Three young women took home six winning buckles at the conclusion of the first town-sponsored pole bending and barrel racing buckle series.
Throughout the entire series, Amber Marshall, 13, and Shelbi Parker, 19, dominated their respective age brackets.
The only cliffhanger was between 13-year-old Jordynn Runzo and 17-year-old Ramsey Milam, who trailed Runzo by mere points before Wednesday night at the Payson Event Center on South Beeline Highway.
Runzo pulled off two clean runs in both events. Milam's sufficient pole bending performance wasn't enough to close the gap between her and Runzo, and when she tipped over a barrel in the second event, Milam knew it was over.
Runzo said she felt "accomplished" because she was the youngest competitor in her age bracket, 17-and-younger, and she won both buckles after having raced her 9-year-old horse Arapaho for only three years.
She added that she did not expect to win.
"Ramsey was so close to me," she said. "(But) we congratulated each other."
Marshall, who won both 12-and-under buckles even though she just turned 13, stood head and shoulders above her competition. She finished Wednesday 16 points ahead of both events' challengers.
"I feel really excited because I love my horsey," she said giggling with Runzo ---- a friend ---- on her 12-year-old horse, A.J. "(I won) mainly because of my horse. I feel very proud."
Parker, who left other 18-and-over riders ---- including her sisters Lindi and Margaret ---- in the dust throughout the competition, finished Wednesday 17 points ahead of the nearest pole bender and an astonishing 21 points ahead of the nearest barrel racer.
Parker said she never expected to win both buckles.
"Everybody else deserved it just as much as I did," she said. "I actually didn't (expect to win) because my horse isn't usually that consistent. But he likes poles."
Charlene Hunt, who works for the Payson Parks and Recreation Department and organized the series, also gave out prizes to the top four runners-up in each age group and event and to the most improved racers.
All together, 40 contestants took home prizes ranging from bridles and saddle blankets to halters and lead ropes.
Hunt said the series was, in one word, "successful.
"I had no idea that we would have this many people out here," she added. "They came out of the woodwork."
In response to the large turnout this summer, Hunt decided not only to sponsor another series next summer, but one this fall, only "scaled down a lot."
The series will last throughout September and October, and instead of holding pole bending and barrel racing every night, Hunt decided to alternate the events every week. Like this summer, the events will begin at 7 p.m. every Wednesday.
To relax the competitiveness of the series, Hunt also will add "fun events" that will not be awarded.
But the intense rivalry that was present in this summer's series will most likely return next summer when Hunt organizes yet another series.
Hunt said she hopes to up the ante by finding sponsors that will donate saddles to the winners. She said she is considering other changes as well but will not know for sure what they are for a while.
Hunt is currently looking for volunteers to help in the fall series.
"We need volunteers that can come out, work a rake, work the arena and help with the gates," she said.
To volunteer or for more information, call Hunt at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.
12 and under pole bending
1. Amber Marshall 48
2. Randi Brown 32
3. Candace Bullard 25
4. Emma Randall 20
5. Cierra Tidwell 15
12 and under barrel racing
1. Amber Marshall 48
2. Candace Bullard 32
3. Randi Brown 28
4. Amanda Haworth 24
5. Emma Randall 17
17 and under pole bending
1. Jordynn Runzo 42
2. Ramsey Milam 39
3. KC Waterman 24
4. Sami Novak 18
5. Lindi Parker 16
17 and under barrel racing
1. Jordynn Runzo 38
2. Ramsey Milam 33
3. Jamie Ewing 21
4. Breiann Miller 19
5. Lindi Parker 18
18 and over pole bending
1. Shelbi Parker 48
2. Joanna Lee 31; Lara Baker 31
3. Margaret Parker 17
4. Paula Waterman 14
5. Leslie Thompson 12; April Barner 12
18 and over barrel racing
1. Shelbi Parker 44
2. Joanna Lee 23; Lara Baker 23
3. Margaret Parker 21
4. Paula Waterman 16
5. Leslie Thompson 12