Great Efforts Yield Great Rewards for Winkelman and Gintner in Great Lakes Circuit

Sara Winkelman and Kricket Gintner emerged victorious at the 2022 Great Lakes Circuit Finals after battling for the aggregate and year-end barrel racing championships, respectively.
Sara Winkelman barrel racing at Great Lakes Circuit FInals
Images by Phil Kitts/Avid Visual Imagery

Relative newcomer Sara Winkelman brought her A-game to the Great Lakes Circuit Finals in Louisville, Kentucky, November 10-12.

 Her goal?

Leave. The. Barrels. Standing. 

“I focused on moving my feet and keeping my energy up to get him all the way around the barrels,” Winkelman, from Big Lake, Minnesota said. “And then afterwards I thought, ‘I just did that three times in a row. Why didn’t I do that all year long?’”

With times of 15.58, 15.51 and 15.29 in each round, Winkelman earned her elusive average title with a 46.38 aggregate–worth $6,967 in total earnings on the weekend.

“I was just really thankful to have my horse back,” Winkelman said. “He got hurt in August 2021. He’d won enough to qualify for the Great Lake Circuit Finals last year, but I didn’t get to take him. He was locked up in a stall. I was just thankful to still have a borrowed horse that I went on last year, and thankful for the opportunity to go.”

Despite the odds, Winkelman earned the Great Lakes Circuit Rookie of the Year title in 2021.

In comparison, 2022 was a year to get more experience on the rodeo road. Winkelman focused on honing in on the best rodeos to attend with her homegrown 7-year-old gelding Fairway Ta Fame or ‘Rory’ (Streaking Ta Fame x Fair Lady Perks x Perks Alive).

Read: Trio of Cowgirls Race for 2021 Great Lakes Circuit Rookie Title

“He came off being a real nice futurity horse who always has nice, manicured ground,” WInkelman said. “His first year of rodeoing, we pancaked several times. It’s hard on my heart to see that happen to [him]. That’s why it’s important to know your horse’s strengths and what [rodeos] suit them. What kind of setups [they like] and what kind of ground they excel in.”

The pair is still putting in the mileage together, learning the rodeo ropes and getting smoother all the time. 

Freedom Hall is known for having difficult footing, but Winkelman noted that the producers stepped up their game and made adjustments to make it safer for the GLCF barrel racers. Rory stumbled in the alley in the deep wood chips in the first and second rounds, but she got away cleanly for round three – which also happened to be their fastest run of the weekend. The run couldn’t have come at a more clutch time for Winkelman, as the entire GLCF pack was chasing 19-year-old Austyn Tobey after she swept the first two rounds.

“I knew I was second in the average so I definitely looked to see what I needed to do in the round,” Winkelman said. “I knew there was 0.35-tenths [to make up]. So I told Rory; ‘Rory, you have to go faster.’ I thought I thought I was going to have to shoot for the moon. As it turned out, I drew after Austyn Tobey directly. She ran a longer time than she’d been running and I said ‘The opportunity is real, let’s go do this thing.”

Winkelman doesn’t have plans for attending the NFR Open yet, all though it’s not out of the question. According to her, it all depends on how she can make her work schedule fit in with her job as a speech-language pathologist in Central Minnesota. 

Gintner Defends Year-End Championship

The saying that goes “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” could not have been truer for Kricket Ginter and Dial A Little Fame on the Great Lakes Circuit in 2022. 

As Gintner, (39) from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, shot for top spots in the WPRA Tour standings, she clinched her third Great Lakes Year-End Championship.

Kricket Gintner at the 2022 Great Lakes Circuit Finals. Image by Phil Kitts/Avid Visual Imagery

Mainly riding 16-year-old Dial A Little Fame (Dash Ta Fame x Dialalena Leo x Little John Dial), Gintner focused on keeping “Jax” comfortable while seasoning her up-and-coming string. 

“I’ve lost track on how long we’ve really had him,” Gintner said. “I rode him the last year, but my sister [Brandi Brezeziski] and my mom [Tammy Whyte] have also rode him before. He’s the one that brought me to all my circuit finals.”

Jax has carried Gintner through six circuit finals, and now boasts back-to-back Great Lakes Circuit Championships.

Read: 2021 Great Lakes Circuit Titles Go to Haluptzok and Gintner

“With Jax’s age – and he’s aging very gracefully – I know I would eventually like to hand him back over to my mom, so she can enjoy running him also,” Ginter said. “I like where my two young ones are, and they’re showing me what they can do. The sooner you start the journey and get through those growing pains, the sooner it’s over with.” 

Ginter spread her earnings out throughout the year. She had a strong Cowboy Christmas run, winning both Manawa and Phillips, Wisconsin, worth $2,156 and $979, respectively. Her August was headlined by a second-place finish in Sikeston, Missourri, where she banked $2,997. Her consistency paid off with a lead going into Louisville—but she wasn’t locked into her NFR Open qualification.

 “Going to Louisville I did not have [the year end] in the bag,” Gintner said. “I was only ahead but less than $1,000, so it all had to play out there.”

Jax had solid efforts throughout the GLCF, but tipped barrels in the second and third rounds. Luckily, their 15.43-second run in the first round was enough to snag a second-place check for $1,742 in the first round gave them enough earnings to fend off runner-up Katie Chism of Tiskilwa, Illinois. Gintner finished the year with $21,252 on the books, just $195 ahead of Chism.

As Gintner looks ahead to the NFR Open, she may have to make the decision between the NFR Open and the Calgary Stampede due to a ground rule that prevents entry into both events. In 2021, Gintner picked the NFR Open and had minimal success in Colorado Springs, so she plans to take a stab at Calgary in 2022.

Gintner thanked her family and husband for staying home with the kids, as well as sponsors including DAC products for their support. 

North American Championship Rodeo (Great Lakes Circuit Finals) Results

Louisville, Kentucky, November 10-12

First round

1. Austyn Tobey, 15.32 seconds, $2,322; 2. Kricket Gintner, 15.43, $1,742; 3. Shannon Jensen, 15.46, $1,161; 4. Sara Winkelman, 15.58, $581

Second round

1. Austyn Tobey, 15.41 seconds, $2,322; 2. Jamie Lenzner, 15.43, $1,742; 3. Sara Winkelman, 15.51, $1,161; 4. Alyssa Gabrielson, 15.61, $581

Third round

1. Katie Chism, 15.10 seconds, $2,322; 2. Sara Winkelman, 15.29, $1,742; 3. Danyelle Hovland, 15.41, $1,161; 4. Jamie Lenzner, 15.48, $581

Average: 1. Sara Winkelman, 46.38 seconds on three head, $3,483; 2. Austyn Tobey, 46.42, $2,612; 3. Katie Chism, 46.75, $1,742; 4. Danyelle Hovland, 46.82, $871