Justin Thigpen, the Waycross, Georgia all-around hand, joins the ranks of the best timed event competitors in the business to win the 2019 Cinch Timed Event Championship in his first appearance at the event, worth $100,000.
Thigpen entered the fifth and final round with a record lead and maintained it throughout the final five head. In fact, he clinched the title before tripping his final steer in 17.3 seconds, finishing the event in 341.9 seconds. He won second in the first and second rounds and won the third round, earning $7,000 for those efforts.
He is only the second man to win the Cinch Timed Event Championship as a rookie. Mike Beers was the first in 1986.
"Two weeks ago, I was in San Antonio, and they called me and asked if I wanted to come," Thigpen said. "That was 9 o'clock, and they told me they needed to know by 12 o'clock. So the thought of where am I going to get a tripping horse and all? Of course I wanted to come, but the thought of where I was going to get everything ready came up. We've been working on that process since right up until the event started."
Lucky for Thigpen, five-time Cinch Timed Event Champion KC Jones was staying with friends in South Georgia in order to practice in the warmer weather. Thigpen had met Jones, and had heard he was nearby, so he reached out for his steer roping expertise.
"I know what it takes to get ready for this thing, and he didn't have a lot of time," Jones said. "Hats off to him for being able to jump on some horses he hadn't rode, competing against a field of ropers like this. I knew what he was up against and what he was going to be going through."
Jones, who won second this year worth $25,000, let Thigpen borrow his practice tripping horse and helped Thigpen work on his ties.
Their work in the practice pen showed, as Thigpen's last steer roping run put an exclamation point on his five rounds at the Lazy E.
"My buddy Matt McGee, when we come out back from the bull dogging and we knew we had it won, the first words out of his mouth were, 'You don't back off. It's a job; go do your job,'" Thigpen said. "Heck I need all the runs tripping I could get. It wasn't no layup. I thought we made a pretty good run. Finally got him down."
Thigpen had help from California's NFR header Spencer Mitchell in the heading and heeling and hazer Trevor Duhon in the steer wrestling. He borrowed Will McBride's steer roping horse Flexy in the steer roping.
The $107,000 Thigpen won is already spent, as he and his wife are starting construction on a new house for them and their two young sons next week.
"Maybe we won't have to go to the bank for a loan now," Thigpen said. "We are building it in Georgia close to where I grew up, right there on our farm."
Thigpen says his two sons and wife are his life, and he's content with his rodeo schedule—that includes producing rodeos in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas. But he isn't ruling out a trip out West to hit up more ProRodeos. After all, he's currently ninth in the 2019 PRCA world standings in the tie-down roping with $25,386.29, including a win at the Cinch Shoot-Out in San Angelo last month.
"Right now, my schedule will consist of putting on a lot of rodeos for my rodeo company, so that will kind of hold me back," Thigpen said. "But come summer, we'll see. I've got a pretty good start on the calf roping this year so I might go and see how it plays out. I want to keep rodeoing and try to get better at what I do, and prepare for this event again. But I want to spend time with my kids. My kids are my life now. They both are in the roping pen, riding their ponies. Sometimes they're in the way. My littlest one works the chute, and tells me what to do and what every calf is going to do. It's cool to see them have that much pride in it as much as I do. Whatever they want to do, I'll do." TRJ.
Fifth round: 1. Trevor Brazile, 45.8 seconds, $3,000; 2 Clay Smith, 47.7, $2,000; 3. Brent Lewis, 53.2, $1,000.
Average: 1. Justin Thigpen, 341.9 seconds, $100,000; 2. K.C. Jones, 412.0, $25,000; 3. Erich Rogers, 420.6, $15,000; 4. Shank Edwards, 444.7, $10,000; 5. Clay Smith, 450.0, $7,500; 6. Paul David Tierney, 452.3, $5,000; 7. Jess Tierney, 453.9, $4,500; 8. Rhen Richard, 466.3, $3,000.