LAS VEGAS – Carlee Pierce has quietly had a very nice run at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
In her second qualification to ProRodeo’s premier event, Pierce has placed in four go-rounds, including a win on the sixth night, and has earned $61,544. That’s not a nice annual salary, and she’s done that through eight days in the City of Lights. The latest push came in Thursday’s eighth round, when they crossed the finish line in 13.76 seconds for another second-place finish worth $14,429.
“Dillion and I have had five quality runs in a row,” said Pierce, mentioning her great horse, a 12-year-old gelding that helped her earn two straight tickets to Vegas. “We tipped a barrel in the fifth round to place, but it was an honest barrel. He’s running his heart out. I’m very, very proud of him.”
She should be. The tandem has placed in half the go-rounds so far, and there are two remaining. This is where world champions are crowned, so there’s a lot on the line.
“Unless something big happens, it’s going to be tough for me to win the world title,” said Pierce, an Alberta-born cowgirl who was raised in northwest Oklahoma. “I can’t win any money in the average, and there are a couple of ladies right there in the mix that can. But strange things have been known to happen in Vegas.”
Yes, they have. Nine years, Kelli Kaminski was racing toward her first world championship when she suffered a no-time. That opened the door for Janae Ward, who claimed the 2003 gold buckle.
The end results, though, are out of Pierce’s hands.
“We’re just going to run as fast as we can and try to leave the barrels up,” she said. “We rocked the second barrel (Thursday), but I was able to put my hand on it and keep it up.
“I think 2012 is the year of seconds for me. I finished second at a lot of big rodeos, and I seem to have followed that pattern here in Vegas.”
Pierce placed second in Houston; San Antonio; Cody, Wyo.; the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo; and, most recently, at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
The oddity about the eighth round was that the only Canadian resident in the NFR field of 120 competitors, and she won on Canadian Night. Pierce, who was born in Red Deer, Alberta, finished second; another Red Deer-born contestant, Tyrell Smith, won saddle bronc riding.
“I think it’s great that the Canadians did well on Thursday,” Pierce said. “I’m so proud of my good friend, Lindsay. She’s a two-time world champion and a great ambassador for our sport.”
So is Pierce.