To add to the cutthroat atmosphere was the usual challenges of team roping at Cheyenne. Steers are given a 30-foot head start. Unlike most chutes, the roping chute in Cheyenne is quietly opened. Steers often just wander out, taking up to five seconds to get to the score line. Then the race is on as cowboys release their horses and give chase. This year, the team roping steers had been previously used as tripping steers—adding another challenge to the headers who had to handle them carefully so they wouldn’t fall down.
The 11th high team back, Britt Williams and Bobby Harris, set the early pace with an 8.2, pushing their total on three to 27.4. As the round progressed, it became clear they had drawn one of the better steers, but as Williams pointed out, they had to take advantage of that opportunity.
“When everybody is within 1.2 seconds of each other, you just have to draw a good steer and do the best job of the day, and you can win,” he said. “That steer had a decent track record. They were 9.7 on him once and missed him once. They said he was just decent—middle of the pen.”
Spencer Mitchell and Broc Cresta challenged with a 9.0. Then Derrick Begay and Cesar de la Cruz matched the time to move into a tie with Williams and Harris.
As for Harris, winning Cheyenne was the penultimate achievement for the Wyoming-born-and-raised 1991 world champion.
“This is a dream come true,” he said. Harris had been attending Cheyenne since he was 15 (he’s 47 now) and has narrowly missed winning steer roping titles at the ‘Daddy of ’Em All’ twice. Team roping is in only its ninth year at Cheyenne. Now, the win at his home-state rodeo could propel him to his 12th trip to the Wrangler NFR.
“After I made the Finals in 2002, I burned out,” he said. “My kids were in high school and I wanted to get them out of school. Now my kids are in college, and last fall I got the itch again. My roping has always been about when I want to do it; that’s when I do good. Britt and I have talked about roping but it didn’t work out until last fall, and it went really good. I’ve known him and watched him rope for a long time; his father and I grew up together. He’s got good horses and he’s proven that he’s got the ability to be a top world’s champion-caliber roper. I wasn’t going to come out and do it just to do it. I want to make the Finals.”
Begay and de la Cruz are of the same mindset. Once you make the NFR, it becomes an expectation, if not a right. Hovering around 20th in the PRCA world standings wasn’t satisfactory to either man, so the win in Cheyenne carried extra meaning.
“I’ve won it twice now,” de la Cruz said. “I won it Colter (Todd, in 2006). It’s a blessing. The last month hasn’t been very good, I haven’t been roping very good for my partner, but this makes up for everything.”
He rode his mare, Annie Oakley, for the win, because she’s the fastest horse he owns, and deflected the credit to her and his partner.
“Good horsepower and in my opinion, it takes a good header to set one up out here. They’re rolling so fast,” he said.
As for Begay, winning the ‘Daddy’ revealed a smile—if not much verbal expression of his win—from the normally stoic Navajo.
Begay and de la Cruz added $10,550 each to their world standings totals while Williams and Harris won $10,279.