RODEO NOTES: ‘No better place than Stampede,’ says Zeke Thurston

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Zeke Thurston seems to be the perfect poster boy for the Calgary Stampede rodeo.

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He’s a perennial contender …

A three-time champ …

And just about the biggest pitch-man you could want for The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.

“It’s great to be back,” said the Alberta cowboy on Day 1 of the Stampede, 2022 edition. “I like this rodeo a lot, and I guess this rodeo likes me. I feel a pretty strong connection to the Calgary Stampede.

“I don’t know what it is about Calgary,” continued Thurston. “Every day here when you get on, your motor’s running and you’re excited. It seems like you’re riding for a big title every time you get on. They’re just regular rounds in your set, but the horses are great, the atmosphere is extremely electric and the crowd really loves it. 

“There’s no better place to be in July than the Calgary Stampede.”

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Especially when you’re on top right from the git-go.

Around these parts, Thurston is arguably the biggest rodeo name given his success at the 10-day celebration.

And the soon-to-be 28-year-old saddle bronc rider didn’t disappoint in Friday’s kick-off, posting a spectacular 89.5 points aboard Baby Kibitz to collect the Day 1 prize money of $5,500 and set him on his way to perhaps a fourth Stampede buckle.

“Not a bad way to get started,” said Thurston, who posted a half-point-better performance than New Mexico cowboy Ross Griffin. “It’s always nice to jump out and let them know you’re here with a round win. I had the horse to do it. I like drawing that horse.

“All those Kibitz horses are really good. They’ve all got good size, and they’re superstar athletes. That was the third time I’ve been on that horse, and it went well the other two times. That horse can buck you off, but if you do your part, you can do something.”

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Thurston seems to always do his part in the saddle, no matter where he’s rodeoing.

He’s held a hot hand lately, with a win in Cody, Wyo., and a third at Ponoka to go along with pocketing significant cash at events in both St. Paul, Ore., and Williams Lake, B.C. That all came last week in the lead-up to the Stampede.

“We’ve had some big hits at some big rodeos — 2022’s been really good,” Thurston said. “To win some more money here in Calgary could really boost a guy up there.”

Yeah … the $100,000 first-place champ’s cut would do just that, vaulting the two-time world king well up the leaderboard from his current ninth spot in the PRCA standings.

That would certainly bring on even bigger love from Thurston for the Stampede.

“I’ve been coming here since I was two years old,” added Thurston, who hails from Big Valley, Alta. “My family’s always been a big part of the Calgary Stampede. I trick-roped here. I rode steers and novice broncs. My brother (Wyatt) won novice broncs here. All my brothers competed here. My grandpa, too. It’s been in the family a long-time. It’s a super-special rodeo to me.”

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There’s new blood atop the leaderboard at the Stampede. 

Zach Jongbloed — pronounced ‘youngblood’ — is best after Day 1 in tie-down roping.

“I’ve watched it a lot on TV, but this is my first time coming,” said the talented Jongbloed, a 23-year-old from Iowa, La., after his top 7.2-second wrap-job. “I’ve been to Ponoka and a few other rodeos around here but never here.”

Next was Oklahoma’s Tyler Milligan with a 7.4-second trip and Logan Bird, from nearby Nanton, in 8.4 ticks.

It was a first-time Stampede win for barrel racer Emily Beisel on Friday.

Her 17.62-second trip on Chongo was fastest, just edging out Oklahoman Dona Kay Rule and her 17.69s run.

“I’ve never actually got to take a victory lap here,” said Beisel, 30. “I’ve been here twice. I’ve made it to the final both years. But I’ve never actually (won a round and) taken a lap here. It was amazing.”

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Ty Erickson’s 4.0s trip gave him steer wrestling honours on Day 1. The Montana bulldogger was 4/10ths of a second faster than runner-up Stephen Culling, of Fort St. John, B.C.

And California’s Clayton Biglow kicked off the 2022 edition of the Stampede by riding Yippee Kibitz to 90.5 for the top score of all the day’s contestants. 

“It was a good day to have a re-ride,” Bigelow told the Calgary Stampede, referring to the high-quality of the stock for second-chance trips. “Yippee’s a great horse — does that (crazy trip) every time and gives you a chance. He got away from me there at the end, but it worked out.

“It’s good to be back here — really good.”


The payout for Day 1 of bull riding has been put on hold until Saturday. That’s because the rodeo didn’t bring enough bulls to the pens to satisfy the number of re-rides — three — needed to finalize the first go-round. Utah’s Josh Frost put up the best score so far after his trip aboard Big Bird. But re-rider Ky Hamilton, of Australia, still has a shot to top Frost’s 88.0 on Day 2 … Best part of the action? It’s the wild pony racing — hands down (and dirty) — featuring the youngest of rodeo athletes, as boys and girls team up in three-member posses to try to catch and ride a wild pony. It’s super cute. The resident Pick-Up Chicks, who work as a team themselves to corral all the ponies and direct them back in the pen, make it even cuter. Just imagine wild pony racing with some rain and a little mud … Day 2 of the Stampede rodeo goes Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (Sportsnet One).

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Friday — Pool A, Day 1

1. Clayton Biglow (Clements, Calif.), Yippee Kibitz, 90.5 points, $5,500; 2. Tim O’Connell (Zwingle, Idaho), You See Me, 87.5, $4,500; 3. RC Landingham (Hat Creek, Calif.), Arbitrator Joe, 86.53, $3,500; 4. Anthony Thomas (Houston, Texas), Born Fearless, 86.5, $2,500; ; 5. Kody Lamb (Sherwood Park, Alta.), Agent Lynx (re-ride) 85.5, $1,500; 6. Orin Larsen (Inglis, Man.), Welcome Delivery, 82.5; 6. Cole Franks (Claredon, Texas), Witless Margie, 82.5; 8. Cooper Cooke (Victor, Idaho), Bigtimin Houston, 82.0; 9. Clint Laye (Cadogan, Alta.), Zulu Warrior, 81.5; 9. Wyatt Maines (Ilkwater, Alta.), Shadow Warrior, 81.5; 11. Dantan Bertsch (Tompkins, Sask.), Tootsie Roll, 76.5.

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Friday — Pool A, Day 1

1. Emily Beisel (Weatherford, Okla.), 17.62 seconds, $5,500; 2. Dona Kay Rule (Minco, Okla.), 17.69, $4,500; 3. Bertina Olafson (Hudson Bay, Sask.), 17.72, $3,500; 4. Shelby Spielman (Ponoka, Alta.), 17.76, $2,000; 4. Stevi Hillman (Weatherford, Texas), 17.76, $2,000; 6. Bayleigh Choate (Fort Worth, Texas), 17.96; 7. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi (Lampasas, Texas), 18.09; 8. Justine Elliott (Ponoka, Alta.), 18.32; 9. Emma Charleston (Reeds, Mo.), 18.70; 10. Skyler Mantler (Bassano, Alta.), 18.81; 11. Cheyenne Wimberley (Stephenville, Texas), 23.87.


Friday — Pool A, Day 1

1. Zach Jongbloed (Iowa, La.), 7.2 seconds, $5,500; 2. Tyler Milligan (Pawhuska, Okla.), 7.4, $4,500; 3. Logan Bird (Nanton, Alta.), 8.4, $3,500; 4. Westyn Hughes (Caldwell, Texas), 8.6, $2,500; 5. Caleb Smidt (Bellville, Texas), 9.0, $1,500; 6. Cooper Martin (Alma, Kan.), 10.2; 7. Clayton Smith (Eckville, Alta.), 11.0; 8. Morgan Grant (Didsbury, Alta.), 12.0; — Shane Smith (Wimborne, Alta.), no time; — Haven Meged (Miles City, Mont.), no time; — Riley Warren (Sundre, Alta.), no time.

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Friday — Pool A, Day 1

1. Zeke Thurston (Big Valley, Alta.) Baby Kibitz, 89.5 points, $5,500; 2. Ross Griffin (Tularosa, N.M.), Tokyo Bubbles, 89.0, $4,500; 3. Chase Brooks (Deere Lodge, Mont.), Zastron Acres, 84.5, $3,500; 4. Sage Newman (Melstone, Mont.), Borderline Untimely, 84.0, $2,500; 5. Kolby Wanchuk (Sherwood Park, Alta.); Special Delivery, 83.0, $1,500; 6. Lucas Macza (High River, Alta.), Sergeant Whitney, 81.5; 7. Kole Ashbacher (Arrowwood, Alta.), Umber Bubbles, 80.0; 8. Layton Green (Millarville, Alta.), Business Girl, 78.0; 9. Leon Fountain (Socorro, N.M.), Yesterday’s Delivery (re-ride) 77.50; — Cole Elshere (Faith, S.D.), Cracking the Till, bucked off; — Dawson Hay (Wildwood, Alta.), Zoaria Hills, bucked off.

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Friday — Pool A, Day 1

1. Ty Erickson (Helena, Mont.), 4.0 seconds, $5,500; 2. Stephen Culling (Fort St. John, B.C.), 4.4, $4,500; 3. Will Lummus (Byhalia, Miss.), 4.6, $3,500; 4. Cody Cassidy (Donalda, Alta.), 4.7, $2,500; 5. Payden McIntyre (Douglas, Wyo.), 4.8, $1,500; 6. Stetson Jorgensen (Blackfoot, Idaho), 4.9; 7. Nick Guy (Sparta, Wisc.), 5.3; 8. Dirk Tavenner (Rigby, Idaho), 7.0; — Ty Miller (Wainwright, Alta.), no time; — Justin Miller (Neepawa, Man.), no time; — Hunter Cure (Holliday, Texas), no time.


Friday — Pool A, Day 1 (waiting on re-ride Saturday)

— Josh Frost (Randlett, Utah), Big Bird, 88.0; — Clayton Sellars (Wildwood, Fla.) Razor, bucked off, 85.5 — Jordan Hansen (Amisk, Alta.), Union Jack, 82.0; — Cole Fisher (Jefferson City, Mo.), Big Deuce, 78.5; — Ky Hamilton (Mackay, Australia), re-ride Saturday; — Cody Coverchuk (Meadow Lake, Sask.), Jump Start, bucked off; — Edgar Durazo (Moctezuma, Mexico), Just a Vertigo (re-ride). bucked off; — Reid Oftedahl (Raymond, Minn.), Last Rights, bucked off; — Jared Parsonage (Maple Creek, Sask.), Devils Advocate (re-ride), bucked off; — Connor Murnion (Jordan, Mont.), Circus Freak, bucked off; — Tyler Taylor (Stephenville, Texas), Trapped, slap.

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