Lake Mehalic wins Youth Championship at Buckeye Barrel Ba$h

Article Courteous of the WPRA

Buckeye, Arizona–At the ripe old age of 12, Lake Mehalic has already amassed a resume that would make barrel racers many times her age jealous. Ranking at the top of her list is a WPRA World Championship earned in Junior Barrel Racing in 2009. The dedicated cowgirl, who has been riding since the age of 3, has a repeat title on her mind.

“My goals for this year are to try and win another WPRA Junior World Championship,” says the 7th grader at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy. “I want to be the first girl to win two championships. I am off to a slow start but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

The WPRA created its Juniors Program in 2007 and Mehalic was one of the charter members that year.

“I can’t wait to go back to Lincoln, Neb., [site of WPRA World Finals]. I had so much fun there last year. Those girls are so fast!”

She took a step toward achieving her goal at the Barrel Ba$h held at the South Buckeye Equestrian Center (SBEC) in Buckeye, Ariz., March 11-13, 2011. Riding a horse she calls Raisin, who is registered as Raisin Reward, she collected the Youth Championship with a run of 17.771. The win inched Mehalic closer to the top 10 of the current WPRA Junior World standings.

“I’ve had him almost a year now,” Mehalic says of the 13 year old gelding. “We didn’t have a great start but we really have been getting it together the last few months. I’ve really grown to love him.”

Mehalic is no stranger to top horsepower. She rode another great gelding-Copper-in her 2009 title run and is usually seen piloting multiple horses at the jackpots.

“We usually have four or five horses at our place so I have many to practice my horsemanship on,” she says. “I love riding and racing, and feel that being able to ride many different horses will be a big plus for me in my future.”

Mehalic has also claimed an open barrel racing championship in the Grand Canyon Rodeo Association, mostly competing against adults. Winning a second GCPRA title is another goal on her list. Besides WPRA and GCPRA, Mehalic competes in the Arizona Junior High School Rodeo Association, running both barrels and poles and looking to add goat tying and breakaway roping to her arsenal in the future.

“I just love to rodeo,” she says.

The Barrel Ba$h is a series of events hosted by Double B Productions since 2000. Events are scattered throughout the Midwest and the Buckeye event was the first foray into the western states.

WPRA members took full advantage of the co-sanctioning of the Buckeye event to scoop of the lion’s share of the open 1D points.

On Friday, California cowgirl Bailey Tuck hogged the winnings, taking first aboard Shes A Brisco and third on In the Sky Bar. Running on the lightning fast SBEC track, Tuck clocked in at 16.974 on the WPRA regulation pattern to earn $616 for the day.

South Dakota cowgirl Nikki Steffes and her mare Dash ta Vanilla have made a splash on the rodeo trail already in 2011, winning the first go round of the Sandhills Stock Show and Rodeo in Odessa, Texas in January.

Choosing the warm Arizona climate at Buckeye, Steffes claimed the Saturday championship with the weekend’s quickest time, a 16.922. The win was worth $747. Thanks to a carry-over, Steffes and the daughter of Dash ta Fame and SX Frenchmans Vanilla, one of the all-time money leading futurity horses, also won the derby side pot, adding another $105 to their total earnings.

Running right behind Steffes on Saturday was Arizona native Cheryl Murray. Murray rode Blazin Ruby Rocket, a 5-year old daughter of PESI enrolled stallion and NFR qualifier Blazin Jetolena, owned by Sue Rist. Murray’s time of 17.031 was worth $611 for second in the 1D and also claimed the championship in the futurity side pot for another $186.

Fate played a big hand in Murray’s success with Ruby. Soon after marrying, her husband Dan, a small animal vet, bought her a 5-year old daughter of Dash ta Fame named Princess Dasher. Murray hoped to train the mare for barrel racing but she was diagnosed with chipped knees and was sold to Rist as a broodmare with the agreement that Murray would get one of the mare’s foals.

“She spent the first two years of her life running in the pastures at the Rist ranch,” she says, noting that Rist put the first 90 days riding on the mare before Murray took over. “Ruby is the first horse I have trained on barrels from start to finish.”

Murray had plans to try the mare at the futurities but fate again intervened. Her brother Todd, who had battled colon cancer for five long years, came to the end of his fight in July of 2010 and Murray spent as much time as possible with him in the final months, putting the horses on hold until the fall.

“Needless to say, Ruby was a little behind,” she says. “When I entered her for the first time in December, she ran a 21 second pattern.” Saying the mare is a natural, Murray and Ruby were finding their way to the winner’s circle by the time the three Arizona futurities rolled around in January.

Because her mare is PESI enrolled, Murray decided to buy her WPRA permit in January. Thanks to her outstanding young mare, she is well on her way to earning her card.

“I truly didn’t expect Ruby to excel to this level so early in her career. I consider myself completely blessed.”

“I can say that my brother Todd inspired me to just LIVE life. Ruby and I are going to live the dream and the dream seems to change daily,” she says. “I look forward to all the possibilities that come our way.”

Another Arizonan sprinted to the top on Sunday. Former DNCFR qualifier Jenna Cadwallader rode Deny Deny Deny to the win with a run of 17.008. She collected $588 for the win and banked $882 for the weekend.

For more information on the Barrel Ba$h, visit them on-line at www.barrelbash.com.