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Lane Mitchell Talks 2024, the NFR Bubble and Motivation
"There are so many highs and lows in rodeo. I didn’t throw a fit and say ‘poor me’ when I finished 16th. I just knew I better keep working." 
Lane Mitchell heeling at The Daddy in Cheyenne
Lane Mitchell, shown heeling one down at The Daddy in Cheyenne. | Tanya Hamner photo

Tennessee team roper Lane Mitchell is out heeling on the big trail again in 2024. Mitchell’s been on the brink of that first NFR berth before, like in 2022 when he finished 16th roping with Cory Kidd. Could this be Mitchell’s year? He’s hoping so.

Q: Where is Bolivar, Tennessee, and what’s it like where you grew up?

A: Bolivar’s in West Tennessee, an hour east of Memphis and about 30 miles north of Mississippi. Tennessee’s a beautiful state, and Bolivar has a lot of green grass and trees. My family farms corn, cotton and beans in Bolivar, and we also run cows. 

Q: How much team roping goes on in your original part of the country?

A: Not a lot. You can go to a roping about every weekend somewhere, but most people might rope once a week and there aren’t very many high-numbered ropers where I’m from. There are round robins and slides, but they’re all capped at a No. 6.

Q: You’re a No. 10 heeler (the highest heeling number there is), which means you’re pretty well restricted to open ropings and rodeos, right?

A: Yes, that’s about it. 

Lane Mitchell heeling for Kaleb Driggers at the 2020 Texas Circuit Finals.
Mitchell heeling one for Kaleb Driggers at the 2020 Texas Circuit Finals. | James Phifer photo

Q: At 29, what do you consider your career highlight so far?

A: I’ve won a few rodeos, but finishing 16th in the world is probably the best I’ve got, honestly. 

Q: You can’t get any closer to the NFR cut than 16th. Take us back to that 2022 finish line. 

A: We had been on the bubble and fighting for our spot every week since July that summer. So by the time we got done that year, I was kind of numb to it. We won second at Puyallup (Washington) that fall, and thought we might be good. We had $83,000 won, and it had never taken that much to make the Finals before. Pendleton (Oregon) was my last rodeo. We did good at Pasadena (Texas) after that, but I was out of rodeos. One more rodeo and I’d have made it, but it was what it was. 

Q: How has finishing just short impacted you since?

A: That’s the closest I’ve come to making the Finals, so that was good. Getting one step closer to my goal was my way of looking at it, so it didn’t strike me as the crying hole. Missing the NFR that year was probably a bigger deal to everybody else than it was to me. I still wake up every day and ride, rope, go to rodeos and ropings, and trade a few horses. I’m trying hard to do what I think it takes to make it. The results are what they are, and you’ve just got to keep moving. There are so many highs and lows in rodeo. I didn’t throw a fit and say ‘poor me’ when I finished 16th. I just knew I better keep working. 

Q: You roped with Cory for two years in 2022-23. Talk about your time together. 

A: Cory and I are really great friends. He lives not even a mile from me in Stephenville (Texas), and we still practice together sometimes. We got so close to making it that first year. We didn’t win as much this past year, and we both want to keep doing better.

Q: You’re from Tennessee, but tell us about your Texas connection.

A: I have a place in Stephenville. If you’re going to be a team roper and team rope for a living, Stephenville’s the hub. Being around all the guys who are great, practicing with them and being in the circle is a big advantage. When I’m in Tennessee, farming’s the main priority and I don’t get to compete as much. 

Q: Tell us about your No. 1 horse.

A: My black horse’s registered name is Big Green Tractor. He’s 12, I call him “Mr T,” and he’s just really forgiving. He’s fast enough, and he’s a big stopper. 

Q: What are your team roping goals right now, and how do you like the odds of achieving them?

A: The goal is to make the Finals, and I think we’re in a good spot, so I think the odds are pretty good. I won checks in the fall with Nelson [Wyatt] (who roped with Chase Tryan during the regular season last year, then Jonathan Torres at the NFR), Cole Thomas and Tanner Tomlinson.

Q: Who are the heelers you like to watch most, and why?

A: I like to watch them all. Junior, Jade, Wesley—but all the guys who rope good are fun to watch. I could name 20 of them.

Watch all your favorite heelers on Roping.com.

Q: At this stage of your roping career, is there anyone you take roping advice from, or is it more a matter of practicing hard to perfect your own style?

A: Yes and no. People tell you stuff, but you have to watch and learn as well. When I have questions, I usually ask Junior or Driggers. We’ve been around each other quite a bit the last couple years. We’re in a tight circle of guys and have been entered the same a lot. So those are the guys who’ve seen me rope the most.

—TRJ—

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