In history, only the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association had ever hosted a lucrative all-female rodeo. Until last year.
October brings us the WCRA’s second annual Women’s Rodeo World Championship (WRWC) in Las Vegas with a new buy-back option and incentive sidepot, plus that $20,000 all-around bonus. Here’s what to know about the life-changing money in women’s breakaway, team roping and barrel racing – and how to rope for it on Oct. 26-29.
If you’ve been nominating jackpots and rodeos toward the WRWC all year, you probably know that if your points land you in the top 30 of your event by Oct. 3, you’ll pay no entry fees in Vegas. But if you’ve never heard of the WCRA, that’s fine too. You can simply haul your best horse to the South Point Hotel and Casino and enter the WRWC Preliminary Rounds for a fee of $1,000 if you’re a Challenger or $3,000 if you’re an Open roper. That might sound steep, but not if you consider that Hope Thompson won $99,660 there last year, mostly in her worst event.
“The entire Women’s Championships is a huge opportunity for us women ropers,” said Thompson. “Whether you compete in one event or three, it’s a huge chance for big money and they’ve done a great job putting it on and putting us on a big platform. It’s very exciting.”
Whereas the WPRA is non-profit, the fun thing about the WRWC’s parent group, the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA), is its for-profit status and association with the PBR. The women’s championships will be held down the Strip just a few days before the PBR World Finals in T Mobile Arena on November 3-7. What’s more? The WRWC finals will air on CBS on Halloween.
“Scheduling the WRWC on CBS in a highly visible Sunday afternoon fall window is a very big milestone for women’s rodeo that will help create even more new fans,” said PBR CEO Sean Gleason.
New to this year’s WRWC is the Pro and Challenger tiered competition system, so you can compete against ropers closer to your ability level. In breakaway and barrel racing, you’re classified via how much money you’ve won, and in team roping it’s by your Global Handicaps or Rope Metrics number. You’re only a Pro if you’ve won more than $6,000 in a season or $20,000 in your life breakaway roping, and if you’re numbered at a 5 or above heading or heeling. All others are Challengers. That means Thompson, a 4.5 heeler, was a Challenger last year and so was her header, Rylie Smith, who earned $98,610 total at the WRWC. Each event’s finals pays $60,000 to first place in sudden death, but Smith and Thompson raked in ground money, too, when some Pro teams unexpectedly took no-times.
“Last year, I entered one jackpot heeling just so I could enter the WRWC hoping for all-around points,” said Thompson. “The WCRA really is ‘all for rodeo,’ like their motto. They work everybody in and give everyone a chance to do this.”
This October, Thompson will again heel for Smith as a Challenger team and head for Whitney DeSalvo as a Pro team. Pros and Challengers compete and are paid separately in the Preliminary and Qualifying Rounds before advancing all together to Progressive and Semi-Final rounds. There’s also a Fast Track Round for people who won slots during the regular season at certain events. And at the South Point this year, if you fail to advance from the Preliminary Rounds, you can buy back into a new Redemption Round for another chance.
Then the fastest ropers both from the go-rounds and average (plus the Redemption Round) advance to the Progressive Round. From there, the fastest 10 go on to the Semi-Final Round, from which the top six progress to the Main Event to battle the Pro standings leader and Challenger standings leader from the regular season.
Sound like a fun little tournament? Rope barriers are used throughout, for a true rodeo feel, and any heeler can tie on. Plus, all that ground money! But even without that, last year Texas breakaway champ Madison Outhier earned $62,332, and barrel racing winner Hallie Hanssen of South Dakota took home $79,680. All-around champ Jackie Crawford left the event with $34,560 total. When the dust settled, the WRWC had handed out paychecks to more than 250 entered girls – with each paycheck averaging $2,400.
“The WCRA has been so good at just making breakaway an equal event,” said Thompson, who used her big windfall to buy horses and upgrade her rig. “They’re the ones, in my opinion, that have really stepped up for women’s rodeo and who are making the others come in behind them and step up. They started this. I hope they keep after it and know we appreciate it.”