Oklahoma is well-represented in the National Circuit Finals Rodeo at State Fair Arena.
The Oklahoma contestants are bulldogger Stockton Graves of Newkirk; barrel racer P.J. Burger of Pauls Valley; team ropers Destry Graham of Sallisaw, Jimmy Thomas of Hodgen, Hunter Munsell of Arnett and Derrick Jantzen of Ames; bull rider Guthrie Murray of Miami; barrel racers Tana Renick of Kingston and Carlee Pierce, formerly of Freedom; and tie-down ropers Hunter Herrin and Bryson Sechrist, both of Apache.
Graves, Burger, Herrin and Pierce are National Finals Rodeo veterans. Herrin is a six-time qualifier, while Pierce has earned trips to Las Vegas, each of the past two years.
BACK HOME AGAIN FOR PIERCE
For Carlee Pierce, qualifying to the National Circuit Finals Rodeo is like returning home.
The Canadian-born barrel racer lived in Freedom for most of her life until she and her husband, Steve, moved to Stephenville, Texas, in the fall of 2011.
“It's always nice to be able to go back to a place that was home for so long,” she said. “That's a place that always feels more comfortable.
“When you go back to Oklahoma and you're from Oklahoma, everybody gets excited about it.”
Pierce finished the 2012 campaign second in the world standings in barrel racing, earning $79,802 at the National Finals Rodeo and finishing the season.
MUNCY OFF TO A FAST START
One of the most recognizable cowboys competing this week at State Fair Arena is Taos Muncy of Corona, N.M.
Muncy owns two Professional Cowboy Rodeo Association world championships in saddle bronc riding. He has qualified for the NFR five times and is also competing in his fifth National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
He has never won a circuit national championship but is off to a great start with a score of 85 points Thursday to capture the first go-round.
“I had a week off so I was a little nervous getting on today,” Muncy said. “I am glad to get the first one out of the way and hopefully everything keeps going good the rest of the week.”
SURVIVE AND ADVANCE
The 24 contestants in each event of the National Circuit Finals Rodeo will compete in two rounds.
Half of the field competed Thursday afternoon while the other half competed on Thursday night.
The same format is followed for Friday's 7:30 p.m. performance and Saturday's 1 p.m. performance.
The top eight in each event after those four go-rounds qualify to Saturday's championship beginning at 7:30 p.m. where the slate is wiped clean.
From those eight, the top four cowboys or cowgirls from Saturday night's first round advance to a final go-round where the slate is wiped clean again. The champion is determined from the best score or time from the final four.