An Oklahoma cowboy and cowgirl missed winning national championships Sunday by the slimmest of margins.
Tie-down roper Blair Burk of Durant and barrel racer Carlee Pierce, who was born and raised in Freedom, came about as close as two people can to winning the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo at State Fair Arena.
Being the last man standing in the tie-down roping Sunday, Burk just needed to beat Iowa cowboy's Matt Shiozawa's time of 7.7 seconds to win the National Circuit Finals championship.
A 14-time qualifier to the National Finals Rodeo, Burk had the title within his grasp when he roped his calf, dismounted from his horse and raced to tie it down.
But Burk slightly lost his balance when tying the calf, costing him one precious second, and he finished with a time of 8.3 seconds.
“Man, he had me,” said Shiozawa, who won the average in the tie-down roping at the National Finals Rodeo last year. “He really did. That calf just kind of gave him a little hiccup.”
The National Circuit Finals uses a unique format for rodeo to determine its champions. The top eight cowboys and cowgirls in the average over two rounds qualify to Sunday's final performance where everybody is given a clean slate.
Those top eight cowboys and cowgirls compete in each event in a semifinal where the top four advance to one final race or ride for the championship.
Burk said he got off to a great start in the finals.
“I got it (rope) on him fast,” Burk said of that last calf. “He just kind of moved away from me, and I kind of lost my balance and made a little bobble. I was trying to be fast. That's what you got to do.
“It's disappointing. I was in great position. You never know when you will be in that position again. I made a mistake, and that's what happens.”
Burk actually won more cash ($12,957) than Shiozawa did in the rodeo, but the champions in each event also received a $20,000 voucher for a new pick-up from the title sponsor, RAM.
Pierce posted a sizzling time of 15.08 seconds on her 12-year-old buckskin gelding, Rare Dillion, in the finals of the barrel racing to take the lead with only one rider left, two-time world barrel racing champion Brittany Pozi of Victoria, Texas.