By Kailey Sullins Photos by Dan Hubbell courtesy CNFR

The competition inside the illustrious arena has been some of the best intercollegiate competition of the season. Over 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities and colleges from across the country compete each year at the CNFR to battle it out for a world championship. This year’s barrel racing has been a tough race and it’s not over yet. Leia Pluemer riding Famous French Bug held onto her lead in the aggregate while Loni Lester topped round No. 3. 

Pluemer and her 8-year-old mare, who’s by Frenchmans Fabulous and out of the Dash Ta Fame mare Cricketts Fame, have been dominating at the finals. In round one the team turned in a time of 14.78, followed by a time of 14.47 in round two and ended the long round with a time of 14.20 in round three. 

The University of Nevada – Las Vegas senior will return Saturday night for the short-round to compete for a world title.

“I feel proud of my horse I know she can do it, she get’s faster with every run,” Pluemer said. “[Tomorrow] I’m going to warm her up good and let her sit and chill until it’s time to run barrels and then cinch her up and send her through the alley.”

13 41 Leia PluemerLeia Pluemer and Famous French Bug. CNFR photo by Dan Hubbell

Lester has had a little tough luck at this finals picking up penalties in each of the first two rounds, however the Sam Houston State University contestant redeemed her showing in round three with the ultra fast time, which has been the only sub-14 second run of the rodeo thus far. 

Lester rode A Dash Of Champagne, who is the daughter of Dash Ta Fame and out of a Special Effort/Dash For Perks granddaughter, Perky Pink Champagne. 

“She’s the most athletic creature I’ve ever ran,” Lester said. “The first two rounds here at the college finals we didn’t hit [barrels] going into them, it was coming out just because of the deep ground and she turns so hard. She came up here on fire and in the third round we just went for it. I sent her harder in the third round than I sent her the other two rounds. She was rolling that round. It’s been a really good year.”

Although Lester didn’t qualify for the finals in the barrel racing she did in the breakaway roping and is currently sitting in second place.

12 33 Loni LesterLoni Lester and A Dash Of Champagne. CNFR photo by Dan Hubbell

The top 12 will meet back inside the Casper Events Center June 17, for the short-round, where champions will be determined. 

The College National Finals Rodeo is the premier event in intercollegiate rodeo. It is where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association crowns individual event champions in saddle bronc riding, bare back riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. National team championships are also awarded to both men’s and women’s teams. Over 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities and colleges compete in Casper each year. Contestants compete all year in one of the NIRA’s 11 regions for a chance to rope or ride at the CNFR. The top three students in each event, and top two men’s and women’s teams from the NIRA’s 11 regions will qualify for the CNFR.

Barrel Racing Average on three:

  1. 1)Leia Pluemer, 43.45; 2) Kailee Webb, 43.50; 3) Danyelle Williams, 43.81; 4) Hailey Kinsel, 43.83; 5) Abby Knight, 43.91; 6) Kynzie Rae McNeil, 43.92; 7) Abby Searcy, 43.93; 8) Kelsi Haller, 44.05; 9) Lake Mehalic, 44.06; 10) NaLynn Cline, 44.18; 11) Abby Phillips, 44.19; 12) Rainy Robinson, 44.24.

Barrel Racing Round Three: 

  1. 1)Loni Lester, 13.98; 2) Leia Pluemer, 14.20; 3) Taylor Rivera, 14.26; 4) Lake Mehalic, 14.27; 5) Sierra Spratt, 14.30; 6) Kailee Webb, 14.36; 6) Sara Bynum, 14.36; 8) Kelsi Haller, 14.47. 

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