Rope for the Crown winner Sawyer Gilbert is world’s best breakaway roper
South Dakota rodeo fans were not to be disappointed with the results of the many events in Las Vegas over the past couple of weeks.
Hot Springs cowgirl Jordan Tierney was named Miss Rodeo America and another young Western South Dakota girl earned a “crown,” a lot of cash, and some pretty serious bragging rights. A high school senior from Buffalo, South Dakota, Sawyer Gilbert bested the nation’s top breakaway ropers to ride away with about $15,000, a new saddle, buckle, a necklace valued at over $2,000 and several other valuable prizes when the dust settled at the second annual Rope for the Crown event.
Gilbert, who won the National Junior High Finals, placed second in the Jr. American and also competed in the American, has twice claimed the 2019 Northwest Ranch Cowboy Association title, and has earned many 4-H, high school breakaway, goat tying and all-around titles wasn’t the youngest girl at the event – there were “a couple of girls a year or two younger,” but at age 17, her experience and cool mentality is impressive.
She doesn’t tend to get nervous, and enjoys competing in a short go. “That’s one of my favorite parts about roping. There is no more pressure at a short round. Everyone wants to think it will be different, but it’s just the same as the runs you’ve already done. It’s just the last one of the roping,” she said.
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Gilbert said the Rope for the Crown event tested each girl’s ability to throw a loop under a number of different circumstances. “They changed the score two or three times.” Gilbert said that the score (barrier length) in the first round was longer so the ropers had to “run them (the calves) down there a ways.” Then in the third round, many calves were roped in under 3 seconds due in part to a shorter barrier.
A combination of experience and countless hours of practice keep Gilbert from getting nervous in such moments, she said.
Gilbert roped off her famed 14-year-old paint horse, Roger, out of Strait From Texas, and an AQHA dam, to win the event. “I think the more lights, the more people in the stands, the harder it is to win, the better he gets,” she said. “Because of his stop to the left, he breaks it away faster,” she added, saying he really shines on shorter scores and faster calves. If the horse has any weaknesses, Gilbert hasn’t discovered them yet.
“One thing I have learned from horses and especially paints is that it all comes from within to make a champion,” said Gilbert.
She also hauled a newer mare, Hollywood, roping off her in a “Rising Stars” youth competition in Vegas. Hollywood is out of Popular Resort Figure and claims Zan Parr Bar on the top and bottom side of her pedigree.
When Gilbert isn’t on the road with her horses and her rope, she’s at home on the ranch south of Buffalo, where she helps her parents Lloyd and Patty and brother Grey and grandparents Ray and Linda with all of the usual responsibilities. This time of year she will go home and help with feeding, and they will soon start prepping for calving.
She plans to high school rodeo again, will compete at the American and Jr. American rodeos again, along with a number of others on her schedule.
In addition to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, a number of additional rodeo competitions draw athletes from all over the globe, including the Rope for the Crown which this year was sponsored by Kime Ranches, said event creator and co-producer Jackie Crawford of Stephenville, Texas.
The Rope for the Crown seeks the world’s best breakaway ropers, and allows certain amateur association champions to automatically qualify. Plus, there are qualifiers put on across the country and world. Three Canadian and three Autralian ropers earned spots at the event. Gilbert first earned a spot via a Bowman, North Dakota, winning a qualifier called the Blitz. When she was named the champion of the NRCA later that fall, she actually qualified again, but since competitors can’t enter twice, NRCA runner-up Ricki Engesser was able to enter the Rope for the Crown, too.
There is also a “last chance” qualifier the day before the event where 5 girls are able to earn spots. Gilbert took part in that event, which helped her become comfortable with the event setup, the calves, and so on.
Crawford said entry fees for the event are $650 per girl. The associations that send a roper pay $300 each, which goes into a pot to pay the association or event that sent the winning roper. All 75 competitors rope in the three long goes, with the top 15 advancing to the short go. The winner is the average winner of the 4 rounds.
The final average placings were:
1. Sawyer Gilbert
2. Taylor Munsell
3. Maci Fuller
4. Lari Dee Guy
5. Angela Chaffin
6. Bailie Schuldt
7. Tiada Gray
8. Beau Peterson
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