EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the June issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
Over her career, Sherry Cervi has won many of the biggest accolades in ProRodeo.
She’s some of the most prestigious titles in the sport, from RodeoHouston to the average championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She’s earned more than $2 million in a ProRodeo career that began more than 25 years ago, and she owns three world championship gold buckles.
Over the first weekend in May, Cervi added a championship belt on which to fasten those marvelous buckles. You see, that’s the prize awarded to all the champions of the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo, which has dubbed itself Oklahoma’s Richest Rodeo.
“I’m excited to have that belt and to have that win,” said Cervi, who chalked up her first victory in the Oklahoma Panhandle. “I’ve seen other people wear those belts.
“It’s been one of those rodeos I’ve gone to for a long time, and it’s cool that Stingray did good there.”
MP Meter My Hay has won plenty of titles, and the 10-year-old palomino mare out of Miss Meter Jet by PC Frenchmans Hayday showed just why in her two runs on May 4 inside Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena. Cervi and Stingray opened the day during slack, posting a 17.30-second run to finish second in the opening round.
Later that evening, the pair rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 17.25, which not only held up for fifth place in the second-go but also the top spot in the two-run aggregate of 34.55 seconds.
The format was set up for all the cowgirls to make their first run on that Friday morning, then the top 40 times would be in the performances – all others ran their second one during slack Friday afternoon. In a slowest-to-fastest setup, Cervi was scheduled to run in the final performance Sunday afternoon, but she traded so that she could be in the opening performance.
“I just wanted to come home,” the Marana, Ariz., cowgirl said. “It doesn’t bother me to go twice on the same day. If your horse is in shape, then going back-to-back isn’t so bad. Some people don’t like it because of things going on with their horses, but it doesn’t bother me.”
It was a significant change in format from previous years, when barrel racing opened the week-long competition on the Monday of rodeo week. Those that were fortunate enough to qualify for the performances then waited at least four days before they could make their second-round runs, and some waited as much as six days.
“I thought it worked out real well,” Cervi said of the change. “It was easier for the contestants, because you don’t have to be there just waiting. There weren’t really any other rodeos you could go to while you were waiting. This year we just ran our first one, then we were all done in three days. I like it a lot better. You don’t have to be there four days in advance doing nothing.”
The format worked quite well, and Cervi left the region once known as “No Man’s Land” with $4,725. She outlasted second-place finisher Mary Walker by six-hundredths of a second in the two-run average, but Walker posted the fastest time of the rodeo with a 17.14-second run on the final day of competition. In all, Walker, of Ennis, Texas, pocketed $4,002.
More importantly, the finish in the Oklahoma Panhandle was a huge moment in Walker’s recovery from a major wreck less than a year before – on June 9, 2011, she took a bad fall during a run at the ProRodeo in Crosby, Texas, and suffered a shattered pelvis, two fractures in her vertebrae and two broken toes.
“My goal for 2011 was to get him seasoned and to win enough to get qualified for Houston and San Antonio,” Walker told the WPRA’s Jolee Lauteret about Perculatin, an 8-year-old gelding she calls Latte. “Instead, he got six months off.”
Walker and Latte got plenty of redemption in Guymon, though.
“He slipped at the first and second on the first run, and I told the man that is helping me drive, ‘Watch this second run,’ because he gets mad when he slips,” Walker said.
It was a magical moment for Walker, but a lot of the top cowgirls in the sport fared well in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Britany Fleck, who is coming off her first NFR qualification, also placed in both rounds and finished third in the average. But the championship, and the belt, went to Cervi.
“I’ve been there several years and never won it,” Cervi said. “It’s a tough rodeo, because they get lots of entries and gets all the top girls.
“I thought the ground was really good, and I thought my horse handled it. The committee really wants to try hard and make it good.”