Women’s roping added to rodeo

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GUNNISON, Colo. – For a great number of rodeo fans, the overall experience of competition and family-friendly entertainment makes for a great event.

For others, they want to see the action. The better the contest, the more they like it. They’re eager to witness high-flying dismounts and body-bruising wrecks. They want 90-point rides and lightning-fast runs.

It doesn’t get any faster than breakaway roping, which, for the first time, will be featured at this year’s Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, set for Thursday, July 11-Saturday, July 13, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“We’ve paid close attention to what’s been going on in rodeo the last few years, and the great group of people on our committee agreed it was time to add breakaway roping to our rodeo,” said Brad Tutor, president of the volunteer organization that produces Cattlemen’s Days each year. “Breakaway roping has just continued to grow in popularity.

“We believe this is an event that people in the Gunnison Valley will be excited to see. It’s the fastest-paced of all the timed events, and it’s easy to follow. We’re looking forward to seeing what these ladies bring to Cattlemen’s Days.”

Breakaway roping has been around for decades, but it’s gained steam in the traditional sense of professional rodeo only recently. The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has been crowning breakaway roping world champions since 1974. The first breakaway title in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association was earned in 1969.

From youth rodeo to college and even into the WPRA, breakaway was one of the few roping events for women. Sure, there are some who can tie-down calves, but the bulk of female calf ropers prefer to do it with a string holding their ropes around the saddle horn during the run. When the calf is roped correctly, the string will break when the slack comes out of the rope, and time is stopped.

The best runs are typically done faster than three seconds, but audiences won’t be surprised to see several sub-two-second runs. At Houston, which is held inside the Houston Texans’ football stadium, the fastest run was by Arizona cowgirl Macy Young, who stopped the clock in 2.2 seconds. Another Arizona hand, Danielle Lowman, won both Fort Worth and San Antonio after posting 1.6-second runs.

The opportunities for these cowgirls are increasing. Cattlemen’s Days isn’t the only big event to add breakaway to its schedule. Each offers a chance for the ladies to continue to make a living in rodeo in an event other than barrel racing, and it creates fan-friendly competition.

When Jackie Crawford won the first ProRodeo world championship in 2020, she finished with a little more than $47,000; that season featured the inaugural National Finals Breakaway Roping, which has continued each campaign since. A year later, Sawyer Gilbert pocketed $72,000. Last year, Shelby Boisjoli-Meged cleared more than $181,000.

“It’s crazy to think about the money we have now,” said Joey Williams, a breakaway roper from Volborg, Montana. “I didn’t breakaway a lot after college, because there just weren’t the opportunities. It’s so exciting for these younger girls. They’re going to have a goal when they’re 8 years old about going to the finals, and that was never the case for us.

“I think it’s so cool the way breakaway roping is going.”

The success is creating fans nationwide, including the Gunnison Valley.

“Cattlemen’s Days is a community event, and we believe breakaway roping will fit right in with this celebration,” Tutor said.


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