Ready To Defend
By JOE KUSEK
October 11, 2022
Celie Salmond had another good rodeo season.
The Choteau cowgirl returns to the Northern Rodeo Association/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals leading both the breakaway roping and all-around cowgirl standings.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour’s premier is Oct. 27-29 at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell.
Salmond is also the defending champion in both events.
“I would say my year was a good one. I can’t complain in any regard,” she said.
Competing in breakaway roping, barrel racing and team roping, Salmond earned $12,051, the most money won for any competitor, male or female.
“The original goal was to make the Finals in breakaway roping and barrel racing,” said the Montana State University graduate. "Just to make it back to the Finals was a goal.”
And while it was another good year, it came close to being a spectacular year.
Salmond finished a tantalizing 12th in both the regular season barrel racing and team roping standings. She missed qualifying for the Finals in team roping by just $91 and missed the barrel racing Finals by $598. The top 10 qualify in each event.
“I was 12th in the barrel racing last year,” reflected Salmond, ever the competitor. “I guess that will be a goal (making the Finals) for next year.”
Salmond, who doubled her fun with two checks at seven different rodeos, has a lead of $4,527 over Cierra Erickson of Helena in the all-around cowgirl race. Erickson won the all-around title in 2010.
Ironically, Salmond primary competition in the all-around race sits across from her at the family dinner table.
Molly Salmond, currently competing at MSU, trails her older sister by $5,227. However, Molly Salmond is the only cowgirl to qualify for the Finals in both barrel racing and breakaway roping.
“Oh no,” said Salmond with a laugh of any trash talk between siblings. “It’s all good. I’m glad she made it.”
Another family member, cousin Quinn McQueary of Belgrade, is among the contenders for the tie-down roping title.
Salmond earned 12 checks in breakaway roping with wins at Superior, Eureka and Darby. Her $8,098 in her specialty is the third-most won for a single event.
She won Eureka with a time of 1.9 seconds, the fastest of the summer. “I honestly thought I broke out,” Salmond said of the run. “I turned back and they weren’t working on the rope. I was surprised.”
She also had a time of 2.0 seconds at Darby.
“My horse really stepped up his game as the year went on,” Salmond said of 15-year-old Hot Shot, a horse she has been riding since her junior year of college. She originally used him in barrel racing the first two years in the NWRA.
“He puts me in the right position every time. He does his job … from the back of the box to the calf.”
Salmond has a lead of $2,398 on Mikayla Witter of Helena, the 2020 champion. Molly Salmond is third in the standings while Finals regular Tracey Bolich of Belgrade is fourth. Bolich, the 2013 champion, was also second in 2017 and 2015 along with being third in 2021 and 2012.
Eureka was Salmond’s most profitable weekend. Along with winning the breakaway roping, she was third in barrel racing. The $2,074 weekend in Eureka represented almost 20 percent of her season earnings.
And while the highlights of 2022 were plenty, the brightest came in her hometown on July 4.
Competing with her father Mark, the father-daughter duo won the team roping.
“It was a really cool moment,” said Salmond. “Honestly, the goal was just to get one caught. We were trying to team rope before. It was cool to be able to put it together.”
It almost didn’t happen.
Salmond informed her father she had entered them in the team roping after he had returned from tending the family’s cattle in the mountains.
“He told me to withdraw. I told him we can’t, the entries are closed. He knew they were closed,” she said with soft chuckle.
They also won the team roping at Chinook and were second at Deer Lodge.
Now she turns her attention to the NRA/NWRA Finals, wanting to add to her championship buckle collection.
“I’m real excited for the Finals. I’m glad to get the chance,” Salmond said. “The key is just making three good runs and not beat myself. Catch and get a decent place up there in the average.
“It helps I’ve been there before. Kalispell is a good place.”