Aspen Autry was back to her winning ways Wednesday. The 12-year-old barrel racer from Kim, Colorado, won the first round of the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas junior division with a 13.911-second run. Autry is the defending world champ in the event.
“I like this because it’s an average and me and my horse are really good at averages,” Autry said of Jag. “Even though he’s 18 and about to turn 19 he’s still doing amazing.”
It’s even more impressive considering Jag’s past. And how he and Autry came together.
“Before he was a barrel horse he was a yard ornament,” Autry laughed. “This little old lady fed him apples and he would just wander around her yard. Then she sold him to a lady named Kathy who trained him and thought he was really good. And then she saw her friend Patty, who is a really good friend of my grandma’s, and Patty said, ‘I think we found you a barrel horse.’”
Six years later, the two are tearing up the cloverleaf pattern. It’s a far cry from how their barrel racing relationship started.
“At the beginning Jag and I did not get along,” Autry said. “It took about two or three years.”
Was it frustrating?
“Not on my side,” Autry said. ”I loved Jag the whole time, but my dad was like, ‘Aaaargh!’ He was going crazy.”
J.J. Autry, Aspen’s dad, nods in agreement.
“We had a little kid and a rocket of a horse,” he said. “So getting those two together was a little tough. It was one of those things where as Aspen got better the horse would push her to the next level. They just kind of continually worked together.
“The horse knew what her capabilities were and as she could do more, then they could do more together.”
Working in tandem last year, Aspen and Jag won $11,000 along with a saddle, a purse “that I gave to my mom for some reason” as well as a buckle and other assorted goodies.
As for the money, Aspen put that to good use.
“Basically,” she said, “I gave it to my parents so they could spend it on me.”
Finishing behind Autry in the first-round standings were Maddi Billingsly of Glenpool, Oklahoma, with a 13.941; Caydence Roberts of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with a 13.944; Kendall Kirkpatrick of Rimesburg, Pennsylvania, with a 14.018; and Kami Klepac of Van Vleck, Texas, with a 14.405.
Tuesday, Gus Franzen turned 19. Wednesday, the Kearney, Nebraska, cowboy celebrated by winning the first round of the Ote Berry Junior Steer Wrestling open division at the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas.
“That’s a pretty good present,” Franzen said after his 4.2-second run in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena.
Franzen has had success before at the Junior World Finals, placing in two rounds and making the short go each of the past two years. Wednesday’s win aboard Sis, though, marked the first time he had won a round.
“That one felt good,” Franzen said. “Hopefully I can come back and do it again.”
Franzen is also hoping to compete for a national championship at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, in June. The Southeastern Oklahoma State University freshman bulldogger ended the fall season in fourth place in the Great Plains Region.
“That’s my goal,” Franzen said. “Make it to Casper.”
Grant Soileau of Bunkie, Louisiana, was second in the round with a 4.8; Logan Baird of Simonton, Texas, was third with a 5.1; and Quade Potter of Cambridge, Nebraska, was fourth with a 5.3.
In the Tuf Cooper 12 & Under division, Rance Winters of Agua Dulce, California, took a commanding lead in the average. Winters, who was the only competitor with three qualified runs, takes a time of 55.1 seconds into the finals Saturday.
Rendon Powledge of Grandview, Texas, sits second in the average with a 22.07 on two runs. He also won the third round with a 9.27-second run.
Jake Holmes of Mulberry, Kansas, won the first round with a 10.52 and Ace Reese of Aquilla, Texas, won the second round with a 9.56.
Breakaway Roping/Pole Bending
The Tuf Cooper 15 & Under division wrapped up its first three rounds Wednesday and Courtney Carbajal of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, leads the average with a three-run time of 8.75 seconds. Ellie Schreck of Murphy, Texas, is second with a 9.40.
Round winners were Harley Pryor of Moore Have, Florida (2.52, first); Quincy Sullivan of Peralta, New Mexico (2.25, second); and KC Gail Churchill of Elm Mott, Texas (2.16, third).
The first round of the KK Run for Vegas junior pole bending saw Cassidy Evans of Yuma, Colorado, emerge as the winner with a 20.655. Mollie Compton of Tombstone, Arizona, was second with a 20.699 and Lexi Murer of Big Fork, Montana, was third with a 20.721.