Ella Lazinka was an eastern Oregon cowgirl who won the world championship cowgirl relay race at the Pendleton Round-Up in 1912. The following year she returned to defend her crown.
The cowgirls’ relay race was run over a three-day period, two miles each day, with the rider changing horses every half-mile, mounting, dismounting, unsaddling, and saddling, unassisted.
The first day Ella won. Bertha Blanchett from Los Angeles took an early lead the second day and Ella was never able to close the gap. They entered the third day in a head heat, tied at ten minutes and ten seconds. The winner here would claim the championship.
At the start of the race Ella jumped ahead and stayed in front until her horse started bucking on the first exchange. It cost her valuable time to bring him under control, jump to the ground, loosen the cinch, clip off the saddle and make the exchange. She gave chase to Bertha, who by then was flying down the straightaway.
Coming into the third exchange Ella had nearly caught Bertha and the crowd was cheering wildly for the local girl. But bad luck struck again. Ella’s horse continued to run past the exchange point. It ran to a gate and stopped in a four-footed slide. Ella kept going, over the horse’s head and over the gate. She got up, dusted herself off and continued with the race.
Bertha was the winner. She crossed the finish line to a smattering of applause. The loudest cheer of the day erupted 59 seconds later when the local girl, Miss Ella Lazinka, barreled past the main grandstand.