LINCOLN -- Two-year-old Rae Newton stole the show by hanging on to win the pole bending in the lead line category as Sunday's youngest competitor in Lincoln Riding Club's Play Day.
Sunday's Play Day held at the Lincoln Riding Club Arena began with cloud cover and temperatures stayed mild throughout the competition. That suited Rae Newton just fine as well as the rest of the humans, horses and a few dogs in attendance. She rode bare-headed through her first two events, then sported a pink cowgirl hat during her triumphant ride to first place in pole bending as the sun came out.
Rae Newton may not be quite big enough yet to hold her own press conference, and tell the rodeo world what she thinks, but that day may be coming sooner than anyone dare predict, especially with the likes of teenage cowgirls like her big sis, Jade Newton, who held the lead rope, and Ashton Couch holding Rae firmly in place in the saddle. Together they ran Rae Newton through the pole bending course at a blistering pace of 41.607 seconds, enough to hold off Kayla Gredereis, who placed second in lead line pole bending with a time of 42.476 seconds in the last run of the event.
Rae Newton and her compadres held their own in the toughest event for a tiny-tot cowgirl, maneuvering as a cohesive unit through the poles without knocking any down, which would have resulted in a penalty, or breaking the pattern, which brings a disqualification.
The tiny-tot cowgirl also finished third in lead line barrel racing, thanks to Ashton Couch zooming her around the barrels in her first event of the afternoon. As they whipped through one brisk turn, Jade Newton steadied Rae Newton as the tiny-tot cowgirl fearlessly finished the ride with a time of 49.267 seconds.
The pair of older cowgirls switched roles with Jade Newton taking the reins and Ashton Couch moving to the holder for the remainder of the competition. Jade Newton ran several youngsters through lead line contests in various events.
Kayla Gredereis won the lead line barrel racing division with a time of 31.198, while her sister, Kinleigh Gredereis, came in second in 34.527. Abbott Pitts was fourth (53.640), Paisley Couch fifth (57.608) and Emma Jetton sixth (58.341).
Kinleigh Gredereis placed third in lead line pole bending with a time of 50.290, while Abbott Pitts finished fourth in 53.402, Paisley Couch was fifth in 59.973, and Emma Jetton was sixth in 66.292.
Ashton Couch had to reach out and grab the flag, while maintaining her primary responsibility of keeping Rae Newton in the saddle, as the trio rounded the barrel in the lead line flag event. This was accomplished, and she handed the flag to Rae Newton, who gripped it tightly until they finished the course.
It should be noted that all six lead line competitors scored in flags, a testament to their trainers and handlers. Kinleigh Gredereis won the lead line flag event with a time of 22.951, Kayla Gredereis was right behind her in second place with a time of 24.849. Emma Jetton placed third in 38.104, and Abbott Pitts edged out Rae Newton for fourth place with a time of 46.425. Rae Newton's time was 48.732. Paisley Couch was sixth in 50.001.
Older age groups didn't fare as well in flags.
Two competitors in the 8 & under division did not record a qualifying run. One didn't grab the flag and another broke the pattern.
In flags 9-11 competition, one cowgirl touched the flag, but neglected to grab it, which left her without a time, but the toughest luck of all spoiled a fine 9.840 run in the 12-14 age group, which would have won the event hands-down over any age division, because of a disqualification for using the flag to whip the horse.
As for Rae Newton's teammates, her big sis, Jade Newton, won the wild card event for ages 15-17 with a time of 8.415 due to a tactical mistake by Racy Drummond, who opted to run her two-year-old training horse, Ariat, in her scoring run first out of the gate and finished the course in 8.905. Racy Drummond ran her veteran horse, Ranger, in the final run of the event, completing the run in 7.568, which would have won the event, but because she ran ran earlier, the time didn't count.
Kalleigh Schreve placed second in the 15-17 wild card with a time of 8.722, leaving Racy Drummond in third place with the 8.905 time.
Ashton Couch blazed a path to victory in the 18 & over wild card by posting a 9.637 to beat out Christopher Pitts' second place time of 10.224 and Brittany Hoskins' third place run of 11.590.
Ashton Couch and Jade Newton both knocked a pole over in their pole bending runs. Ashton Couch still finished first in the 18 & over pole bending contest with a time of 32.383, while Hoskins was second in 41.822, and Christopher Pitts finished third in 44.359.
Racy Drummond won the 15-17 age category pole bending by zipping through the course in 23.672 on Ranger, compared to her time of 33.907 on Ariat. Kalleigh Schreve was second in 27.001 and Jade Newton, third in 37.836.
Jade Newton won the 15-17 flags event with a time of 10.259 to edge out Racy Drummond's time of 12.003 on Ranger. Her latter run on Ariat was 16.531. Kalleigh Schreve placed third in 19.770.
Ashton Couch won the 18 & over barrel race in 19.209, while Christopher Pitts placed second in 28.708 and Brittany Hoskins rode to third in 38.506.
Racy Drummond, aboard Ranger, won the 15-17 barrels with a time of 17.317. She ran the course in 24.475 on Ariat. Kalleigh Schreve was second with a time of 21.991, while Jade Newton finished third in 24.593.