GATESVILLE — Mallory Wheeler was feeling great about her run.
She and her horse, Jetty, were working as a single unit and on pace to ride into first place in barrel racing Friday night at the 76th annual Gatesville Riding Club Rodeo, but then a small bump of the mare’s right hip into the third barrel caused it to wobble slowly before finally tipping over in the dirt.
“Every great barrel racer hits barrels so there’s not much to be angry at,” said the 18-year-old. “Me and Jetty have run together and won together, so I’m not worried about tonight — these things happen.”
Wheeler finished the event with a time of 15.35 seconds, a full tenth of a second ahead of Day I leader Caitlin Prentice’s time of 15.488 seconds, but received a 5-second penalty for the overturned barrel and fell out of contention with her 20.35 final time.
The Boerne native also competed in breakaway roping and earned a time of 3.86, but didn’t beat Kayelen Helton’s 2.4 from Day 1 either, however she is currently fifth after Day 2 despite nearly tearing off the tip of her right index finger.
“I threw the rope and it just took my finger tip with it — I felt it rip away,” she said. “It hurts much worse than losing barrels does.”
Wheeler is more comfortable in barrel racing than in breakaway because she started in the barrels at the age of five.
“I just started breakaway in March and this is my first rodeo in the event,” she said. “I usually run team-roping with my dad, Cliff.”
Few 18-year-olds have even the slightest grasp of what they want from their futures, but that’s not the case for Wheeler.
“I just filled my WPRA permit and I start as a professional in September,” she said. “It’s my dream to be on the circuit — I do plan on going to college but that’s later down the line.”
Jake Brown’s bareback Day 1 score of 81 wasn’t touched. The lone competitor listed in the event Friday, Rocky Barnham, did not complete his ride. Sterling Crawley’s 85 from the first day held true with only with Slayter Hunnicutt making a run at the leader with a 79 in saddle bronc.
Weatherford’s Colten Rundell wrestled his steer in 6.1 seconds, but it wasn’t fast enough to take first on the leader board. Patrick Maas’ 5.1 time from Thursday’s slack is first.
Lawrence McCoullough also competed in Thursday’s slack and holds the lead in tie-down roping with a time of 8.12.
Forrest Fisher and Joe Mattern, both of Navasota, finished team-roping with a time of 5.78 seconds, but the duo is second, a split second behind Day 1 leaders Cory Smothers and Zack Bocco, who finished in 5.7.
McKinney’s Riggin Phillips scored an 81 in bull riding to tie with Jonathan Brown.
The rodeo concludes tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Gatesville Riding Club Rodeo Arena.