heeler) in the team roping this year.

The win was John's first IIFR world title after qualifying for the three times.

"It's a good feeling, I don't think I've ever felt like this," John said.

Having been friends for sometime the two decided to join forces and try their hand as a team in the area.

They spent most of the rodeo season traveling together and earning wins along the way.

John, 19 and from Whitecone, Ariz., said their ability to be successful in the event is thanks to their friendship.

The two placed third in the first and second go with times of 6.5 and 7.7 seconds.

In the third, they placed second with 6.0 seconds and in their fourth they tied for third place with 6.6 seconds.

They won the average with a combined time of 26.8 John said he's enjoying being a first-time world champion but wants to advance to the big stage of the National Finals Rodeo.

He said winning the IIFR title gets him one step closer to his goal.

"I want something bigger than this, " he said. "Only certain people can make it to the NFR, they work very hard and I'm trying to do the same."

For ladies breakaway roper Recinda Little-Yazzie consistency couldn't have had better timing.

The 30-year-old Flagstaff, Ariz. native said she's had some ups and downs this season but managed to straighten things out before the finals.

"(It was thanks to) my horse, practice and more practice," Yazzie said.

She won the first round roping in 3.6 seconds; she placed fourth in the second performance with a time of 3.7.

In the third round she placed first with 3.8 seconds and in the short go she placed second with 3.9 seconds.

She only qualified for the finals one other time four years ago.

This year she qualified as a Navajo Nation Fair wild card winner.

Alvin Nosie, a first-time senior breakaway qualifier for the IIFR, qualified under the San Carlos Apache Rodeo Association.

Nosie said his family encouraged him to give the rodeo a try so he decided to take the plunge.

"They told me to go ahead do it, they said you've roped a lot of calves in your days," he said.

After shattering his right wrist while roping just months ago he was unsure of how he would fair.

"I was late on my first calf and I just thought I'll just run the rest solid which I did and it worked out," Nosie said.

Nosie had an average time of 17.6 to put him in first after the finals and winner of the title.

A member of the San Carlos Apache he said he was honored to win in his hometown.

Other IIFR winners included: All-around winner Reneille Sells (Central Navajo Rodeo Association); steer wrestling winner Myron Lee (CNRA); tie-down roping winner Marvin Tolth (Prairie Indian Rodeo Association; bull riding winner Guytin Tsosie (V Bar S Wild Card).

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