It’s been four years since I last made the trek from Colorado to Oklahoma for the USTRC’s Cinch National Finals of Team Roping. As we prepare this issue, I’m planning my travel back to the Jim Norick Arena to again watch ropers at every level from every walk of life converge to compete for millions in prize money and coveted national titles
In 2013 on my last trip to OKC, some friends and I went to dinner with Aaron Tsinigine the night before the US Open, and what struck me was how quiet he was that night. I asked him why he was so reserved while the rest of us laughed and joked, and he said, “I get to rope with the Champ tomorrow. I can’t blow it. I’m just thinking about what I need to do.”
The quiet contemplation Tsinigine used helped him turn five steers in 32.16 seconds for Cooper, helping them win $100,320, which at that point was the biggest win of the Tuba City, Ariz. cowboy’s career. He was in disbelief, and his fellow Navajo ropers—Derrick Begay and Erich Rogers—stood so proudly by him in the trophy room as he received his saddle and smiled for the cameras while the Champ sported that subtle grin for which he’s so famous.
That moment, and so many others like it, are what has made the USTRC’s Cinch National Finals of Team Roping so special for the last 27 years. Farmers and ranchers who spend their precious spare time in the roping pen honing their skills pair up with college kids and oil men and working moms from across the country to make their wildest dreams come true. Coal miners from West Virginia take the week off work to come rope with their buddies and give themselves a shot at a payday they could only dream about while working 60-plus hours a week. And it’s been that way since its earliest beginnings in 1990 (page 90).
Whether you’re making the trip to OKC with us or you’re gearing up for your local roping club, we’ve put together an issue fine-tuned to fire you up. Kendra Santos’ piece on the disappearing open ropings (page 84) will give you the inside scoop on why producers aren’t so eager to host the pros at their jackpots, and our Competitive Edge section (page 58) is jam-packed with tips from the best in the game to up your catch percentage.
I sure hope you enjoy it–and either way, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have some feedback.