Tracey Nelson and Voy McNeil, both vying for No. 1 positions in the Cinch Ladies Year-End Championships, achieved their goals by each taking home $1,000 and a year’s worth of Cinch clothing.
Nothing But Nelson
Tracey Nelson, 38, from McDavid, Florida, started her voyage to winning the Cinch Ladies Year-End Championships in June of 2022 at the Florida Panhandle Championships and continued to add points from 10 USTRC ropings across the South.
“It was one more thing to work toward,” said Nelson, who owns The Junky Pearl, an upscale consignment shop, and The Nelson Place, an event venue in Atmore, Alabama. “We’re not in the heart of everything, so we go to the ropings and you have a personal goal every time, but this gave it a little bit of an extra goal.”
Nelson hopped on the Cinch Ladies train after watching her oldest son, Britt Smith, 16, making waves in the Resistol Jr. Championship. (Britt finished in the No. 3 spot with 115 heeling points.)
More than looking to clinch a win, Nelson covets the opportunity the USTRC gives her to rope with Britt.
“Anytime I win with my son is emotional,” she said. “I’ve placed in the #11 some and that right there gets me because it makes me step up my game a little more.”
The family affair extends beyond the competition arena, too.
“Every night we’re in the rope pen, my whole family is out there—my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, my daddy, my stepmother,” Nelson explained. “My mother doesn’t rope or barrel race anymore, but she comes out and videos us. My kids (including Brit’s 8-year-old brother, Liam) and my husband, Rodney [are there]—it’s a true blessing.”
Additionally, being a woman in the industry and having the opportunity to rope for big payouts and prizes is something that stands out for Nelson.
“We get to compete for so much money now—it is equalized,” she said. “The barriers have allowed us to compete among everybody. I hope that it inspires more women to get out there.”
Winning Voyage for Voy
Voy McNeil, 39, took first and second in the #7 roping at the Turquoise Classic August 27, 2022—enough to secure the heeling championship title, though Colorado’s Olivia Lay made a notable run at it in the Cinch Ladies Open at April’s USTRC Cinch National Finals of Team Roping. But McNeil prevailed with just 1 point more than Lay, and 19 points total.
McNeil, who typically heads, picked up a heel rope only recently.
“My mom has always roped, and I headed for her,” said McNeil, who works graveyard shifts as a nurse supervisor. “I really buckled down and focused on heeling. Once I realized where I had gotten [in the points standings], I figured that I really had to go for it.”
What makes the title more gratifying for McNeil is being able to win for her mom.
“She’s my shotgun rider,” McNeil said of her mom, Yvonne. “I’ve always looked up to her. It’s been sad to see her—not totally hang it up because she can still ride—but not team rope anymore because of her health. She’s always been a tough lady.”
McNeil purchased her mom’s heel horse, “Popeye,” and rode him to secure her No. 1 position.
“Being able to ride her horse and buy him, I feel like it all worked out like it should.”
With the support of husband Ryan and 5-year-old son, Stratton, McNeil intends to compete more in women’s rodeo.
“In New Mexico, there’s hardly any women who heel, so that’s why I started,” she explained. “I’d like to be a person who our youth look up to in New Mexico—a woman who has a job and family and still has the passion for roping and rodeo.” TRJ