The stars seemed to align for California’s Gianna Cianfichi to win the inaugural event. She was 2.9 seconds to split third in the long round, missed on a quick shot in the progressive, and was drawn back to the final four to rope her calf in 3.4 seconds, worth the championship title and $3,395.55.
Due to the salty times in the long and progressive rounds, Cianfichi didn’t feel confident in her 3.4-second time after she made the decision to play it safe.
“All I was focused on was finding my neck, making sure my tip was there, and it all fell into place,” Cianfichi recalled. “It was a good, business-type run, but I didn’t expect it to win because there were three great girls behind me. I just knew if I caught, I was guaranteed a check.”
As the first cowgirl to rope, Cianfichi had to sweat out McKaitlin McKee, who won the first round with a 1.5-second run; Josie Conner, who had quietly placed second in both rounds; and Paige Stout, who Cianfichi had just watched be 1.9 seconds in the progressive round. However, Cianfichi was surprised to watch her time hold through all three runs.
“For a second, I almost had to pinch myself,” she said. “I’m in the history books! It’s crazy to me.”
Cianfichi had never made the trip to Cowtown Coliseum before. She entered the Resistol Rookie Roundup without knowing how she would pull off the travels. A full-time engineer, she works traditional government employee hours, and her limited time off can make balancing her career and rodeo goals a challenge.
Cianfichi decided that her best opportunity for success in Fort Worth required getting her 21-year-old gelding, The Nu GI Joe—“Chase,” as she calls him—to Texas.
“I called my brother, and he said he would do it. I was in the short round at Clovis [last] Sunday, so I had to rush home, pack the trailer and my horse up, and send them down the road,” Cianfichi said. “I didn’t even have time to iron my shirts after I washed them. My brother stopped at a friend’s house, and they ironed my shirts so that I would at least look good.”
Cianfichi flew to Texas in time for the Helotes Festival Association Rodeo and took a quick nap before driving to Fort Worth in the early morning hours. The Cowboy Channel and Resistol rolled out the red carpet for the rookies, and their morning was filled with media training, appearances, autograph signing and more.
“It was super fun. They bought us breakfast, gave us amazing goodie bags. They definitely pulled out all the stops. We made a lot of memories,” Cianfichi said.
The 2020 graduate from California Polytechnic State University used to compete in barrel racing, goat tying and team roping, but changed her focus to breakaway shortly after college. With her full-time work schedule, she rushes home nightly to rope or ride as much as possible while daylight is available. She credits her mother, father, brother, and fiancé, CNFR qualifying steer wrestler Kelly O’Day, for helping her chase down her goals.
“Sometimes, my dad has horses saddled whenever I get to his place to rope after work,” Cianfichi explained. “We all work so well together, and my fiancé and I work together and communicate well.”
Remote work will soon be an option for the young engineer, so her eagerness to hit the trail has amplified after her confidence-boosting weekend in Fort Worth. When asked if she would be shooting for the Resistol Rookie title, she responded: “Definitely. No shame—I’m not scared. I’m going for it. My goal is to go to as many rodeos as I can. You can’t learn or get better by sitting at home.”
- Gianna Cianfichi, 3.4-second run, worth $2,500
- Paige Stout, 3.6-second run, worth $1,500
- McKaitlin McKee, 1.5-second run, worth $1,328.89
- Josie Conner, 2.3-second run, worth $1,155.56
3/4. Gianna Cianfichi, 2.9-second run, worth $895.55
3/4. Lauren Hopkins, 2.9-second run, worth $895.55
5. Aspen Miller, 3.7-second run, worth $635.56
6. Addie Weil, 4.00-second run, worth $462.22
7. Jordan Driver, 12.2-second run, worth $288.89