We’ve got that championship feel going on right now. This fall has seen four circuit finals already — and had the Columbia River Circuit not changed its finals dates to January it would’ve been coming up next week — and coming up tonight is the six-day Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer, Alberta.

Is it NFR-caliber money? Nope, but it’s great money. Ask Jake Minor. The Ellensburg heeler split about $18,000 with header Garrett Rogers at the Canadian Finals two years ago. That’s worth the trip. Ask Callahan Crossley. The former Blue Mountain Community College barrel racer won four of six rounds in Canada last year (and placed second in the other two) and crossed the border back to the good ol’ US of A with $56,000 after the exchange. That’s serious cash.

The CFR highlights a bunch of great athletes who are well-skilled in their specific event. Many of them reside north of the border, but you can always count on a good chunk to be from the States. Even better, every event has at least one NFR qualifier in it, but most have three or four. Bareback and steer wrestling both have four NFR qualifiers. Bulldogger Hunter Cure is ranked second in the world and is a two-time world champion. Bareback rider Richmond Champion is an NFR stalwart and won the million-dollar prize at the first American rodeo a few years ago. Those are big names.

How about a big name, who is a former world champion and is Canadian as well? That would be 2016 world champion Zeke Thurston who leads the Canadian saddle bronc standings, is second in the PRCA world standings and is one of the top guys to watch this week.

How about a guy who a year ago wasn’t a household name? That’s 21-year old rookie tie-down roper Haven Meged, who is No. 2 in the world standings. Yep, he’s another one to beat in Canada.

Since he’s won everything in the United States, a Canadian title is now on Sage Kimzey’s list. He’s No. 3 in the Canadian standings and I would expect he’s probably going to have a lot of eyes on him. He traveled more extensively in Canada this year.

Can we talk about our college athletes for a moment?

The CWU Rodeo team only has one fall rodeo on their schedule and that was a little earlier this month.

The Wildcats had a great showing in breakaway roping in Friday’s one-header and then turned around and placed four in the top seven of the barrel racing average that same weekend. Friday’s breakaway event was led by Andie Watterson as her 3.0-second catch won the round. Kaitlyn Meek was third with a 3.7 and Abby Jennings finished seventh with a 4.5-second calf.

In the weekend’s barrel average, Camille Grace’s 36.71 finished third in two rounds, while Sydney Wilson, Leah Grace and Lindsay Sogge followed in the top seven.

We’ve got a long way to go before we can watch the spring schedule unfold, but it’s nice to see plenty of club members already establishing themselves in college rodeo’s competitive Northwest region.

Give it another couple of weeks and we’ll be talking up the PRCA’s National Finals Steer Roping, which takes place in Kansas the weekend before Thanksgiving. Like the Guddat family does with our NFR picks, we’ll be predicting the winners for the NFSR as well. It’s always a fun time.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo — from the kids to the kids at heart — with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

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