A retired schoolteacher and government employee – both recreational team ropers – raked in $200,000 Tuesday in Reno, Nev., at the 21st edition of the #11 Reno Million.
Jim and Peg Williams of Kingman, Ariz., both 58, caught four steers together in 38.54 seconds to win the event founded in 1996 by local real estate developer Perry Di Loreto. The roping, now owned by Ullman Peterson Events, gives equally matched amateur ropers across the country a chance at six-figure payouts.
This year’s Reno Million drew 136 teams, each of whom paid a $5,500 entry fee to compete for 80 percent of the total purse. As before, teams are screened to ensure their roper classification numbers don’t exceed 11.5.
Jim, classified as a #6 heeler, and Peg, a 4.5, were the picture of consistency, roping each of their first three steers in a long seven seconds, but picking up one penalty.
“I might have been late on our second steer; he really ran,” said Peg. “Jim roped him by a leg.”
They made the finals in the seventh call-back position and notched yet another good run before waiting patiently outside the building, hoping simply for a top-five finish. Then, one by one, all six teams ahead of them suffered a miss or a penalty. The result – the $200,000 first-place prize – was the biggest roping paycheck of their lives.
“We’ve learned to create a run,” Jim said. “All you can do is just rope your steers.”
Mr. and Mrs. Williams keep life just as simple – they just want to be able to go rope. They love it, in fact. They moved from South Dakota to Arizona in the 1990s so they could rope in the winter. They’re building a place in Wittmann, Ariz., now so they can rope in less wind. The couple, who have no children, were planning to leave Reno and head north to spend time with their friends Carl and Nancy Petersen – of course stopping at some World Series of Team Roping events in Jackson, Wyo., and Livingston, Mont., along the way.
It’s all good, “as long as we have a place to camp and rope,” Jim said.
Now that the couple has won the Reno Million, they won’t be allowed to enter it again together, per the rules. But these two hardly ever rope with other partners, despite the travails some couples have competing together.
“It’s just easier with each other,” Peg said. “Jim knows my weakness and strengths. If I neck a steer [catch around the neck], Jim knows where to ride.”
Their horses, Cowboy and Indian, played a big role in their win. Peg’s horse, 15-year-old Cowboy, was her friend Nancy Petersen’s former head horse. Jim’s mount, 10-year-old Indian, was one he finished training that originally came from Nebraska’s Haythorn Ranch.
Jim, a full-time superintendent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Peg, retired after 31 years teaching high school, were married in 1981. That’s when Peg started learning to team rope. Recently, they also nailed a $76,000 paycheck in Las Vegas at the World Series of Team Roping Finale.
The Reno Million stands alone in its design specifically for ropers like Williams and Williams. While many handicapped ropings allow youth ropers whose classifications sometimes fail to keep up with their advancing skills, all ropers in the #11 Reno Million must be adults. The event, then, matches not only skill level but also experience for amateurs attempting to win one of the richest payoffs in Western sports.
“This is an invitational event, and we hate to turn away teams, but we definitely screened out some teams we felt were too strong to enter,” said event co-owner Daren Peterson. “We work hard to give these ropers the most even playing field they’ll find across the country, and we used the same payoff format these ropers have enjoyed for years.”
Custom-made bronze trophies crafted by Montana Silversmiths were awarded for the best head horse and heel horse at the Reno Million, chosen by a committee watching throughout the day. California’s Sean Pascoe won the Head Horse award for his 12-year-old gray gelding, Blue Duck, which he raised. Incidentally, Blue Duck’s dam is an NFR head horse – the black mare formerly ridden by Lance Brooks.
The Heel Horse of the Reno Million is owned by Lou Stuart of Utah. Eight-year-old Eleven Frost (“Rapunzel”) is a palomino mare technically owned by Lou’s 5-year-old daughter, Lucy.
BFI Week continues through Thursday. All events are live-streamed on www.WranglerNetwork.com.
Complete Results from The Reno Million on June 20:
First Round: 1. Rick Gadd and Steve Young, 6.76 seconds, $8,250 (per team); 2. Darrell Julian and Dwaine Julian, 7.31, $4,950; 3. Brad Bottom and Brad Thrash, 7.59, $3,300. Second Round: 1. Jeff Garijo and Travis Peek, 6.95, $8,250; 2. Jim Petersen and Skip Stansbury, 7.0, $4,950; 3. Taya McAdow and Jim Matlack, 7.34, $3,300. Third Round: 1. Ed Hintz and Kevin Poteete, 6.48, $8,250; 2. Broden Matthews and Ron Eliason, 7.12, $4,950; 3. Mark Jones and Justin Ready, 7.18, $3,300.
1. Steve Edwards and Justin Edwards, 23.24 seconds on three head, $8,000; 2. Taya McAdow and Jim Matlack, 25.56, $7,000; 3. Cory Wiese and Dustin Noblitt, 26.81, $5,700; 4. Jim Petersen and Skip Stansbury, 27.11, $5,500; 5. Willie Reid and Kelly Elton, 28.28, $4,600; 6. Mike Zacher and Vern Goodman, 29.24, $3,800; 7. Travis Ericsson and Kelly Medeiros, 29.71, $3,500; 8. Butch Morgan and Tony Lang, 30.53, $2,400; 9. Shawn Dill and Justin Bruecker, 31.05, $2,000.
Short Round: 1. Waymon Taylor and Donnie Leflett, 7.69 seconds, $5,500; 2. Phil Burris and Tony Sandoval, 7.74, $2,750.
Average: 1. Peg Williams and Jim Williams, 38.54 seconds on four head, $200,000; 2. Marti Anderson and Roy Owens, 40.98, $56,000; 3. Kelly Hildreth and Steve Whinnery, 41.01, $30,000; 4. Bobby Jean Colyer and Jeff Palmer, 42.18, $24,500; 5. Phil Burris and Tony Sandoval, 42.83, $24,000; 6. Pete Clark and Ryan Pascoe, 44.31, $19,000; 7. Ken Cook and Brian White, 45.25, $16,000; 8. Waymon Taylor and Donnie Leflett, 45.28, $15,000; 9. Dick Yates and Jim Brinkman, 45.60, $13,500; 10. Jeremy Eaton and David Eaton, 48.77, $12,500; 11. Coby Littlesoldier and Steve Shurbet, 48.84, $11,500; 12. Marcus Bunn and Lee Whitney, 48.94, $11,500; 13. Jessica Amicarella and Tim Brunelle, 50.83, $11,000; 14. Russ Cook and Greg Cook, 62.93, $11,000; 15. Scott Elliott and Scott Seiler, 25.11, $11,000; 16. Bill Stuart and Lou Stuart, 27.41, $5,500; 17. Johnny Mundall and Jason Williams, 29.57, $5,500; 18. Barry Berg and KD Kaigler, 29.62, $5,500.