Rookie of the Year
Merrill’s Karissa Gipple recently tested her burgeoning talents on the national stage and she surprised even herself.
Gipple competed in the North American Championship Rodeo–held November 8-10 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ken.–and ended up winning a round and placing third in another. Had it not been for shaky conditions that derailed several riders on the opening day, Karissa could have ranked extremely high in the overall.
“It was really exciting,” Karissa said. “I was going down there just hoping to place in one of the rounds. I was the first girl in the round and it was nerve-wracking waiting for all the other girls to go.”
Karissa joined the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) after representing the local Wis. River Rodeo as princess in 2009 and queen in 2010. Her hard work earned her the title of WPRA “Rookie of the Year” in the Great Lakes Circuit, where she earned a belt buckle.
Karissa started and stayed in the top 12 earned money winners all season long, competing in rodeos in the Great Lakes Pro Rodeo Circuit that includes nine Midwestern states. The top 12 is the cut-off for qualifying for nationals.
“It’s not as easy as it sounds to be in the top 12,” Karissa said. “Some of these girls have been competing in these rodeos for years. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to make it to the national circuit in my first year.”
Gipple ran 25 of the 37 rodeos that ran from April through September. She was gone every weekend running women’s barrels, sometimes competing in up to four rodeos in one weekend and traveling as far as Arkansas.
In June at the Wis. River Pro Rodeo, Karissa clocked the fastest time of :16.15 in the Sunday afternoon performance in front of her hometown crowd.
While competing in Louisville, Karissa captured top honors in the Friday night round of barrels with a time of :15.71. On Saturday night, she ranked third, missing out on first place by a mere 12/100ths of a second with her :15.73 clocking.
Loose conditions in Thursday’s opening go led to some actual falls by horses and barrel tip-overs by others, including Karissa in the latter. A tip-over leads to a 5-second penalty, effectively taking a rider out of the running.
“I pulled my horse up on the home-stretch because I knew we were out of it (with the tip-over) and we still had a :16.3,” Karissa noted. “I figured it out, even with that slow time we would have been second, so it’s kind of disappointing. It’s just how it goes sometimes.
“The ground was really bad. A lot of girls complained. The president lady talked to them, which was nice, and they listened and dragged it the next two nights.”
Karissa ended up with total earnings of $5,615, with $3,595 leading to her Rookie of the Year title.
She will take few months off then return for the Madison Midwest Horse Fair on April 19.
“It was a lot of fun this year,” Gipple said. “Being my first year I was kind of unsure how it would go, but I enjoyed it a lot and I’m really looking forward to next year.”