York, Nebraska’s Annsley Vernon, 16, put all her eggs in the #9.5 Shootout basket at the 2021 Cinch USTRC National Finals XXXII on Friday, April 30. Heading for Cooper Mendenhall, the 4 roper turned four steers in 37.35 seconds, earning the team third place out of the 473 teams that competed, just 0.7 seconds behind the first-place team of Mason Mcrae and Ron Johnson and 0.36 seconds off the second-place team of Colton Clayton and Kaitlyn Torres.
“We were 20th high call,” explained Vernon, who had two partners unable to make it to the Finals and had to replace wheels after blowouts on two different trailers in the past month. “It was kind of an adventure to get down there … then my heeler legged in the first round, so it’s kind of crazy to place third with being 20th high call and having a leg.”
The time earned the team a check for $29,500 and, when added with her winnings from March’s Oklahoma Winter Championships—where she won checks in the #9.5, #8.5 and the #7—gave Vernon a total of $21,130, which was enough to claim the Cinch Ladies Year-End High-Money Award on the heading side, beating her competition out by $5,260.
More than beating out the ladies, though, Vernon, who also goat ties and breakaways at the high school level, gets a kick out of giving the boys a run for the money.
“I definitely like team roping because I like to beat the boys,” Vernon admits, chuckling. “Whenever girls back in the box, sometimes the boys are like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And it’s always fun, pulling up somewhere and assuming you’re the barrel racer or the team roper’s girlfriend and going and pulling a check—I always think that’s pretty fun.”
On the heel side, Kaitlyn Torres, 13, from Alice, Texas, cleaned up for Clayton on four in 36.99 seconds in the same #9.5 Shootout.
“I knew he was going to do his part,” said Torres, who is competitive in seven different rodeo events.
The team was 13th high call back when Torres whipped out a show-stopping heel shot that sealed the deal for second place—a scant 0.3 seconds behind the winning team—and a team total of $42,000.
Torres’ take-home portion of the winnings gave her $21,000 to put toward the Cinch Ladies Standings, an earning that dominated any competition from her fellow lady heelers.
“I didn’t think I was going to win it,” Torres admitted. “But it was cool. It won me a little bit more money!”
In true rodeo fashion, to celebrate, Torres loaded up her palomino mount to compete at a Texas Youth Rodeo that weekend before moving right along to Corpus Christie to team rope, breakaway and run barrels at the WCRA Finals.
Needless to say, we should be seeing a lot more from these two winners in the coming years.
USTRC 2021 Cinch Ladies High-Money Winners
1. Annsley Vernon $21,130
2. Jordi Edens $15,870
3. Kenzie Kelton $14,150
4. Mary Elkins $11,500
5. Rainey Skelton $9,750
1. Kaitlyn Torres $21,000
2. Sarah Toole $1,245
3. Stacy Dehne $1,240
4. Fallon Jordan $930
5. Lorie Patterson $910