Josey Reunion finalists and Josey Reunion champion Kayla Bacon (at center) with Martha Josey. Photo by Stephanie Yoder

Article and photos courtesy The Josey Ranch

Chasing The Josey Reunion Championship

A quarter of a second is not very long, but in world-class barrel racing competition, it is huge. That is the winning margin for Oklahoma cowgirl Kayla Bacon and 8-year-old gelding Heza Rare Bug (Rare Bar x BB Sheza Sixy x Hezathebigduke) that claimed the Josey Reunion Roundup championship July 30–August 2 in Marshall, Texas.

All 376 contestants from 25 states were all current or former Josey Ranch barrel racing students. For some, it was an opportunity to return to the ranch after many years. As one contestant called it, the Josey Ranch is the “Disney World of barrel racing”.

Josey Reunion contestants ran both Friday and Saturday to qualify for the 4D championship round on Sunday, a format similar to flights in a golf tournament. Charging down the alleyway Sunday, the competitors ran from the slowest qualifying time to the fastest. The leader board changed frequently, as every run had a chance to take the lead and kept the large crowd cheering for each of the 150 finalists.

With one more competitor to run, Sheryl Gamboa of Waskom, Texas, and her homebred 2013 gelding The Bolderdash (JL Dash Ta Heaven x Bolders Runner x Sixarun), held onto the top spot with the fastest time of the weekend so far of 16.025. All eyes were on the alleyway for the final runner, 15-year-old Kayla Bacon of Idabel, Oklahoma. She and Heza Rare Bug came blazing down the alleyway, turned all three barrels and stopped the clock with a new fast time of 15.773.

Kayla Bacon turning a barrel at the Josey Reunion
Kayla Bacon and Heza Rare Bug won the 2020 Josey Reunion with a 15.773. Photo by Stephanie Yoder

In the 2D, Shea-Lynn Leach-McConnell of Gunther, Texas, rode 5-year-old gelding Smooth N Heavenly (JL Dash Ta Heaven x Smooth My Credit x Cash Not Credit) to a time of 16.308. The 3D title went home to Cody Jo Tupa of Sparkman, Arkansas, thanks to a 16.778 aboard Silvers Dunn Lady (2009 mare, Annas Silver Holli x Pals Roanita x Tinys Otto Go Pal). Ava Bivens of St Simons Island, Georgia, won the 4D riding “De De” to a time of 17.780. The Senior champion Wendy Curry of Coulterville, Illinois, rode 2011 Appaloosa gelding Bar O Dark Chocolate (Zips Dark Chocolate x Sweet Paradise x Zipn To Paradise) to a 16.631.

Along with the Josey Reunion championship title, Bacon took home a new Big Tex horse trailer, Circle Y trophy saddle and a Shea Michelle trophy buckle. Bacon and the other top 40 contestants won prizes from sponsors such as Purina, 5-Star Equine, Equibrand, Yeti, Ice Horse, MVP, Justin Boots, Impact Gel and Rock’n Wilson Leather.

The 40th Josey Jr. World Championship—A Cinderella Story

Determination, tenacity and will to win are characteristics of all champions. Tough competition tends to bring out the toughest competitors. The 40th annual Josey World Champion Jr. Barrel Race was certainly no exception, and winner Mallory McGee showed all of these traits. 

The 18-year-old from Farmington, Arkansas, was one of 332 contestants who traveled from 19 states to run in the oldest open-to-the-world youth barrel race. 

Mallory McGee and Martha Josey sitting on horses
Martha Josey with 2020 Josey Jr. World champion Mallory McGee. Photo by Stephanie Yoder

 “Before we started our race this weekend, we had $9,000 in added money from two sponsors, AIP Energy and Ward’s Resturants,” Martha Josey said. “During the first go, local Marshall businesses came together to put another $11,000 into the pot. This contribution brought the total added money for the barrel race to $20,000. We are so excited about this and what this support will do for the future of our event and what it can bring to the city of  Marshall.”

Announcer Randy Adams says the acknowledgment in the form of prize money is what helps attract elite competition to any sporting event.

“It is the prize money in any sporting event that gives it the recognition, regardless of how good the competition is,” the ‘Voice of the Josey Ranch’ said. “I am really thankful this great event is finally getting the recognition it so justly deserves.”

The JWCJBR is a 4D format, with qualifying rounds Friday and Saturday to give each contestant two chances to make the championship round Sunday.

Josey Ranch scholarship recipients standing on stage
Kassidy McKee, Morgan Elder and Lara Flowers were the scholarship recipients for the 2020 Josey Jr World. Also pictured are Jeb and Sandy Barney who presented the Joyce Barney Scholarship. Photo by Stephanie Yoder

Championship Sunday began, as it always does at the Josey Ranch, with church service in the main arena. Gary Arthur, Martha Josey, Ty Mitchell, Jeb Barney and Randy Adams addressed the crowd. Bradley Bettis began the service with “Amazing Grace,” and Keaton Bradberry, Melinda Boyd and Reece Wager provided additional music. Josey staff took collection to be donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Following the service, staff presented several awards, including three scholarships. Laura Flowers of Vicksburg, Mississippi, earned The Rebecca Adams Scholarship. The Sandy Smith Scholarship went to Morgan Elder of Caddo Mills, Texas, and the Joyce Barney Scholarship was awarded to Kassidy McKee of Lenapah, Oklahoma. Recipient of the annual Mom Arthur award in honor of Martha Josey’s mother was Chastity Peacock, nominated by her daughter and contestant Austyn Peacock, of Bryan, Texas.

Another annual award is the cherished CB Reed Horse With the Most Heart, honoring Martha’s horse CB Reed who won 52 consecutive barrel races and seven horse trailers. The winner of the award sponsored by Greg Ford, DVM, was LM Right On The Cash, a 2009 gelding by Cash In A Dash and out of LM Make Me Dance by Mr Watch Joe Socks, owned and ridden by Kaysie Burgess of Shreveport, Louisiana.

The final round began with a welcome by local attorney Mandy Abraham, a candidate for the Marshall City Council, followed by a patriotic salute of the colors presented by Chloe Jordan and National High School Rodeo Association queen Laramie Dearing. Other notable attendees included mayor Terri Brown, Wes Morrison, Micah Fenton and Wes Smith.

Representing 16 states in the short go, contestants ran from the slowest qualifying time to the fastest. Savoy Rosser and his ground crew raked the pen after every two runs and watered the pen after every 50 to assure all had an equal chance and a safe stage on which to compete.

Mallory McGee and her horse Let Her Stop, a 2012 cow-bred mare by Belly Stopper and out of Pepper N Hickory by Doc O Peppers, qualified in the second go with a 16.782. There were 35 competitors who ran faster times in the two days of qualifying. To make things more incredible, Let Her Stop had colic surgery a year ago. The team came a long way together, and qualifying for the finals in the tough youth competition was a tremendous accomplishment. But, the soon-to-be champion was not done.

In the finals, McGee and Let Her Stop stopped the Billy Webb Farms Timing System clock in 16.122, the fastest time of the 2020 Josey Jr. World so far. She took the lead with 35 tough challengers still to go, including champion of the Josey Reunion Round Up from the weekend prior Kayla Bacon and Heza Rare Bug along with two JWCJBR champions from previous years. Bacon was also the only person to run a sub-16 in the two weekends of competition, claiming the Reunion title with a 15.773. Another of the formidable competitors still to run was 2020 National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Champion Madison Murphy of North Fort Myers, Florida, and her tough 14-year-old gelding Flitopepto (Red Pepto x Calebs San Flit x Sanman Badger), a team who had already won the first round of the JWCJBR and placed second in the second round with times of 16.224 and 16.288, respectively. 

Mallory McGee turning a barrel at the Josey Jr. World
Mallory McGee and Let Her Stop in winning form at the 2020 Josey Jr. World. Photo by Stephanie Yoder

The crowd was all-in as each runner gunned for the lead. There were many great runs, but all fell just short of the 16.122 mark, and the title went to McGee. Along with the title and prize money, she took home a  Big Tex/Cimarron  trailer, Circle Y trophy saddle and custom Shea Michelle belt buckle. The champion and other top 10 division winners earned prizes from sponsors Purina, 5-Star Equine, Equibrand, Yeti, Ice Horse, MVP, Spalding Fly Predators, Justin Boots, Impact Gel, Rock’n Wilson Leather, Tractor Supply and Professionals Choice.

—> Watch Mallory’s winning run here.

Murphy and Flitopepto ended the weekend as the highest-money earner, taking home $5,037.97 and the Josey Jr. World reserve championship.

New for this year, the Josey Ranch added an exciting dimension to the competition with the Josey Team Challenge. Finalists were randomly divided into six teams, representing the national sponsors of all Josey events—Big Tex Trailers, Circle Y Saddles, MVP, Purina, AIP Energy and Priefert Ranch and Rodeo Equipment. The winning team received a coveted Caroll championship jacket embroidered with the sponsors and “Josey Team Challenge Champion.” With an average time of 19.323, Team AIP Energy walked away with the Match Race Title. The 23 team members of all received trophy jackets.

Josey Jr. World finalists accepting awards
The Josey Jr. World top 40 with 1D champion Mallory McGee (at center) with Martha Josey. Photo by Stephanie Yoder

Following the short go and before receiving awards, the top 40 champions attended a catered Dr. Pepper and cake party sponsored by the Made-Rite Company in Longview, Texas.

All divisions won a saddle and Shea Michelle trophy buckle. In the 2D, Annalee Smith of Rebecca, Georgia, rode 6-year-old mare Berrenda Rose (Memory Keeper x KRS Pearls N Lace x Shazoom) to a time of 16.645. The 3D title went home with Kaylee Winslow of Alva, Oklahoma, and 2003 gelding Shot Of Firewater (Firem Jet x Miss Willie Ada x Docs Quix Trix), thanks to a time of 17.177. Tyee Simmons of Caney, Kansas, won the 4D riding Azure Skippin Town (2003 mare, Zans Golden Rocket x Miss Giacamo x Count Giacamo (TB)) to a time of 18.189.

The Josey Reunion and Jr. World featured added-money sponsors AIP Energy, the City of Marshall and Ward’s Restaurants, as well as many local and national prize sponsors. Learn more about the Josey Ranch at www.barrelracers.com.

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