Jennifer Murray and Shana Wilson led a list of eight champions crowned Wednesday night in the Barrels division at the National Barrel Horse Association District Finals at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds.
Murray, a 16-year-old from Soldotna, won the title in the Class Youth (ages 17 and under) First Division. Wilson was the Class Open (ages 18 and over) First Division champion.
Also claiming season district championships in the Youth division were Ciarra McKenzie in Second Division, Sara Jensen in Third Division and Shelby Rogde in Fourth Division. The Open division district champions joining Wilson were Amber Davis in Second Division, JoAnn McWhorter in Third Division and Tina Williamson in Fourth Division.
The district finals were contested before a sparse but enthusiastic turnout under overcast skies. The final night of points races decided the most closely contested divisions the Youth Second where McKenzie edged Lisa Orth and the Youth Fourth, where Rogde narrowly topped Kassy Ferganchick.
Murray, however, had the evening’s best showing by posting the lowest times in both the first and second runs around the three-barrel, diamond-shaped course. She set the pace in both Youth runs, clocking 15.664 seconds and 15.795 seconds, respectively.
Jake Fowler crowned a state champion last week in Palmer at the State Fair was runner-up in each run, posting 16.093 and 16.112, respectively.
“Tonight, I was able to make that first barrel, and I wasn’t almost into the fence,” Murray said. “Near the end of the year, my times have been getting better.”
Not better than the brow-raising 15.1 she posted in midseason, but consistently lower than earlier in the year. She credited her horse, Bobby, for making a big impact.
“He tries so hard for everything you ask of him,” Murray said. “He loves to run.”
Murray said Bobby’s heart, passion and athletic prowess are beneficial to the improved times. But Bobby also carries a confident rider.
“I am confident,” Murray said. “I know I’ve practiced and I am confident in what the horse will do.”
Combined, it’s a combination that has Murray a horse rider since the age of 4 thinking of a long career as a barrel racer. Her family is in the process of making and finalizing plans for a move to Redmond, Ore., where Murray will be able to take advantage of better racing weather in the winter.
“I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing this,” Murray said. “That’s one reason we’re moving to the Lower 48, to race more in the winter.”
Wilson’s time of 15.628 was the lowest of the evening and set the pace for the Open class in the first run. The pace was set in the second run by Mellissa Fowler at 15.877.
In addition to Murray having two first-place finishes in Wednesday’s runs, Fowler and Williamson also got two firsts.
NBHA DISTRICT FINALS
Season Barrel Champions
Open 1D: Champion, Shana Wilson; Reserve Champion, Chelsey Fowler; 2D: Champion, Amber Davis; Reserve Champion, Beth Fowler; 3D: Champion, JoAnn McWhorter, Reserve Champion, Amber Davis; 4D: Champion, Tina Williamson; Reserve Champion, Corey Wilkinson.
Youth 1D: Champion, Jennifer Murray; Reserve Champion, Jake Fowler; 2D: Champion, Ciarra McKenzie; Reserve Champion, Lisa Orth; 3D: Champion, Sara Jensen, Reserve Champion, Lisa Orth; 4D: Champion, Shelby Rogde; Reserve Champion, Kassy Ferganchick.
Open 1D: 1, Shana Wilson, 15.628; 2, Chelsey Fowler, 16.108; 2D: 1, Mellissa Fowler, 16.163; 3D: 1, JoAnn McWhorter, 16.745; 2, Beth Fowler, 17.434; 4D: 1, Tina Williamson, 18.937.
Youth 1D: 1, Jennifer Murray, 15.664; 2, Jake Fowler, 16.093; 2D: 1, Colten Jensen, 16.285; 2, Ciarra McKenzie, 16.423; 3D: 1, Sara Jensen, 16.861; 2, Brittney Morris, 17.404; 3, Laura McKenna, 17.662; 4D: 1, Shelby Rogde, 17.921; 2, Kassy Ferganchick, 18.606; 3, Jenna Jensen, 18.819; 4, Alex Rodriquez, 19.263.
Open 1D: 1, Mellissa Fowler, 15.877; 2, Chelsey Fowler, 16.019; 2D: 1, Amber Davis, 16.555; 2, Beth Fowler, 16.691; 3, JoAnn McWhorter, 16.694; 3D: 1, Corey Wilkinson, 17.62; 4D: 1, Tina Williamson, 18.963.
Youth 1D: 1, Jennifer Murray, 15.795; 2, Jake Fowler, 16.112; 3, Colten Jenson, 16.201; 2D: 1, Ciarra McKenzie, 16.396; 2, Sara Jensen, 16.511; 3D: 1, Lisa Orth, 16.943; 2, Laura McKenzie, 17.569; 3, Brittney Morris, 17.598; 4, Shelby Rogde, 17.735; 4D: 1, Alex Rodriquez, 18.220; 2, Jenna Jensen, 19.035.
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