Spencer Mitchell is no stranger to being on the bubble. He’s been there and done that, and this is actually the sixth time he’s been on the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo brink heading into the regular-season backstretch.
Mitchell has headed at Rodeo’s Super Bowl in Vegas twice—for his late best friend Broc Cresta in 2011, and Dakota Kirchenschlager in 2012. The first time Spencer finished the regular season on the outside looking in was in 2010, when Broc made his first Finals and Spencer barely missed the NFR boat. It happened again in 2014, ’15, ’16 and ’18. Mitchell finished in the 16th-place heartbreak hole last year.
Now here we are in the fall of 2019, and as of today, Spencer’s ranked 19th in the world on the heading side and his partner Cody Doescher is ranked 25th among world-class heelers. Both have been pushing hard from every angle, including with other partners when it was called for.
Spencer placed second at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in San Juan Capistrano, California, last weekend for a 4.6-second, $8,310 hit heading for Tyler Worley (this is the video of that run). Spencer and Tyler teamed up when their regular partners, Doescher and Jeff Flenniken, didn’t get in, in part because unofficial money also counts toward San Juan qualification. Spencer and Broc won the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo together in 2011 to help get Mitchell to his first Finals, by the way.
Doescher didn’t let not getting into San Juan stop him from making another move. He heeled for Levi Simpson at the Gem State Stampede in Coeur D Alene, Idaho, that same weekend, and 4.9 seconds later split second for $2,406 toward his NFR qualification cause.
Mitchell and Doescher also gathered up three checks totaling $2,694 last week at the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick, Washington, where Cody placed in the steer roping, too, to take the all-around title. Fast forward back to this week, when they were 4.7 to split third in the first round at Ellensburg for another $2,224 apiece.
Those of you scratching your heads as to why Spencer’s 4.4-second, $1,976 win at the Norco (California) Mounted Posse PRCA Rodeo with Cody Cowden last weekend hasn’t been factored into the world standings, that’s because Spencer entered it to get his circuit count and unofficialed it. Team ropers can currently count 65 rodeos a year toward their official world-standings earnings.
“We’re in a spot where we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Spencer, who’s 31 now and lives in Orange Cove, California, with his wife, Whitney, and little boy, Broc. “The pressure doesn’t bother me, and I’ve always been kind of a homerun hitter. So until the last steer (of the regular season, which ends September 30) is ran, I don’t think anybody can count me out.”
Other big stops on their remaining 2019 regular-season tour include the Washington State Fair Pro Rodeo in Puyallup, and the Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up.
[Read: Buckle Up with Spencer Mitchell]
“Pendleton’s one place that does not make me nervous,” Spencer smiled. “I love running out there and chasing them on the grass. I love roping at rodeos where we change things up, and I’ve always loved the grass at Pendleton. I might rather go doctor 20 on the grass than run five in a regular arena.”
The California Rodeo-Salinas—where they rope over the 35-foot longest scoreline in rodeo and both guys come from the same box over on the left side of the steer—is another example of a rodeo change-up Mitchell’s fond of. He and Doescher have both been missing their main mounts, Houdini and Ginger, due to injury time-outs since Salinas.
“Those two horses had some sort of connection that was incredible,” Spencer said. “I feel like we’ve done exceptional here lately for everything we’ve been through. For a team to lose both of its #1 horses at the same time is tough. I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job making the most of what we have.”
Of the 65 rodeos they can count toward NFR qualification, Spencer and Cody figure they have 12 more bullets.
“I absolutely like our chances,” said Mitchell, as he and Doescher headed to their next rodeo, the Magic Valley Stampede in Filer, Idaho. “We’ve made some good runs and some huge jumps, and we’re looking forward to running our next steer to see how fast we can go and how much we can win on him. Before last week, I was in a huge Hail Mary position. Cody and I are happy with how we’re roping and how our horses are working. I might be on the outside looking in, but I wouldn’t want to be the guy in front of me.”