CALGARY — It’s going to be tough to top Jackson Ammerman’s What I Did on My Summer Vacation essay at Perkins-Tryon Public School in Stillwater, Okla. this fall.
Jackson, 11, nabbed his second belt buckle of the Calgary Stampede on Sunday by riding into the Champion spot in the 14 Class Team Cattle Penning final alongside his father, Joel Lesh, and teammate Cody Ward.
“I guess I could write that I travelled a lot this summer,” Jackson said shortly after his team was presented with a cheque for $29,011, those iconic belt buckles and commemorative bronze statues in front of a full house at the Nutrien Western Event Centre.
He could also say that he is the youngest competitor to ever win two buckles in Team Cattle Penning at the Stampede. On Friday night, Jackson, his dad and his mother, Colette Lesh, won the Open Class.
On Sunday, Jackson, his dad and Ward laid down two smoking runs — 29.16 seconds and 31.67 seconds — on a night that saw most teams post times in the 40 to 60 second range, if they made time at all. Nine of the top 20 times trashed out or posted no time. Over two rounds, only three teams managed to get their cattle penned in under 30 seconds.
Ward has ridden with Lesh and Jackson before, although he lives in Fort Lupton, Col. The three team up at major penning events. Ward, who turned 16 the day before Stampede started, has made it to penning finals in all three of his trips to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. This time, though, he sealed the deal.
“On our last run, we knew we needed to be under 32, so when I looked up at the clock on the pen and I saw a 31, I was pretty pumped,” Ward said. So much so, he rocketed his cowboy hat into the air in celebration.
Lesh, an elite penner with the highest rank of seven, was confident in his team’s abilities. Riding into the finals in 12th position meant they were in a good position to sort cattle out of the gate. And they rode last in the final round, giving them the advantage of knowing which cattle they were going to have to sort.
“The boys were on top of it. I was telling them to check the herd and don’t overrun them going to the pen. Check up on the hole man just to let him check a second,” Lesh said. “I was on the hole the last run, so I told them to bring them!”
That they did, posting an aggregate time of 127.86 over four runs with 12 head penned. In team cattle penning, teams of three riders have one thin minute to separate three cattle wearing a designated number from a herd of 30 and direct them into a 16-foot-by-24-foot pen at the opposite end of the arena. Teamwork is critical, with the riders working in harmony to cut the correct cattle and drive them to the pen.
Simple? Not so fast. The other 27 cattle in the herd must remain behind a designated line. If an animal that’s not one of the designated cattle crosses that line, that’s a trash out and the team is eliminated.
The four classes in team cattle penning are based on relative skill and experience — in ascending order from 7 Class, to 10 Class, to 14 Class, to the trainers and travelling professionals of the Open Class. This year, Stampede organizers expanded qualifying from two days to three to accommodate the 800 teams that entered the competition.
The top 20 teams in each class progress to compete in the third round, with the top 10 teams moving on to the finals. More teams mean more cash and the overall prize money for the event is approximately $393,000 this year. The 14 Class, with 184 teams entered, saw an overall payout of $97,704.
All three of the Lesh children rode in one or more iterations of the Team Cattle Penning finals this Stampede. McKenzie Ammerman, 15, rode in the 14 Class with her father and David Ruby, finishing fourth; while 10-year-old Preston rode in the 10 Class with his mother and Christy Pritchett, finishing third. And the three kids were two spots out from qualifying for the 7 Class final on Monday.
Reserve Champions Robert and Arlene Bruneau — Manitobans riding in their first Stampede — along with Darcy Brown took home $19,341 of that payout for their aggregate score of 130.92 seconds with 12 head penned.
For full results of the 14 Class Team Cattle Penning, visit ag.calgarystampede.com/results.
About the Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west. The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together; we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
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