From the red dirt of Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Lazy E Arena to the concrete walls of the Jim Norick Arena in Oklahoma City, the United States Team Roping Championship’s Cinch National Finals of Team Roping has provided moments that have pumped life through the veins of the sport as the largest roping in the world since 1990. From record-breaking payouts to tear-jerking wins, the Cinch NFTR has been the only place to be each October for everyone who swings a rope.
1990: First-Ever USTRC National Finals of Team Roping
Denny and Connie Gentry were in the hunt for a centralized location to create interstate commerce for the sport of team roping. The decision came down to the Dallas-Fort Worth area or the Oklahoma City area, and Guthrie’s Lazy E got the win.
“The Lazy E had just been open four or five years and was considered by everyone that swung a rope to be the premier roping facility in the U.S.,” Denny said. “The length of the arena, the Cantina upstairs, the television lights for short rounds—there just wasn’t anything like it anywhere else in the country.”
That roping hosted 650 contestants and paid out $185,000. Charles Pogue and Steve Northcott won the first US Open.
“Nobody knew what to think of it,” Pogue said. “It seemed like a good roping to go to—looking back I had no idea where it was headed. At the time, we were just looking for another good place to go. I go pretty much every year now.”
1993: First Million-Dollar Roping
The Lazy E Arena was still hosting the NFTR when the roping crossed the $1-million payout mark in 1993. The USTRC implemented the rotation system at qualifying ropings that year with more than 150 teams in each division, and the association hosted 90 sanctioned ropings leading up to its finals.
“That was the onslaught of team ropers,” Gentry said. “When it caught on things just went wild. It was people coming out of the woodwork to play in it. There was no increase in prices or any gimmicks. Those first few years, that growth was the industry exploding. It was so new, there had never been any big organized team roping like that anywhere in the country. People would come with their families, park and stay four days and enter every roping. Now, everybody has a division that fits them and they’ll get in one more. They’ll roll in, rope in their ropings and go home. In the old days, people stayed three days.”
That year, the USTRC’s NFTR had a #5, #7, #9, #11 and an Open.
1994: First All-Girl Team to Win Shoot-Out Division
Florida ropers Jodee Motsinger and Robin Bass paired up in Guthrie, Okla., at the fourth annual NFTR #5 Shoot-Out (which today would be the #9 under TRIAD). In doing so, they became the first all-girl team to win a Shoot-Out at the NFTR.
“We were high team back, and we won the round,” Motsinger remembered. “Being a woman, it was just crazy. I like to goof off, and I don’t think about stuff that was going on. I was 27. I look at stuff different now—I’m 51! I looked at Robin and told her ‘That steer sure is pretty.’ I was just trying to stay relaxed. It wasn’t even my head horse—I had to pay her mount money! If it wouldn’t have been for her letting me ride her horse it wouldn’t have happened, so I was happy to pay it.”
When the flag dropped on that short round run, both Motsinger and Bass jumped off their horses and bounced around the arena cheering. Motsinger said she remembers flagger Phillip Murrah shaking his head and laughing.
Motsinger no longer ropes much, as she and her husband Guy run a convenience store in Florida and follow their teenage daughter around to softball games.
“Now that my kid plays softball we can go anywhere in the Southeast and I know people from roping everywhere we go,” Motsinger said. “People know us. You pick up where you left off.”
1994: Jerome English and Roy Farr win first $100,000 roping.
When Roy Farr backed into the box at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., he knew at second callback he had a chance at second place for $25,000 and a new trailer with his partner Jerome English. He’d broken out earlier in the week, so he let his brindle steer out two extra feet before dropping his hand on his gelding Floyd’s neck. He thought the second-place win would be outstanding.
“We were roping pretty good,” Farr remembered. “I knew three of the top four teams, and when we got him roped I rode out the back and was loosening my cinch. I saw that first callback missed, and I rode over to Jerome and said, ‘Hey, we won it!’ and he told me, ‘Why, hell yes, we did.’ Typical Jerome.”
The 1995 #7 Shoot-Out (which was before TRIAD so would be the #11 today) was the first roping to pay $100,000 to the winning team, and Farr used the payout to help set himself up for the rest of his life.
“I invested it in CDs and had an advisor,” Farr, who owns and operates Farr Cattle Co. outside Datil, N.M., said. “It was awesome. I wasn’t broke, but that money sure made everything a lot easier.”
Jerome English passed away in 2016, but not before his son, John, and grandson, 13-year-old Sterlin, won the same roping exactly 20 years later, pocketing $115,200 total.
1996: NFTR Officially Moves to Oklahoma City
The NFTR spent its first five years at least in part at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, but by 1996, the Gentrys knew they’d outgrown the facility. They made the move to Oklahoma City’s State Fair Park’s Jim Norick Arena, hosting more than 5,000 teams the first full NFTR there.
The preliminaries were in Oklahoma City in 1994 and 1995, with the Finals Shoot-Outs occuring at the Lazy E. The entire NFTR moved to Oklahoma City in 1996.
1999: First $3-Million Roping with $1-Million in Added Money with 8,200 teams
As the USTRC hit its 10-year mark, the NFTR was truly hitting its stride. As a result, the 1999 NFTR was the first $3-million roping in history, playing host to 8,200 teams.
“Event entries had been up all year long, causing the added money to be up,” Gentry said of the 1999 NFTR. “The Shoot-Out fund in 1999 was more than $1 million, it was actually $1.2 or $1.4 million. So the combination of roper participation, and it being a growth year for USTRC, both led to that increase.”
That year was also the first to see Gold Plus winners receive trucks. Charles Pogue and Britt Bockius won the Open that year—which paid out a total of $240,000 to open ropers.
2006: First $4-Million Roping
The USTRC broke another record in 2006, with its NFTR paying out $4 million to ropers from across the globe. Colorado’s Dick Lenard and Todd Wilson won the #12 Gold Plus Shoot Out, taking home a tractor and a pickup truck as well as $72,000 for the team. At the time, Lenard was 68 and Wilson was 23.
“That was the first year I made the US Finals,” Wilson said. “I’d never been there before, but there was something different about that roping. It was the biggest thing I’d ever been to, and you could just feel how much was on the line. There’d never been anything like it.”
Wilson made it back with Lenard twice in the short round, as ropers could enter twice with the same partner back then.
“We were second and seventh high call,” Wilson remembered. “I missed him at seventh callback. I’d already boned that sucker, so I wasn’t missing him again.”
That roping stands out as the biggest win of Wilson’s career, though he’s now a multiple-time PRCA Mountain States Circuit qualifier. He grew up watching Lenard rope, and by the time they backed into the box at the US Finals together, they’d come tight on dozens of steers in the practice pen and the jackpot arena.
2011: Beverly Robbins and Ferlin Charley Win #12 Gold Plus Shoot-Out
Alabama’s Beverly Robbins begged New Mexico’s Ferlin Charley to rope with her at the 2011 Cinch NFTR after she missed for him at a US Regional Finals, but Charley wasn’t sure.
“He didn’t really have a horse, and I think he borrowed a cousin’s horse that had been turned out for a long time to bring to Oklahoma City,” Robbins said. “He hadn’t paid yet, so I called him and got in touch with him and he said he was just coming for me—he couldn’t enter anything else. I don’t know how far his drive was or what he did to get there, but he made it. Up until that last morning he wasn’t there, and I was getting a little nervous.”
Charley had family working the chutes at the roping, so when he and Robbins came tight on that last steer at third callback to win the average with a time of 30.46 seconds on four, the chute help went nuts.
“They were all yelling for him,” Robbins remembered. “It was really life changing for him. He was so happy. It was one of those things that was meant to be. It happened the way it was supposed to.”
Photographer Brenda Allen began shooting the USTRC’s National Finals of Team Roping at its inaugural event in 1990. She served as the official photographic historian for the team roping industry, and she retired in 2016.
2013: Illinois teens Luke Maguire and Tyler Manion win #8 Shoot-Out
Two teenagers from the unlikely state of Illinois paired up to win the #8 Shoot-Out in Oklahoma City at the 2013 Cinch NFTR, netting the team $40,800.
“It was the biggest roping I’d been to,” Manion said. “That was the first year I’d roped there, but I’d watched my dad there multiple times. Luke was almost 16 and I was ready to turn 14 in eighth grade.”
Manion drove down with his parents followed by Maguire and his family, and the Illinois contingency went wild when the two boys came tight on that last steer.
“We were fourth high call,” Manion said. “I remember everything about that. We were sitting back there talking, and people said we had to get on our horses with one team left. We did our victory lap. Our family was jumping up and down, waving us on. It was the biggest moment of my life. It made me look into the future and want to do it again and keep roping.”
Maguire, who is now rodeoing in college in Texas, still ropes with Manion any chance he gets while Manion is active in high school rodeo.
2015: John and Sterlin English Win #11 Shootout
Exactly 20 years after Jerome English won the #7 Shoot-Out with Roy Farr for $50,000 a man, English’s son John and grandson Sterlin won the same roping at the Cinch NFTR. (The #11 Shoot-Out under the TRIAD numbering system is equal to the old #7.)
“I remember calling my dad right before the short round,” John said. “He always roped good in short rounds. I asked him to UPS or Fedex me his short round luck, and he said he was sending it right away. It was kind of cool that he got to watch us win that.”
The English boys were high call, and John had to hide his nerves to help calm his son.
“He rode up to me right before we ran that steer, and he asked if I was nervous,” John said. “I said, ‘No, not really.’ I probably was but I wouldn’t tell him that. I told him I thought he was just excited, but he said, ‘No I’m nervous.’ I told him he’s caught this steer a million times in the practice pen. I told him he’s already caught him. I guess that calmed his nerves.”
John’s nerves settled the second that head loop went on his steer, and he watched as his son pulled back on two feet.
“My heel loop was pretty good,” Sterlin, 13 at the time of the win, said. “I told my dad it was like a dream.”