New partners Dan Williams and Todd Hampton clinched the California Circuit Aggregate Championship on Dec. 31, 2022, in Red Bluff, California, proving that steady wins the race despite missing checks in each round.
With an aggregate time of 20.7 on three head, Williams and Hampton each earned $2,990 and a ticket to the NFR Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 13–16, 2023.
As the West Coast was hammered with rain, the new teammates strategized against tricky cattle, tough draws and a horse change on the head side. They came together after their respective teammates missed the top-12 cutoff for the circuit finals. Williams’ partner Rhett Kennedy missed the last weekend of the season after an injury, while Hampton’s partner Lane Karney missed the 12th position by a painful $19 due to what Hampton called “missed opportunities.”
Knowing that Hampton was also partnerless, Williams gave Hampton a call and the two teamed up. With only a few trips out of the box together, the pair executed three clean runs in the Pauline Davis Pavilion in Red Bluff, California.
“I’d roped with Dan Williams once before at one of our circuit finals,” said Hampton, 51. “We haven’t roped that much together at all but I’ve seen him rope a lot. I knew that he roped really well and he was an aggressive roper, so I knew that I needed to be ready.”
Catching in a Tight Setup
In the first round, Williams and Hampton stopped the clock at 7.6 seconds, which was out of the money but clean amidst a field of barrier and leg penalties.
“Our first one came left real hard. That’s a little arena and we got hung in the wall there,” said Williams, 38. “I was disappointed in my gelding Maverick; he didn’t face as good as he should have, so I got on my mare.”
Williams’ mare “Fifty” is less than 15 hands and built like a brick house. Williams, who resides in Standish, California, described her as a “faster go” than his gelding.
“She’s a little stronger and faced faster in the tight areas of that building,” he said.
The second round yielded a 6.2-second run, keeping the duo in the aggregate race as challengers dwindled on the slower-running steers and short barrier.
“You just give yourself another opportunity and execute on your opportunities,” said Hampton, of Madera, California. “For the third round, I knew all I had to do is catch two feet and I’m guaranteed second in the average.”
For roping veteran Hampton—who has been the to California Circuit Finals more than 10 times and a national circuit finals competitor five times—the mission was to “knock’em down.”
A time faster than 10.5 seconds would nab the team first, and they stopped the clock at 6.9, giving Williams his first NFR Open qualification.
“The third steer was one of those steers that kind of took some funny hops,” Williams said. “I tried to crack him real hard [for Hampton] to straighten him out to get longer hops so he didn’t take those short little nasty hops.”
Despite being from different geographies—Williams from the high desert of Northern California and Hampton from the central, farming region of California—the two ropers have some surprising similarities.
Both ropers come from long lines of competitors, with Hampton’s grandfather Ray Miller competing in the finals of the Cowboy’s Turtle Association, the precursor to the PRCA. They both work full time; Williams as a rodeo coach at Lassens Community College alongside wife Suzanne and Hampton in the family business of farm labor contracting.
They also ride horses they’ve bred, raised and trained themselves, with Williams’ mare “Fifty,” registered as Ima Cashin N Chips, sired by family ranch stallion Only Boy Named Sue. Hampton’s 9-year-old barrel-bred gelding Breaknthebankfrenchie (Frenchmans Guy x Easter Lena Award) is bred and owned by wife Stacy.
The pair have penciled in the mid-July NFR Open together, where Hampton plans to borrow a horse so he doesn’t miss his favorite rodeo in Salinas, California, that’s happening the week following the NFR Open.
The NFR Open is the National Championship of the circuit system, where the aggregate and year-end champions in each of the 13 circuits are extended an invitation. Joining Williams and Hampton are California Circuit Year-End Champions Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp, who finished 13th and 14th in the PRCA World Standings in 2022, respectively.