By Kailey Sullins 

February 19, 2017 — The fourth annual RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo culminated inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to witness yet another historic day in rodeo. Champions were crowned, $2 million was paid out and for the first time a qualifier claimed the championship title in the barrel racing. 

Hailey Kinsel of Cotulla, Texas, worked her way through the qualifier ranks in stellar fashion, qualifying early in the year at the Glen Rose, Texas. She and her 6-year-old palomino mare, who is by PC Frenchmans Hayday and out of the Royal Shake Em daughter, Royal Sissy Irish, were in top form during the semifinals in Fort Worth, Texas, advancing from the long-round field of 178 into the top 30 with a time of 14.086.

In the short round of the semifinals, Kinsel and “Sister” turned in a time of 13.900, collecting $22,523 for second place in Thursday’s performance and third place in the semifinals short round. Kinsel along with nine other qualifiers punched their ticket to AT&T Stadium for The American and faced 10 of the toughest ladies in professional rodeo. This year with the change in the professional rodeo scene with the inaugural year of the Elite Rodeo Athletes, the 10 invitees were top competitors from both the ERA and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. 

Kinsel, along with the nine other “underdogs” who were invited to rodeo’s richest one-day event, went up against the pros in a long-round field of 20. The long round boiled down to the top four barrel racers for a clean-slate shoot-out round to determine The American champion.

With a strong momentum from the semifinals heading into The American, Kinsel was determined to stay mentally strong in the nerve-racking atmosphere. Pitted against some of the toughest horseflesh in the country and some of the most fierce competitors, Kinsel and Sister awed the crowd. The dynamic duo bested their competitors with an ultra fast time of 14.448. 

“I thought my run was a pretty good run, and I heard everybody cheering, but nobody would tell me what my time was and I couldn’t find it anywhere,” Kinsel said of not knowing after her run that she turned in the fastest time of the event so far. “The crowd kept cheering, so I figured I must be good, I just didn’t think it was that good.” 

Two-time The American champions and dream team Lisa Lockhart and An Oakie With Cash was missing from AT&T Stadium this year as “Louie” was rehabbing from surgery. However, Lockhart still brought the crowd to its feet aboard a different buckskin standout, CC Rosas Cantina. The duo turned in a 14.589 for second place in the long round. Sherry Cervi finished third in the long round riding Dash Ta Diamonds, owned by Trip duPerier and Callie duPerier-Apfell, with a time of 14.632. Brandon Cullins rode Robin Weaver’s VQ Sucker Punch to fourth place, earning the last spot in the shoot-out round with a time of 14.681. To say it was a horse race to the short round would be an understatement. 

HaileyKinsel American webHailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday claimed The American Barrel Racing Title. Photo by Kailey Sullins

The shoot-out round ran slowest to fastest of the qualifying times. Cullins had a little tough luck when he hit the second barrel to turn his 14.683 to a 19.683. Next out were crowd favorites Cervi and “Arson.” The duo turned in a 14.950. Lockhart and her new mount had the crowd on the edge of their seats, but unfortunately a downed barrel turned her 14.779 into a 19.779. 

Last out was Kinsel and Sissy and with the prospect of sharing the $1 million bonus with saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss the pressure was high. The college senior didn’t show any signs of nerves however and the Texas team brought AT&T Stadium to their feet when they crossed the timer’s line in 14.689 seconds. 

“My horse doesn’t know whether [the other competitors] hit barrels or what they did before me. She’s going to go try the same 110 percent, so I have to try to give the same,” Kinsel said of her mental strategy going into her last run. “I didn’t know what Lisa [Lockhart] did right before me, and I knew Sherry [Cervi] was pretty fast, so I wasn’t going to safety up or anything. I just was going to try to make a good run.”

When it was all said and done, Kinsel walked away with the $100,000 prize for becoming The American Barrel Racing Champion, plus she split the $1 million bonus with DeMoss and bull rider Sage Kimzey. Kinsel became the first qualifier in the barrel race to win a share in the $1 million bonus. 

“This changes everything,” Kinsel said while standing on RFD-TV’s winner’s stage. “But it doesn’t change the way I feel about my horse. God is good, my horse is awesome and this is amazing.”

Barrel Racing: (First Round) 1,Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas, 14.448 seconds. 2, Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 14.589. 3, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 14.632. 4, Brandon Cullins, Clements, Md., 14.681. 5, Brianna Trepanier, Stephenville, Texas, 14.686. 6, Kellie Collier, Hereford, Texas, 14.769. 7, Fallon Taylor, Collinsville, Texas, 14.799. 8, Chris Martin, Brookston, Texas, 14.803. 9, Chayni Chamberlain, Stephenville, Texas, 14.925. 10, Wylee Mitchell, Pioche, Nev., 14.970. 11, Kimmie Wall, Roosevelt, Utah, 15.124. 12, Pamela Capper, Cheney, Wash., 15.161. 13, Jimmy Bryant, Columbus, Ind., 15.399. 14, Sophie Palmore, Kirbyville, Texas, 15.418. 15, Lake Mehalic, Marana, Ariz., 19.645. 16, Kassidy Dennison, Tohatchi, N.M., 19.742. 17, Mary Walker, Ennis, Texas, 19.782. 18, Kelsey Lutjen, Casa Grande, Ariz., 19.813. 19, Amberleigh Moore, Salem, Ore., 20.187. Mary Burger, Pauls Valley, Okla., 20.684.

Shoot-out Round: 1, Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas,14.689 seconds, $433,333. 2, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 14.950. 3, Brandon Cullins, Clements, Md., 19.683. 4, Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 19.779.

*following portion courtesy of RFD-TV’s The American 

Kinsel, DeMoss and Kimzey were able to take share in a life-changing moment and each newly crowned champion was honored by the win. 

Frontier Rodeo’s bucking horse Maple Leaf has taken saddle bronc riders to the winners’ stage for two consecutive years. Last year it was Iowa’s Wade Sundell. This year it was DeMoss. In 16 seconds, over $1.5 million has been won on this featured bucking horse.

2017millionwinners web2017 The American $1 million winners from left to right: Sage Kimzey, Hailey Kinsel and Cody DeMoss. Photo courtesy RFD-TV

DeMoss hasn’t decided what he’ll do with nearly half a million in winnings. “I guess I’ll talk it over with her,” he said with a grin, pointing to his wife Margie. “This is at the top of my rodeo career,” said the 12-time National Finals Rodeo bronc rider.

Kimzey, a three-time world champion bull rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, finished second in the first round to get to the Shoot Out. The first bull rider was Brazilian Claudio Marcelino de Montanha who qualified at an event in his home country and finished first in the semi-finals. He made easy work of TNT Rodeo Company’s Bottoms Up, scoring 89 points. The next rider was former Professional Bull Riders world champion Guilherme Marchi, who came off early.

Then it was Kimzey’s turn. He got on a bull named Uncle Tink, owned by former NFL defensive end Jared Allen, and scored 89.5. The final rider was bucked off and Kimzey earned the championship.

“I love being a cowboy, love everything about it,” Kimzey said. “I love competition, too, and this was a great day. I got to ride against the best guys on the best bulls.”

Other champions were crowned including bareback rider Tim O’Connell, who rode Frontier Rodeo’s horse Show Stomper for 90.25 points to win the shoot-out. The American championship has gone to a bareback rider who has ridden the bay bucking horse the past three years. Clayton Hass from Weatherford won the steer wrestling. Brothers Riley and Brady Minor from Ellensburg, Washington, took the team roping title, and Stephenville’s Marty Yates earned the tie-down roping championship.

When The American started four years ago, this format was created to give rodeo athletes an opportunity to compete at one rodeo for big paychecks. Then RFD-TV raised the bar by adding a million-dollar bonus for individuals who come through the qualifying process and win championships. Over the past four years the event has paid more than $10 million to winners at The American and the Semifinals.

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