Memorial Ropin’ A Hoot For Competitors And Audience

Team roping action will be fast and furious at the Gracie Lee Haught Memorial roping Aug. 7 and 8 at the Payson Event Center. Spectators are welcome free of charge to watch talented ropers like Shawn Sparks, pictured at last year’s event.

Team roping action will be fast and furious at the Gracie Lee Haught Memorial roping Aug. 7 and 8 at the Payson Event Center. Spectators are welcome free of charge to watch talented ropers like Shawn Sparks, pictured at last year’s event. Photo by Max Foster. |

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Team roping action will be fast and furious at the Gracie Lee Haught Memorial roping Aug. 7 and 8 at the Payson Event Center. Spectators are welcome free of charge to watch talented ropers like Shawn Sparks, pictured at last year’s event.

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Header Penny Conway appears to be on target lassoing a steer as it breaks from the chute. Action took place at the 2009 Gracie Lee Haught Memorial Team Roping.

Plenty of old-fashioned, small town camaraderie, yummy food, toe-tapping live music, children’s games, boot scootin’ dancing and rip-roaring team roping have been the highlights of the Gracie Lee Haught Memorial Ropin’ since its inception three years ago.

None of that will change at the 2010 festivities when they’re held Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 at the Payson Event Center.

While the two days will be filled with fun for young and old alike, it is the team roping that takes center stage.

The Memorial annually draws some of Gila County’s finest headers and heelers eager to reap some of the many awards that include saddles, buckles, rope bags and prize money.

Last year, Skeeter Hill finished as the high-money header and Tanner Lutrell lassoed high-money heeler laurels. Both were awarded saddles for their victories.

Event officials do not yet know if the two will return to defend their titles.

Also last year, if there was a crowd favorite it was 12-year-old Chelsie Stodghill of Pine, who wowed onlookers with a performance much more befitting an older, more experienced competitor.

Teamed with Joe Mike Clem, the duo finished fourth among the No. 10 ropers.

The evening before team roping events were held, Chelsie rode her speedy quarter horse Leo to the fastest time (17.93) in the barrel racing competition.

Women’s barrel racing will not be held this year.

For the 2010 event, books open both weekend days at 7:30 a.m. and the competition begins one hour later. The entry fee is $30 per roper and cowboys and cowgirls can enter up to three times for each roping. The format is “pick 1 and draw 2 or draw 3.”

Entrants will compete in TRIAD system classifications (see below).

Beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday, a barbecue dinner will be served up by Suzy Q’s catering. From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., dance to music by DJ Johnny.

At 7:30 p.m., a Calcutta Auction will give everyone a chance to wager on the outcome of the weekend’s team roping. At 8 p.m. a Children’s Dummy Ropin’ is set.

Tickets are $15 for dinner and dance and $5 for dance only.

All proceeds from the weekend benefit the Gracie Lee Haught Children’s Memorial Foundation, which provides financial assistance for children in need. It also funds several safety programs including purchasing car seats for families who cannot afford them.

“If it’s anything associated with medical help and safety for children, we (the Children’s Fund) can usually help out,” said Bobbie Jo Haught, Gracie’s mother.

Gracie Lee died five years ago in a tragic accident in Star Valley. She was 3 years old and the daughter of Bobbie Jo and Hooter Haught.

Following Gracie Lee’s death, the Children’s Fund was founded. Several other benefits are held throughout the year. They include a high school girls’ softball tournament and a Halloween costume ball. Often the winners of a local home run derby donate their prize money to the fund.

The ranking system

Newcomers to the sport of rodeo probably watch team roping competition, especially the GLH benefit, wondering, “What is a No. 9 roper? How is a No. 8 roper different from a No. 4?” And, “What does pick or draw mean?”

Those are common terms announcers use in describing team roping events.

The number classifications of almost 127,000 team ropers from across North America are doled out and maintained by the United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC).

The number system handicaps member ropers on a TRIAD system. In it, USTRC officials assign all ropers a competition number based on rodeo performance profiles and online balloting in which ropers have the opportunity to rate their fellow competitors from within their own area.

Factors the USTRC considers in assigning numbers are money won, how often a roper competes, consistency, who a roper ropes with, how fast they rope and what others think. Then, through a complex system of weights and standards, those factors are analyzed and the roper’s ability is assigned a number classification.

In entering an event, the roper competes in an assigned division against others with his or her same ability. USTRC officials say the TRIAD system provides everyone, regardless of age or ability, the fair and equal opportunity to compete.

As for “draw or pick,” it simply means in some ropings competitors can either draw their partner from a pool of contestants or pick a personal choice.

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