Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 21, 2012

Walker named top barrel racer at National Finals

Brett Hoffman
The Athens Review

Las Vegas — Though it was her first time to compete in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Mary Walker proved that she belonged.

When the NFR concluded its 10-day run on Dec. 15, Walker clinched the world barrel racing title after finishing 2012 with earnings of $274,233, almost $70,000 more than second-place finisher Carlee Pierce of Stephenville.

Walker, who lives in Ennis, pocketed $146,941 at the Dec. 6-15 NFR, the most of the 120 competitors.

Walker, and her high-powered quarter horse, Latte, sent an early message that they would be a duo to be reckoned with. They won the first three rounds and also finished No. l in Round 7.

It was apparent that the smaller Thomas & Mack Center Arena fit Latte very well.

"I would say he really loves this small arena," Walker said in an interview in Las Vegas. "I also think he loves the crowd, the noise and the roar. I think all that makes him want to show himself off a little bit."

Walker also made sure she positioned Latte in the right place as they entered the arena.

"My key to success here was the alley way," she said. "To get him straight and set up in the alley way made a difference. When I do that, it shots him better to the first barrel. Also, keeping him calm and happy made a difference."

Though Walker competed in the NFR for the first time, she's a veteran. She has been a Women's Professional Rodeo Association member since 1983.

She's also the wife of 1981 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world steer wrestling champion Byron Walker.

Other champions

Trevor Brazile of Decatur clinched a record 10th world all-around title after finishing the year with $298,626, topping second-place finisher Bobby Mote by more than $88,000.

He also finished third in the team roping heading world race.

In tie-down roping, Tuf Cooper of Decatur won his second consecutive world title after finishing 2012 with $232,884, more than $35,000 ahead of No. 2-ranked Justin Maass.

He also finished second in the NFR average race.

Kaycee Feild of Payson, Utah, finished No. 1 in the bareback riding world race with $276,850.

Feild also clinched a second consecutive PRCA world title.

Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., garnered his fourth gold buckle in steer wrestling after earning $158,962.

In the team roping heading race, Chad Masters of Cedar Hill, Tenn., clinched the title with $196,099.

Jade Corkill of Fallon, Nev., won the team roping heeling title after pocketing $190,797.

Jesse Wright of Milford, Utah, finished first in the saddle bronc riding world race with $226,887.

Cody Teel of Kountze came in first in bull riding after earning $201,978.

Cutting horse update

The National Cutting Horse Association World Championship Futurity in Fort Worth concluded with a tie between two members of the renowned Rice family.

When the open division title was at stake on Dec. 15, Tarin Rice took an early lead, turning in a finals score of 222.5 aboard a stallion named He Bea Cat.

But late in the show, his great uncle, Ronnie Rice, countered with a 222.5 on CR Tuff Hearted Cat.

After the two men ended up as co-champions, the owners of the horses each received $201,971.

Jim Crawford of Lexington, Neb., owns He Bea Cat. The Center Ranch of Centerville owns CR Tuff Hearted Cat.

Ronnie Rice also won the Futurity in 2001 on San Tule Freckles and in 1998 aboard Dainty Playgirl.

It was Tarin Rice’s first time to win the sport’s most prestigious show.

In the non-pro division, Paula Wood and Donas Suen Boon finished No. 1 with a 220. Wood earned $44,921.