A common debate amongst sports fans is what is the hardest thing to do in all sports. Is it hitting a fast ball in baseball? Making a hole in one in golf? Driving a race car at top speed?
Rodeo athletes might say the hardest thing to do in their sport is to win your hometown rodeo.
That old rodeo axiom holds water to the nth degree for Tiffani Sonnier. Sonnier is from Corpus Christi, Texas, home of Rodeo Corpus Christi, which is part of the annual Buc Days Festival each spring.
Sonnier has had terrible luck in the past here, but that changed in a big way on Friday the 13th when she took the victory lap as the fastest barrel racer during the third round of the Progressive Round at the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s (WCRA) Triple Crown of Rodeo event.
Riding a borrowed mount, Sonnier posted the rodeo’s fastest time at 14.414 seconds. With the win, she earned a spot in the Showdown Round to be held on Saturday, May 14. Multi-event cowgirl Ari-Anna Flynn earned the second spot with her 14.533.
“I was happy,” Sonnier said simply.
She had run her young horse, Mo, during the Qualifying Round held in Robstown back on Tuesday. Registered No More Mr. Night Sky, Mo is owned by Isabella Quarter Horses and has been with Sonnier for about seven months.
“He’s 6 and didn’t go to a lot of futurities or derbies. He’s coming along nicely, we’ve placed at a couple of ProRodeos and he placed at the Quarter Horse show at Houston.”
In Robstown, Mo was on fire, posting the fourth fastest time to easily qualify for the Progressive Round which is held during the first three performances in town at the American Bank Center.
Trouble was, the arena is small and loud and Sonnier wasn’t sure what the 6 year old might do.
“He’s not quite coliseum broke yet,” she joked. “I knew he wouldn’t handle it.”
She got help from her friend Amanda Lyne whose daughter London Gorham had won the Qualifying Round. They loaned Sonnier a mare whose registered name is Firefly. Around the barn, she is known as Repo.
Sonnier took the mare home to Boling on Tuesday following the Qualifying Round. She loped her around the pattern the day before returning to Corpus for their maiden voyage together.
“I figured I better just keep my feet moving,” Sonnier said. “They told me to send her in there and I said ‘OK.’”
Sonnier and Repo’s biggest challenge wasn’t the fact that they were unfamiliar with each other but rather getting from the parking lot to the arena through the big Buc Days Carnival.
“That whole scenario was an adventure,” Sonnier laughed. “It was her first carnival . . . a lot of firsts. Amanda said she would be a handful through there and she was.”
“But we didn’t run any kids over so I guess it’s all good.”
Sonnier had nominated some events through the WCRA’s Virtual Rodeo Qualifier app to earn a spot in Corpus after attending the rodeo with her son a year ago.
“He’s 16,” she said of Carson, who also competed on Friday night in the team roping. The heeler earned his spot in RCC through the WCRA’s Division Youth Rodeo program. After advancing out of the Qualifying Rounds, the younger Sonnier did not get through an extremely salty team roping on Friday but Mom was very proud of him. He did a great job.
“I’m excited that we can do this together, that makes the whole thing worth it,” Sonnier said.
When not riding barrel horses, Sonnier owns an insurance agency that she took over when her father passed away. “We do horse insurance and commercial policies in environmental, oil and gas and those types of industries.”
“I can’t write you an auto policy,” she joked. Her father’s original agency was headquartered in Corpus.
Now she’s got a shot at winning that elusive hometown rodeo championship which in Corpus comes with a $15,000 paycheck and a custom surfboard.
“I want that surfboard . . . I’ve got my eye on it,” she declared. Growing up in Corpus, Sonnier spent a lot of time in the water as a kid. “Heck ya, I’ve been on one; I’ll put it to use.”
To get there, she’ll have to run on of the three best times in the Showdown Round to begin the Saturday night performance and then come right back in the Triple Crown Round and win again.
“It should be easier [riding Repo for the second time]. She tries really hard and has a cool style,” Sonnier said. “There’s no room for error in that pen so I just need to point her in the right direction and stay out of her way.”
“Obviously she’s a nice mare and I appreciate them letting me ride her.”
The final night of Rodeo Corpus Christi will air live on RidePass on PlutoTV. The Cowboy Channel will also carry the broadcast.
Friday, May 13, 2022 Results: 1. Tiffani Sonnier, 14.414, $1,600, *2. Ari-Anna Flynn, 14.533, $1,200*, 3. Mackenzie Mayes (DY), 14.787, $800, 4. Tyra Kane, 15.167, $400, 5. Brittyn Rocha, 16.221, 6. Courtney Moose, 20.312, 7. London Gorham, 20.684, 8. Savannah Hays, 25.606
No Other Qualified Runs
*Top 2 Advance to Showdown Round
Showdown Round Qualifiers
Sissy Winn, Chapman Ranch, TX — #1 Seed
Halyn Lide, China Spring, TX
Katie Loughran, Broken Bow, NE
Kindyl Scruggs, Southaven, MS
Jada Trosper, Ponder, TX
Tiffani Sonnier, Boling, TX
Ari-Anna Flynn, Charleston, AR