LAS VEGAS – Jhett Johnson makes no bones about the fact that he’s had several partners during his team roping career.
In fact, Johnson, a heeler from Casper, Wyo., is competing at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the fifth time, and he’s competing with his fifth header, Turtle Powell. But Johnson has taken plenty of lessons from every cowboy that has come across his path.
“My last partner told me that it’s easier to keep winning than it is to start winning, and there’s a lot of truth to that,” said Johnson, 40, a cowboy who attended college at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva and Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell.
Johnson and Powell placed for the third time in three go-rounds of ProRodeo’s grand championship, putting the exclamation point with a 4.1-second run to share the third-round victory with Georgia ropers Kaleb Driggers and Brad Culpepper. All told, Johnson and Powell have had a magnificent start to this year’s grand finale.
“You’re roping against a lot of good people, so stuff has to go your way,” Powell said.
It has so far. The tandem tied for second place in the first two rounds and now leads the average race with a three-run cumulative time of 12.6 seconds. Oh, and the two have earned $40,817 in just three nights in Las Vegas.
“You can’t back off,” Powell said. “You have to keep making the same run, and hopefully we just stay hot.”
Powell is competing at the NFR for the sixth time, but he’s roped with Johnson for a number of years; it’s just been the past couple of seasons the veteran ropers joined forces. But that camaraderie is showing grand results so far.
“It’s one of the luxuries of being together for two years and off and on for our whole careers,” Johnson said. “We make the run we make, and days it wins and days it places.”
So far, their runs are working very well.
“I’m not feeling pressure, but I want to keep roping as sharp as we have,” said Johnson, who promotes his home state of Wyoming while on the rodeo trail. “I guess that’s the pressure … to keep this edge and to keep this momentum.”