Given a chance to show their rodeo skills in competition for the first time since COVID shut down them down last fall, the Jones sisters of Prince George seized the opportunity to make themselves provincial champions.
Sixteen-year-old Fallon Jones did it two weekends ago when she was crowned overall champion at the B.C. High School Rodeo Association senior championships in Quesnel.
This past weekend in Merritt at the BCHRA junior finals in Merritt, her 12-year-old sister Nevada brought home the B.C. title as overall champion.
As a result, both have earned the right to compete in the Canadian high school rodeo championships in August in Swift Current, Sask.
Taking on the points leaders from the south and north zones in the three-day finals, Nevada capped an outstanding fall season with solid performances in Merritt that kept her on top of the standings. The north zone rookie of the year teamed up with Jacob Bowden of Quesnel and they had three fast and clean runs Sunday to win the team roping and ribbon roping titles. Nevada also won the provincial buckles for barrel racing and pole bending and was awarded a new saddle as the all-round north zone point champion.
“It’s been quite a messed-up season because there’s been no spring rodeos but it was really cool for our finals,” said Nevada, who attends Grade 7 classes at Pineview Elementary. “It was really fun. I love to get my blood pumping and just the anticipation of what’s going to happen.”
Nevada was the header in Sunday’s team roping, with Bowden handling heeling duties. For Nevada, winning that title was the highlight of the weekend. The championship was based on the final results combined with the season average and Jones/Bowden were the north leaders heading into Merritt.
“I’ve been working with him for about a year,” she said. “We won the round with a 10.8 (second run).”
Jones and Bowden qualified for junior national world rodeo finals next month in Des Moines, Iowa but because the border still being closed, they won’t get to go. The senior national world finals in July in Lincoln, Neb., are also out of reach for Fallon for the same reason. There were no provincial high school rodeo finals in 2020 - all events were cancelled due to the pandemic - and there was plenty of doubt this year’s finals would happen.
“It was kind of last-minute and we were just lucky to get to rodeo again, we didn’t know until about three weeks ago that we were going to be approved,” said their mom, Christine Suter. “We’re so appreciative; it changes the whole dynamic of the whole world because their season has been so interrupted the last two years.”
Fallon has been a willing practice partner as a heeler to help Nevada practice her team roping skills. Watching her big sister compete and working with her constantly in the practice arena gave Nevada the edge she needed to win her provincial championship.
“She’s helped me at home practicing, she’s helped me get ready for rodeos warming my horses up, it definitely helped,” said Nevada, who turns 13 in July.
Competing against Grade 11 and 12 students at the senior finals two weekends ago, Fallon missed her first calf but wrapped up the breakaway championship with a 2.7-second run in the final round. She was ranked second overall in the provincial points race heading into the Quesnel finals but made the climb to No. 1 over the course of the three-day event.
“I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet, I know I did it but it hasn’t hit that I’ve actually done it,” said Fallon, a Grade 10 student at Prince George Secondary School. “A lot of the Grade 11s and Grade 12s were tough competition and it’s tough for a Grade 10 to come in and dot that kind of stuff with them.
“I missed my first calf the first day and knew I had to be fast my second day to win the average and make it to Canadians. I knew I drew the right calf so as long as I got my start I would be there. So I just took the right shot and it all worked out with the average. (Her horse) Gordon is definitely my main man.”
Fallon has qualified in three events at Canadians – breakaway, goat tying and reining pattern cow horse. Winning the breakaway title also means a $250 scholarship, the first of many likely coming her way in the next two high school seasons. She’s hoping to get a tuition scholarship to attend post-secondary school in the U.S., where college rodeo is well-supported. Her career aspiration is to become a welder or a veterinary technician. Next year at PGSS she will enroll in the Career Technical Centre sampler program at the College of New Caledonia and when she’s in Grade 12 she’ll be able to complete her first year of welding.
“I want to do a lot of silversmithing and make jewelry and some bits and spurs when I get older and have a little business doing that,” said Fallon.
Several other Prince George cowgirls represented the city in the BCHRA finals. Alyiah Hart had a pair of impressive runs and caught two of her three breakaway calves at the junior finals to earn her ticket to the national finals in Swift Current. Ayla Barber, Ella Stevenson and Bridget Flewelling also competed in their first provincial finals, having placed in the top-15 in their respective events in the eight-event north zone fall series.
The Jones sisters come from a rodeo family and there’s always somebody around their Pineview property to work the chute or get the arena ready to run the barrels. Christine Jones is a former qualifier for the World Series of Team Roping, as is their father Darin, who used to ride bulls professionally. Their aunt, Sandy Suter was the top Canadian in the 2016 World Series of Team Roping in Las Vegas (fourth out of 320 teams) and their grandfather Gary has been competing for decades on the team roping pro circuit.
It also helps to have seasoned quarterhorses to work with. Nevada rides her grandfather’s heading horse Emy for team roping. Pooh Bear is 17 years old and she rode him to race barrels and in the pole bending and goat-tying events, while he was Fallon’s goat tying ride. Gordon, a 12-year-old, is Nevada’s breakaway roping horse, while Fallon has him trained to be her heeler in team roping. Falllon also took Owen to Quesnel and rode him for the barrel and pole bending events and saddled up Cello for the reining pattern cow horse event.
Also coming up later this summer are qualifying events for the Vegas Toughest Junior World Finals in Las Vegas in December, a mini NFR for teenaged competitors.