Ropers Sports News | November-December 2022

PAGE 8 ROPERS SPORTS NEWS NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2022 Tanner Tomlinson is set to make his NFR debut, heading for Patrick Smith, the two-time team roping world champion heeler and 13-time NFR qualifier. – PRCA ProRodeo Photo by Roseanna Sales Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins set a new NFR average record last year, and are game planning to consistently go a little faster in 2022. – PRCA ProRodeo Photo by Rod Connor Team Roping Elite Set To Rope At NFR... From Page 6 set-ups. I’ll take Hali (his gray mare) as a backup. Andrew Ward NFRs: 3 (2020-22) Hometown: Edmond, Oklahoma Partner: Buddy Hawkins LK: You and Buddy had a great season, both rodeoing and jackpotting. Break down your year for me. Andrew Ward: It seemed like an incredible year. We won a lot of stuff you dream about winning. We started it all off really with winning the NFR average last year, and setting the record on 10 (Andrew and Buddy’s new NFR average record of 54.7 seconds eclipsed Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper’s mark of 59.1 on 10 steers set way back in 1994), then we won the Lone Star Shootout, The American, and won the BFI (Resistol Reno Open) in Reno. It was cool to check off a lot of big wins. At the rodeos , we won money a t mos t o f t hem throughout the season. Together as a team, we caught a ton of cows. We had a really effective year, so we’ll try to build on it. We do go to some smaller rodeos than other guys, and do it a little different with a big focus on our (Prairie) Circuit Finals—sort of like rodeoing like professional weekend warriors starting on Thursday and finishing on Sunday. We didn’t have to drive very much this year, and had days to rest. We didn’t have but maybe one or two all-nighters, and were able to catch over and over. I know there’s room for improvement to execute at the bigger rodeos, but we caught a lot of cows and won a lot of checks. LK: You guys obviously had a great year, and it seems like you won just about everywhere you went. Can you put Kaleb and Junior’s incredible year into perspective from your front-row seat to the earnings record? AW: That was incredible to watch. Everywhere we were up the same, it seemed like they were winning on runners, on lopers—it didn’t matter. I was so impressed watching them. They’ve both got a list of horses that any one of them could be another guy’s best one. Driggers probably rode five different head horses at the rodeos this year, and you can’t hardly tell when he switches. At this level, Kaleb and Junior can catch with anybody. They can go as fast as anybody. They caught a lot of steers going really fast. Because they’ve got so many great horses, they didn’t skip anywhere, and they had great horses everywhere. I don’t know what Speed and Rich or Jake and Clay looked like when they were dominating, but I’ve never seen a team as elite as Kaleb and Junior this year, no matter the set-up. Clay (Tryan) beat us in the regular-season, too. They’ve got good horses, and I think him and Jade (Corkill) rodeoed similar to us, not flying as much and going to what made sense. They’re dominant, too. If I could duplicate our year, I’d do it every year. So hats off to those guys for the year they had, and the lead they racked up. LK: After setting the new NFR average record last year, you said there were a few things you were focused on for next time. What are those, and what’s your NFR game plan this year? AW: There aren’t big changes coming. I want to catch, because that’s my identity. There were two little things that I did kind of wrong. I thought I was swinging too hard and tight, trying to catch up to the cows. The cows were running so hard, and because I was tight, I’d have to ride through where I could have been throwing last year. That made us a little longer on some runs. If I can come up with a smoother, slower first swing, then a little more aggressive second swing and a good, open third one with my horse on good lines, I think that’ll help. The other thing is I’d never experienced the speed of the steers out there in that set-up before. In the steer break-in, I thought the steers were better, and I anticipated with the barrier at 4’ under that I would overcome the cows on Biscuit. The first night, I tried to see something and felt like by the time I got going, I saw shoulder or first rib out the end of the gate, because he left so sharp. I was just hoping to catch up by the end of the arena. The second night, I came behind him, but he was sharp and I felt late again. Later in the week, I felt like I got better starts. But I don’t want to be scared of a 10-second barrier out there this time. Last year, I was stressed about beating the (average) record, and I think that backed me off. It’s like we were in a contest with Jake and Clay’s record, and couldn’t afford a barrier at the end. Even though breaking the record didn’t add money to our pockets, those are our heroes. Hopefully, I can block out the noise a little better this year. My plan is to get going at the start, read the cow through the box, react with my left hand, relax my swing and send it when I believe I can catch. If I can get great starts, I think we can be a little faster without taking riskier throws. LK: Your great brown horse, Biscuit (11), was voted this year’s reserve Nutrena Head Horse of the Year presented by AQHA. You’ve ridden him at the last two NFRs. Will you ride him again in Vegas, and how much did it mean to you for him to be recognized by your peers this year? AW: Yes, I feel like you get chemistry the more you rope on a horse in there. I know what Biscuit is going to feel like. The building is small, but the barrier is so short and the cows run so hard. He’s my best horse in that arena with that set-up, but I’ve got a gray I call Henry (who’s also 11) who I’ll have out there, too. I was kind of nervous to miss the deadline to nominate Biscuit for that award for his sake, because he went from little indoors to big outdoors to the BFI. He’s done it the last four or five years now, and just keeps getting better, because I’m riding him better. Horses like Biscuit are life-changing for guys like me. I wouldn’t put my horse’s name down for that award unless I thought he was a special horse. I was thrilled other people thought that about him, too. Buddy Hawkins NFRs: 5 (2013, 2018, 2020-22) Hometown: Stephenvi l le, Texas Partner: Andrew Ward LK: Describe your season and some of the highlights along the way. Buddy Hawkins: This sport is a lot like every other thing in life I’ve experienced. Your distance between sowing, reaping and the productivity of your crop, if you will, is unique. You can plant the exact same amount of corn, get the same exact amount of moisture and get a slightly different yield. There are a lot of factors in there. There’s the bamboo analogy, that everybody is probably bored with, but it goes like this: When you plant a bamboo tree, nothing noticeable happens for five years. The improvement process is often discouraging, but it’s growing underground and creates a base or foundation for later growth. In the fifth year, the bamboo tree grows up to 90 feet in six weeks. So, I can’t talk about my season without bringing it back to my faith. I finished 16th (in the world standings) in 2017. In 2018, I divorced from my best friend, then completely reset and quit rodeoing for part of 2019. Since I started roping in 2000, I’ve worked for this. I don’t deserve it more than the next guy, and not everyone gets what they deserve out of this sport. But that makes this sport beautiful, because people do it for the love of it. To look at what made this fairytale possible, where every big check they gave away in a four-month period they gave to us (last year’s NFR average through The American in March), you can’t summarize that appropriately. It takes a whole lot of little things—my whole family, my sponsors, my partner, his family, people throughout this industry—to have big wins. LK: You and Andrew set the NFR record last year on 10 steers. How are you using that experience going into this year? BH: For me, a lot of my perspective is the same as it has been at every NFR. Perspective always acquires previous experience, so you can’t have the exact same perspective after you’ve had an experience. More recently, I try to be the best follower I can be to my partner and his horse. On paper, I’m the team leader in terms of strategy and navigating that. But when it comes to the actual event, I’m playing on the team. I very much try to follow my partner’s start, and his pursuit of the cow. This is my first repeat NFR in this building with See WNFR TEAM ROPERS On Page 10

RkJQdWJsaXNoZXIy Mjk2Mjk=