“We just click,” said 24-year-old header James Winders. “He knows how I’m going to turn them and he never takes them very far. It’s just the confidence we have. I know if I turn them, Shane’s going to rope two feet.”
The duo first teamed up at a World Series qualifier where they were both short partners. Mutual friend, Ike Hanes, suggested they rope together.
“I waved it off our third one to be high team back,” Winders recalled. But after that, they hit their winning streak, giving them some much-needed momentum going into the Finale.
The team tried to bridge the 100-mile gap between their hometowns and get a couple of practice sessions in before the big show, but they couldn’t make it happen.
“I still practiced at home every day for about two weeks before I left for Vegas,” Winders said. “I worked on my horse a bunch.”
Winders had only owned his flashy buckskin gelding for about three months prior to the Finale. The horse originally came off the 6666 Ranch.
“My really good horse, the one I won all my summer money on, needed injected,” he explained. “So I bought this horse. He’s a 7-year-old. I call him ‘Hippie.’ It took us about a month and a half or so before we really clicked.”
PROVING A POINT
Winders grew up in Earth, Texas (centrally located between Lubbock, Amarillo and Clovis, N.M.), in a team roping family. He qualified for the Texas State High School Finals all four years. He’s also a steer wrestler. The 2012 TCRA Steer Wrestling Rookie of the Year, he was forced to take some time off due to a bulging disc in his back. In hindsight it was a blessing, allowing him more time to focus on his team roping.
“It’s just the thrill to always get better,” Winders said of why he loves the sport. “There’s always that one little thing that can make you better, and when you get that one, there’s always something else. And the better you get, the better your runs get and the more you want to do it.”
The money he won in Las Vegas is life changing, but Winders is exceptionally fond of his trophy Cactus Saddle.
“Of course the money is unbelievable, but I really wanted the saddle,” he said immediately following his big win. “I kind of had a point to prove, mostly to myself, but just that I could do it. As far as the money, I’m going to buy a pickup and put the rest up until after I graduate. Then I’ll decide if I want to buy a house or some land or something like that.”
Winders graduated this May from West Texas A&M with a degree in Ag Communications with the hopes of getting into a career in medicine sales. So with decisions to make, he’ll enter the work force with the same mentality he has in the roping box.
“I have the mindset before I even go in the box that I know what I need to. So when I ride in there I can just take care of business.”
Goad is still just sitting on his World Series Finale money too. He plans to buy a new horse, maybe two, with the money from his “biggest win ever.” But he’s in no hurry. While he waits for just the right one to come along, he’s still pocketing those WSTR checks on the same horse he rode to the big Finale win. “You can never have too many good horses,” he said.
Goad has been a team roper all his life, coming up the ranks of junior, high school and then college rodeo. Now, he makes his living as an independent oilfield consultant for Hadaway Engineering, a company based out of Canadian, Texas.
“It’s slowed down quite a bit here,” Goad said, “but I run some cows on the side too.”
The day he and Winders came tight on their #13 Finale short round steer he was also celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary. He met his wife, April, in high school. She was in the stands having a hard time keeping it all together.
“I just didn’t want him to miss,” she exclaimed from the winner’s circle. “I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t hardly breathe.”
Staying in Vegas for some anniversary shopping was tempting, but they headed back the following day to get home to their two kids: daughter, Shaley, 16, and son, Gatlin, 12. Gatlin had watched the live stream of the short round on the school bus, wishing he could be there. He’s just recently been bit by the elusive roping bug, while Shaley spends most of her free time on the golf course.
Goad admits he wasn’t nervous at all as they backed in the box for their short round steer.
“We just said we’d go rope him as fast as we can. Whatever steer they gave us, we wanted to make sure we won a check,” Goad recalled. “I guess it wasn’t until afterwards, we were holding up that big paycheck, Connie Gentry had her hand on my shoulder and said I was shaking.”
Several months later the win still hasn’t resonated completely.
“It’s probably the most money I’ll ever win at one time. People are still coming up to congratulate me,” Goad laughed. “It’s been a surreal experience.”