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Championship rookies give Chanse Vigen a run for Bonnyville prize money

BONNYVILLE - It was the first ever championship heat for Cruise Bensmiller, Chance Flad and Wade Salmond as they lined up with veteran Chanse Vigen for the Victor Ringuette Memorial final heat at Sunday’s Bonnyville Chuckwagon Championship, but Vigen’s win was far from a runaway.  

Vigen’s KUDO Energy Services outfit, with outriders Ryan ‘Mad Dog’ McNeill and Rory Armstrong close behind, crossed the finish line with a time of 1:18.21, just 56/100 of a second ahead of rookie driver Cruise Bensmiller and the ENT Oilfield wagon. Wade Salmond was coming in third with the Mac’s Oilfield Services outfit clocked at 1:20.48 but a false start earned him a two-second penalty, giving Chance Flad and Gen4 Transport Inc. third place in the race with a time of 1:20.96. 

Vigen’s time was the second best of the day, behind Brad McMann, who stopped the clock at 1:18.00, while Cruise Bensmiller recorded the fourth fastest time, behind Kris Molle’s 1:18.46. 

This year’s win would have been Vigen’s second Bonnyville championship in a row, but last year’s run in early August against both of Kurt Bensmiller’s wagons, one of them driven by Kurt’s brother Chance, ended up with an inquiry that yielded three seconds worth of wagon interference penalties and one second for outrider interference, giving the Bensmiller wagon driven by Chance the 2021 win and moved Kurt into second place. 

The drivers in Sunday’s championship heat received a total of $11,000 in prize money, with $4,400 of that going to Vigen, $3,300 to Bensmiller, $2,200 to Flad and $1,100 to Salmond. 

The winners of each of the first nine heats in Sunday’s races each received a $1,000 prize. Brad McMann won the first race and set the pace for all the other drivers with the day’s fastest time of 1:18.00 flat. Kirk Sutherland, who will retire at the end of this year’s race circuit, was the second heat winner, while Chad Fike led the way in Heat 3. Dustin Gorst topped the pack in Heat 4, while Roger Moore, with two wagons in Heat 5 due to reshuffling of wagons for the final day of racing, won with the wagon he drove and placed third with the wagon driven by Ross Knight.  

Former Calgary Stampede champions Kurt Bensmiller and Jason Glass had the top times in Heat 6 and Heat 7, while Kris Molle edged out local favourites Rae Croteau Jr. and Doug Irvine in Heat 8 and Cody Risdale led the way in Heat 9. 

This was third generation teamster Rae Croteau’s first Bonnyville show since 2016, as he returned to the sport after a five-year retirement, and along with recording the fastest time of the day in his first race on Thursday, he received a warm welcome from his Bonnyville fans. Irvine, returning to his home turf after winning the Grande Prairie Stompede championship the previous weekend, had his chances dashed for a run in the final heat after he toppled a barrel in Saturday’s run. 

The World Professional Chuckwagon Association drivers will all take this coming weekend off before heading to Medicine Hat for June 16 to 19, but they will be back in northeast Alberta the following weekend with a three-day run in Dewberry. 

Pro Rodeo winners 

Two evenings of Pro Rodeo action were also part of the weekend. In the bareback riding, Cole Goodine topped the show with 88 points on Outlaw Buckers’ American Thumper, with Tate MacDonald second with an 84. 

In the steer wrestling, Curtis Cassidy got the job done in just 5.0 seconds, while Matt Richardson and Stephen Culling tied at 5.3 seconds for second and third. 

Team roping top times were recorded by Grady Quam and Riley Wilson with 4.5 seconds, while Denver Johnson and Kasper Roy were second with 4.9. 

 In the saddle bronc riding, Ben Andersen topped the pack with 85.5 points on Outlaw Buckers’ I See Little, with. Lucas Macza came very close with an 85-point ride. The tie-down roping saw Travis Eller wrap up his calf in 9.3 seconds, Kyle Lucas came second with 9.6. 

Taylor Manning topped the barrel racing with 18.06 seconds while Dena Millard placed second with 18.09. 
Breakaway roping honors went to Shelby Spielman with a rapid 2.85 seconds, Cora Borman sitting second with 3.09. 

The top bull riding score was recorded by Jared Parsonage with 89.5 points on Vold Rodeo’s Cliff, Zane Lambert coming second with an 88. 

The rodeo also featured the antics of Ricky Ticky Wanchuk.