Delaney Kunau: The Newest Breakaway Contender in the 2022 Resistol Rookie Race

Leading Wilderness Circuit breakaway roper Delaney Kunau entered the Resistol Rookie Race with a $5,466-win at the July 9 Vernal Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo.

Delaney Kunau Breakaway Roping at CNFR
Jackie Jensen Photography

Thanks to a 2.3-second run at Utah’s Vernal Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo, Delaney Kunau has entered 2022 Resistol Rookie contention after entering just four rodeos in the 2022 season. Her $5,466 in earnings helped her move to the No. 6 position in the rookie standings with $8,658.95 in total earnings. 

Kunau, the Idaho native who currently leads the Wilderness Circuit breakaway standings, noticed that the calves were strong in Vernal, but she was confident her 13-year-old mare, Hey Boom, or “Rhonda,” could help out on a reach.

“She was awesome at Vernal,” Kunau said of her long-time partner. “I wouldn’t say she ran through my stop, but she dang sure didn’t short me. That was good, considering I threw a lot of rope out. It helped it get there.” 

No stranger to the reach, Kunau offered some additional advice for taking those longer shots.

“I’ve tried to force it in the past, and I’ve hit a lot of calves in the back of the head. Sometimes, you just try to make it happen. Really, if you just open your swing up and let it get there, it’s a lot easier.” 

Kunau noted that her father, Richard, and her mother and stepfather, Norma and Rory Phelen, have all made sure that Kunau had solid horses and the chance to practice while she was growing up.

“I was really fortunate to have horses through junior high and high school that taught me to be better,” Kunau explained.  “They might not have been world beaters, but they sure helped me build confidence.”

Kunau purchased Rhonda four years ago, before she had been entered at rodeos. After working on her for a few short months, she took Rhonda to her first college rodeo in Odessa, Texas. It didn’t go as planned.

“She jumped the barrier, which was terrible,” Kunau remembered, laughing. “But she’s gotten a lot better. That mare changed the game for me, she taught me how to win.” 

Rhonda helped Kunau qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo in the breakaway and pulled double duty as a head horse throughout her time spent in Texas, and later when she transferred to The University of Nevada, Las Vegas to compete, too.

Read: “Lizzie” Rallies to Win Breakaway and All-Around Titles for Bryana Lehrmann at CNFR

Prior to college, the Declo, Idaho, cowgirl competed in goat tying and barrel racing, along with roping events growing up. Then, she sold her barrel horse and hung up her goat strings to focus on breakaway and heading. 

In 2021, it took just one jackpot for Kunau to fill her WPRA permit, so she opted to purchase a permit extension to get her feet wet during summer rodeos, while keeping her chances at a Resistol Rookie title alive for 2022.  

When Kunau then purchased her WPRA card in 2022, she placed deep in Clovis, California, and decided to return her focus to her graduate courses and college rodeo. She finished out her NIRA season as the West Coast region champion breakaway roper and competed at the CNFR in Casper, Wyoming, before returning to ProRodeo. Now, it’s all about finding a balance between her breakaway and accounting careers.  

Read: ⚠️ Warning: The Breakaway World Standings are Getting Wicked Tough ⚠️ 

Kunau jokes that she is a full-time rodeo athlete and part-time accountant, but her Vernal earnings may help her reverse those roles. 

“I intend to get my CPA license,” Kunau said. “With the money I won at Vernal and some help from some of my professors from UNLV, I’m going to purchase the CPA exam study materials.” 

Another goal Kunau maintains is a 2022 Wilderness Circuit Finals qualification. Currently, she is sitting pretty in the No. 1 position with $7,593.50 in circuit earnings. 

BRJ is keeping you in the loop on Resistol Rookie race coverage all season long thanks to our friends at Resistol.

WPRA Resistol Rookie Standings

As of July 14, 2022

1Josie ConnerIowa, LA$28,236.1539
2Bryana LehrmannLexington, TX$20,975.5146
3Addie WeilEdna, KS$15,148.3230
4Gianna CianfichiSanta Rosa, CA$10,566.7225
5Hali WilliamsComanche, TX$9,816.0719
6Delaney KunauDeclo, ID$8,658.954
7Lauren HopkinsLipan, TX$8,480.3539
8Kayse MahoneyFlorence, AZ$6,976.2110
9Paige StoutDecatur, TX$6,639.2641
10Fallon RuffoniArroyo Grande, CA$6,600.2117