At Home With Whitney DeSalvo
Whitney DeSalvo, 22, is wrapping up 2017 in the top spot times two, ranking first not only in the USTRC’s Cinch Ladies Standings after raking in a cool $73,300 for the year, but also finishing up as the WPRA World Champion Heeler. Amidst her recent successes, she’s also decided to continue pursuing her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and has some words of wisdom for making the most of life on the road and what it takes to be number one.

Q: What does it mean to you to end the year in the #1 spot?

A: It means quite a bit, even though it wasn’t anything like battling out to the last round. I had a big enough lead that I kind of had it sewn up before I even got there. The gap was big, but it’s still awesome. I ended up second last year at the Cruel Girl and the WPRA Finals, so that was my goal: to try and win first this year. It was still pretty awesome to get it done.

Q: What were the pivotal points in the year for achieving that #1 spot?

A: The Wildfire. I won three holes at the Wildfire, and I’ve been going to that roping since I was like 15. Aside from Oklahoma City, that was probably one of the first all-girl ropings I ever went to. And, you know, it’s a big deal to go up on the wall at the Wildfire and get the briefcase and all that stuff. So that kind of jump-started it and put me in a very big lead.

I won that roping, and I won the Patriot, both with Hope Thompson. Right off the bat, we had $25,000, just from our winnings together at the very first two all-girl ropings of the year. We had that goal that we were going to do it, that we were going to win the year-end, and so we made sure to start it off right, I guess.

Q: How’d your horses do for the year?

A: My horse, Becky, will be 6 this next year. I rode her all year long. I had a few other ones, but she’s the one that I rode everywhere I won a bunch of money. The horses stayed good and sound, so we didn’t have any trials there.

Q: What kind of challenges did you face during the year?

A: Hope and I both ended up breaking something about the middle of the year right before Reno. It was the first open roping that I entered here in Arkansas, and the first steer of the day at the first jackpot after they moved my number up. We were heeling fresh steers and I guess I dropped a coil out of my left hand. I hadn’t even started to dally yet, but it caught around my right thumb and I thought it pulled it off. It didn’t, but they ended up having to put screws in it, so it was bad enough.

Then, maybe three weeks after I did that, Hope was getting off in the calf roping at the Future Stars Roping in Guthrie, and she broke her leg—like shattered it. She didn’t get to go to Reno and I roped at Reno in a cast. We’ve really stuck together on that partner deal. Went ahead and broke stuff together and everything.

Q: What’s the roping like in Arkansas?

A: I feel like, in Arkansas, it’s more like a hobby around here and it’s more like a business down in Texas. People do that for a living down there. But I have good people to practice with, and I still rope everyday.

Q: So do your parents rope, or how did you get into it?

A: My mom roped all through high school and went to the amateur rodeos around here. Then, I’ve roped for as long as I can remember.

Q: You travel a lot. Do you feel at home when you’re on the road?

A: I always say I have like eight different houses. None of them actually belong to me, but they’re always my second home. I’m like a gypsy, I guess. I went to college for 2.5 years and then I took two years off and worked for Shay Carroll [who roped the fastest steer at the 2016 NFR with header Kolton Schmidt with a 3.6-second run]. I lived in Stephenville and worked for Paul Eaves for almost a year. I lived at his house in Millsap; I’ve stayed with Jackie Crawford [whose husband, nine-time WNFR qualifier Charly, runs the Military Team Roping School]; and I’ve stayed at a couple other people’s houses in Stephenville. Stephenville, I guess that’s my go-to. And I stay at Lari Dee’s a lot. I feel pretty at home at those two places.

Q: And now you’re going back to college?

A: Yes, ma’am. I haven’t got to travel much in the last three of four months because I actually went back to the University of Arkansas at Monticello. It’s about 2.5 hours from where I was raised. I’m getting a bachelor’s in exercise science.

I don’t know if this sounds crazy to other people or not, but I feel like I want to be a rodeo coach. The program has a lot of coaching classes—like sports psychology stuff—and they have a coaching degree and I’m leaning toward that. A lot of rodeo coaches have a lot of ag and business stuff, but I want to be somebody that knows the mental aspect of it. I’ve already been around rodeo and horses and I don’t feel like I need an ag degree. I would rather have a coaching degree to learn how to help different people a certain way and to help me be a better coach, versus somebody that just knows about rodeo.

Q: What advice can you offer to fellow lady ropers, or up-and-coming lady ropers?

A: I’d say, don’t let being a woman roper hinder you from doing it the best you possibly can. I feel like girls are starting to rope really, really good now and they can compete with the men or at the mixed jackpots just as good as anybody. The competition is stronger now than ever, so I would say: set some goals and don’t be afraid to get help. That’s my main thing. A person that’s too good to take advice doesn’t want to learn. So don’t be afraid to take advice from the people that are above you and go and set goals and try to accomplish them.

Q: What are your goals heading into 2018?

A: I have a few in mind. I am one of those people who sits down and write them down. I haven’t really put it all together yet, but obviously it’s to stay on top. That’s everybody’s goal—to do better than they did the year before, so I guess we’ll see how I compare. 

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