The Ariat World Series of Team Roping Qualifier produced by Watson Productions drew in over 2,700 teams in Ardmore, Oklahoma's Hardy Murphy Coliseum. 

The Ardmore event was the crowned-jewel of a huge weekend for team roping, in which Global Handicap's Roping Management Software processed some 5,000 teams nationwide as ropers reveled in the chance to compete once more. 

"This roping in Ardmore is a top-five roping of the year, any year," Ty Yost, World Series of Team Roping's director of roping operations, said. "Ardmore is in the heart of roping country, close to the Texas border. James Watson is a great producer, and that was a great event that got a lot of teams qualified to come to the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale in Las Vegas this December."

[READ: Ariat World Series of Team Roping Launches Practice Pen Finale Qualifications]

Ropers came from as far away as Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas, Watson said, and over 115 ropers bought new Global Handicaps memberships. 

"My wife and I got about two or three hours of sleep every night this weekend," producer James Watson chuckled. "Friday and Saturday we didn't get done until 1:30 in the morning. Ropers were just ecstatic to rope. They were fired up.

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"We were prepared, staff-wise and cattle-wise, to have a big roping. Our staff took every precaution, wearing gloves, masks and allowing for separation during the entry process. We also made continual announcements asking ropers to follow distancing guidelines. Cattle-wise, I had plenty to have a big roping. But I never expected more than 1,800 teams. The biggest we ever had was 1,450. I thought maybe we'd get 400 more—but I never expected 2,700. We had 900 steers, and they held up well all weekend."

Kaleb Driggers Paul Eaves World Series of Team Roping

Kaleb Driggers and Paul Eaves roped five steers in 30.01 seconds, worth $8,820 May 1. 

The roping even drew in some 95 Open teams, double the number Watson said he expected.

"It was just fun to be roping," 2018 World Champion Paul Eaves, who won the Open and $8,820 for a time of 30.01 seconds on five head with Kaleb Driggers, said. "I figured it would be bigger than normal, but I didn't think it would be as big as it was. I think we're all just craving it. It was really awesome. I'm so glad James was able to do that. I had only been roping about two days, and that was my first roping back after my accident at the HorkDog, so it's been six weeks for me."

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Watson's sponsors at Martindale Feed Mill usually do a separate customer appreciation roping, but were unable to this year. Instead, they added a $2,000 bonus to his #13.5, #12.5, #10.5 and #9.5 WSTR qualifiers. 

"Active Real Estate and Jag Enterprises gave me the money for the buckles and the saddles, too," Watson said. "It turned out so good."

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Oklahoma rancher George Holder traveled two hours to compete at the roping, and the trip paid dividends when he won the #9.5 WSTR Qualifier with Wade Snow, worth $16,390 for a time of 39.04 seconds on four head. 

"I had a really good time," Holder, who punched his ticket for his third trip to the Finale this weekend, said. "I thought it was a really, really good roping. None of this deal has bothered me anyway, so I was ready to go. I'd been practicing and waiting for the first roping back. James Watson is the best producer going, and he's a really good guy." 

[Read: Bulldoggers and Bronc Riders Turn to Team Roping Amidst Rodeo Cancelations]

Holder, for his part, also picked up another $1,000 for short-go fast time in the #8.5 with a time of 8.25 seconds behind Jared Blane Phillips.  

The state of Oklahoma announced it would not permit ropers from Louisiana, California, Washington and the New York Tri-State Area to rope, which mostly affected Louisianan ropers, Yost said, who are generally big players at Watson's ropings.

At least 75 ropers from Louisiana called wishing they could come, Watson said. 

“We would have loved for them to be able to come, but we were thankful that the Governor of Oklahoma allowed us to phase back in with those restrictions," Watson said. "I sent a text to the Louisiana ropers letting them know it was out of my hands, and they understood."

Watson was only forced to cancel one roping throughout the stay-at-home order—Easter Weekend in Athens, Texas—and he's looking forward to his next World Series of Team Roping qualifier in Athens this June 19-21. TRJ

Full List of Winners: 

Open: Kaleb Driggers and Paul Eaves, 30.01 seconds on five head, $8,820

#15.5 Add On: Cody Wheeler and Clay Burnham, 28.65 seconds on four head, $8,820

#14.5 WS Qualifier: Greg Cordova and Jared Fillmore, 29.01 seconds on four head, $12,690 

#13.5 Add On: Joshua Bray and Chase McGuire, 30.02 seconds on four head $6,310

 #13.5 WS Qualifier: Dalton Titsworth and Chad Lee, 32.33 seconds on four head, $12,450

#12.5 WS Qualifier: Michael Riggings and Cody Bush, 33.34 seconds on four head, $13,870

#11.5 WS Qualifier:  Jayme Marcrum and Jesse Young, 35.42 seconds on four head, $14,290 

#10.5 WS Qualifier: John Copeland and Ashton Walden, 37.15 seconds on four head, $14,830

#9.5 WS Qualifier: Wade Snow and George Holder, 39.04 seconds on four head, $16,390 

#8.5 WS Qualifier: Beth Looney and Wes Akins, 44.63 seconds on four head, $15,710

 

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