By Cecily Burt
Tracie Saunders and Lori Ireland took the top honors Wednesday at the 92nd annual Reno Rodeo’s women’s team roping competition.
The team has finished in the money the past three years, but this year their overall time of 42.56 seconds helped launch them to the championship circle for the first time. They will share a generous purse of $30,000.
Tammy White and Tammy Lewis took second with 46.49 seconds and will share a $15,000 prize; Tibba Smith and Lari Dee Guy finished third at 55.18 seconds for a $6,000 prize.
But in Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World,” there’s always a chance to win even if it’s not the grand prize.
Wendy Bekkedahl sat high in the stands watching the competition Wednesday afternoon. She and her teammate, Jenny Gilbert,
got pushed to the third steer (based on the number of successful roping tries) because they failed to rope one of their steers and didn’t advance to the final round. But they still won a little money – $3,250 – when they placed second in the third steer round. The team of Amy Williams and Kera Washburn placed first, taking home $3,500.
That’s one of the reasons Reno is so popular, said Bekkedahl, you can miss and not go to the finals and still win.
“We all roped three,” she said. “Normally when you miss, you’re out.”
Team roping is especially challenging because there are so many variables involved: two people on horseback, one trying to rope the head or horns, the other trying to rope the feet of a running steer that doesn’t want to be roped.
“It’s twelve hundred bucks to enter,” Bekkedahl said, so competitors have to be pretty serious to come down here.
Competitive roping is a way of life of way of life for her.
“I’ve been roping competitively since I was eight years old and I’m 36 now,” she said, adding that over the years she’s competed in at least 2,000 events, but usually stays within a couple hundred miles from home. This is her first time competing in Reno.
It may have been rough inside the Reno Livestock Events Center, but the competitors in the PRCA and WPRA slack events held in the outside arena had to contend with 94-degree heat and blazing sunshine.
The finalists in the double header roping events will advance to the finals tonight. Those events continue Thursday in the outdoor arena, while the Mercuria/NcHA/PCCHA/NRC and CHA approved cutting event kicks off at 7 a.m. inside.
Wednesday’s action saw a scary spill when the horse ridden by Tara Twisselman, sister of the men’s BFI team roping champion Caleb Twisselman, fell during the third steer round Wednesday afternoon.
There were several anxious moment as Tara Twisselman and her team roping partner and mother Cathie Twisselman hovered over the horse that lay on the ground. Finally, to hearty audience applause, Tara’s horse got up and was able to walk out of the arena.
“It’s a family sport. It doesn’t matter how old or how young,” said Cathie Twisselman.
–Reporters Michael Thompson, Rahel Solomon and Debbie Douglass contributed to this report.