Kendra Santos, Author at Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping

Louisiana’s Josie Conner Wins 2022 BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Breakaway Roping

The BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Breakaway Roping sent BFI Week 2022 out with a big bang, and young gun Cajun cowgirl Josie Conner stuck it on ’em April 5 for $11,000, including $1,000 for the 18 & Under Youth Incentive. Home-schooled high school senior Conner of Iowa, Louisiana, roped three calves in 12.59 seconds for the last big win of this year’s BFI Week. 

 

“This is awesome,” said Josie, who’s 18, graduates in May and plans to start college at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana in the fall. “The BFI is such a prestigious event in the team roping world, and they were one of the first big jackpots to bring the breakaway along with it. We appreciate that, and this was a pretty good day.

 

“I’ve had a lot of success at the Lazy E. It’s such a great facility, and the people who run it are so nice. I always know my horses are safe here. I just feel comfortable here.”

Conner and her horse Dutch also won the 18 & Under Youth Incentive at the BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Breakaway Roping.
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Josie is the daughter of Jade and Wendi Conner, and Daddy Jade is always in her corner—literally. Josie’s giving her trademark sorrel horse, Tonka, a mini vacation while she and her parents head for the spring-run rodeos in California. 

 

“I almost cried when I left Tonka home yesterday,” Josie said. “This is the first place I’ve been without Tonka. But Dutch (who’s also a sorrel) has done great, and I really just feel like this is going to help me get rolling on him.” 

 

There were 105 entries, the scoreline was one under, and the calves were running. Second to Conner’s 12.50 on three was Cassidy Kelly at 14.30. She won $6,000.  

 

It’s a great time to be a young breakaway roper, and Conner is capitalizing on it. 

 

“Breakaway roping has grown so much as a sport, and all the girls have upped their game,” Josie said. “It’s just so cool to grow up with the sport. Between the rodeos, what the WCRA (World Champions Rodeo Alliance) and ropings are doing, it’s crazy. It’s happening fast, and I’m really excited for that.”

Josie Conner of Iowa, Louisiana, roped three calves in 12.59 seconds to win the 2022 BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Breakaway Roping, $11,000, a Cactus Saddle, two Gist Buckles, YETI Carryall, Heel-O-Matic Nex and Rattler Rope. 
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Her dad has had the biggest hand in helping Josie climb the roping ranks. She’s also a student of the game. 

 

“I like to watch all the breakaway ropers, and take bits and pieces from everyone and see how they might work for me,” she said. “They’ve all impacted me. As the sport’s gotten bigger, everyone has upped their game. And that’s helped me up mine.”

 

She had to wait to turn 18 to get her pro card. That makes this Josie’s rookie year. 

 

“Because I’m a rookie, I had to watch Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston from home,” she said. “But I’ve had a good year at the youth events, and I’m excited to get rolling now. I’m just going to try to get to the good rodeos, and the big open ropings. I try to do my job every single time, make as few mistakes as possible and not leave money on the table.” 

 

Click here to view the full results.

Hope T and Whitney D Dominate BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl

Hope Thompson and Whitney DeSalvo are a time-tested team to be reckoned with. They’re the best of friends, and that chemistry has spilled straight into their super-successful partnership. Thompson and DeSalvo roped four steers in 30.78 seconds to take the $20,000 title at the BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Team Roping, and daylighted the 174-team field by 7.86 seconds. Thompson and DeSalvo have now won this roping two of the last three years, and were the reserve champs that third year. 

 

Hope and Whitney took a half-second lead over the pack into the short round, and slammed the door with a snappy 7.22-second run. 

 

“Winning is why we enter,” smiled Thompson, who’s a two-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion header, and also owns a WPRA breakaway roping title and a World Champions Rodeo Alliance heeling championship. “A repeat win with Whitney is pretty special, because she’s one of my best friends. I love her. She’s awesome.”

 

Four-time WPRA World Champion Heeler DeSalvo is the first-ever and only female 8 heeler in roping history. 

 

“I struggled so bad early in the day today,” Whitney said humbly. “I had great partners, but of the first three steers I ran, I missed two and slipped a leg on the other one. I caught both of those steers I missed, then lost both feet. I placed in the first round with Lari Dee (Guy), then turned around and missed our second one. 

On top of their $20,000 champs’ check, Thompson and DeSalvo were presented Cactus Saddles, Charlie 1 Horse Hats, Gist Buckles, YETI Carryalls, Justin Boots, Cactus Saddlery Pads, Heel-O-Matic Bones and Hox, and Cactus Ropes.
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“I told Hope before we roped our first steer, ‘I’m catching ’em, I just don’t know if I can keep ’em in it. If it goes on, you might want to hold your breath a little.’”

 

The daughter-mom team of Rylea and Debbie Fabrizio roped four steers in 38.64 for second and $7,500 in the BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl. Kersti Passig and Lenay Willie were 27.42 on three to take the 9.5 Incentive. Passig and Willie were presented $3,750, Cactus Saddles, Charlie 1 Horse Hats, Gist Buckles, YETI Carryalls, Cactus Saddlery Pads, Heel-O-Matic Bones and Hox, and Cactus Ropes. In case you’re curious, a World Series barrier was used for the All-Girl. 

 

Thompson and DeSalvo first won the BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Team Roping together in 2020, when the BFI moved to the Lazy E. They were second last year, then struck again in 2022. 

 

“We’ve pretty much been roping together since I started team roping,” said Hope, who calls Abilene, Texas home. “It started first as a friendship. We’ve been really good friends for a really long time. We’ve had so much fun, and have won a lot of ropings together. 

 

“Whitney is absolutely the most dominant woman heeler in the world today. And if you don’t even segregate it, she fits right in at any open roping. She’s a freak at what she does. Heeling’s her #1 passion, but if she worked as hard at the heading or breakaway, she’d be just as dominant in those, too. I just shake my head at how effortless she makes it look. Whitney’s a badass.”

 

Hope T can’t quite decide which event she likes best. 

 

“I’m not sure I could pick,” said the talented roper, clinician and horse trainer, who’s a 5+ header and a 4+ heeler. “I’m really passionate about training the breakaway horses. But anytime you put a rope in my hand, I love it all.”

 

Hope rode her sorrel giant Andre, who she bought and trained as a 4-year-old and is 11 now. Whitney rode her 11-year-old sorrel mare, Becky. 

 

“We drew good steers,” Hope said. “But when I back in there with Whitney, I’m in no hurry. She gives me so much confidence. Knowing that we’ll be fine if I just score, rope and turn the steer makes it fun and easy.

Hope Thompson and Whitney DeSalvo roped four steers in 30.78 seconds to daylight the field by almost eight seconds and take the $20,000 win at the 2022 BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Team Roping.
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“And what can you not say about the Lazy E? I love it here. It’s awesome. We roped good steers. The ground was awesome. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to rope on this platform as part of BFI Week.”

 

DeSalvo lives in Monticello, Arkansas, where she rides and ropes for Broken H Farms. 

 

“The Lazy E’s been good to me,” Hope said. “I won first, second and third in this roping the first year the BFI moved here, in 2020.”

 

DeSalvo won the All-Girl Roping at the 2021 BFI in Reno with Jenna Johnson, and second with Hope T at the 2021 BFI Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl in Guthrie before working her way back to the winner’s circle with her great friend in 2022. 

 

“Hope and I have a great friendship first,” Whitney said. “We’re really good friends, she rides a really good horse and we win. I’ve won more with Hope than anyone else, and there’s no pressure roping with her. We have fun, but we still take care of business. It just works.”

 

DeSalvo’s next roping goals?

 

“Logan Graham (who also was her BFI header this year) and I are going to try to make the Great Lakes Circuit Finals,” she said. “It’s also a goal to try and do better at the open ropings.

 

“I absolutely look forward to this roping. It being during BFI Week makes it even more prestigious. It just gives it a little bit cooler feeling, especially because the last couple years I’ve also entered The Feist.”

 

Who are these headliner women’s favorite ropers in the whole, wide world to watch?

 

“I always find myself watching Kaleb Driggers—the different horses he rides, and how his loops hit,” Hope said. “Lari Dee and I have gotten to talk to him about competing. Getting to ask him questions and getting his answers, then watching him put it into example is pretty cool.”

 

“Paul (Eaves) is probably my favorite to watch,” added Whitney. “I worked for him for a while, so I’ve gotten to watch his style a lot. I have a lot of respect for him as a person, and his work ethic. Paul has about as flawless a swing and position as anyone.”

 

Click here to view the full results.

At Long Last, Team Rocha and Stewart Strike it Rich

Texans Manuel Rocha and Stephen Stewart had never before set foot in the fabulous Lazy E Arena. And in 15 years of trying, they had never won a check together. Not a nickel. On April 4, the pair of 4+ ropers and forever friends changed all that in dramatic fashion by roping four steers in 34.53 seconds and winning both the BFI 10.5 Roping and the 9.5 Incentive to the tune of $140,000 and a truckload of prizes. 

 

“They said we had to be 10 on our last steer,” said Rocha, who’ll turn 49 next month. “When I saw Stephen catch, and looked up at the big screen and it said 9.55, the tears rolled. I’m excited now, but I was very emotional at that moment. 

 

“We’ve roped together about 15 years, and this is the first time we’ve ever placed or even made a short round. We’ve texted each other good morning every day for 15 years. Stephen’s like my brother. We’ve got a great camaraderie and friendship, it just never clicked at the ropings.”

 

Texans Manuel Rocha and Stephen Stewart dominated the BFI 10.5 Roping, hauling off $120,000, Cactus Saddles, Heel-O-Matic Bones and Hox, Gist Buckles, Resistol Hats, YETI Roadies, Justin Boots and Cactus Ropes for the 10.5 win, and another $20,000, Cactus Saddles, Gist Buckles and YETI Carryalls for winning the 9.5 Incentive.
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Manuel’s a welder by trade. He lives about an hour south of San Antonio in Three Rivers, Texas with his wife, Jessica, and daughters, Addie and Elena, and has built the arena and barns on his heeler’s ranch. 

 

The BFI 10.5 was open only to ropers 40 and over. The 10.5 was capped at a 6.5 heeler, and the 9.5 was capped at a 5.5 heeler. 

 

Stewart, 56, lives in George West, Texas with his wife, Debbie. They have two sons, Lawrence and Dalton. 

 

“When we roped our third steer and they said we were high call, I knew we’d won the incentive,” Stephen said. “I told Manuel, and he teared up. We come from a small community, and we’ve roped a bunch together. We’d never placed before today, but we just kept giving her hell, because we knew this day would come and it would be this much more special.”

 

Reserve BFI 10.5 champs Brian Jeffreys and Jason Jones were 35.43 on four steers to finish just a tenth of a second behind Rocha and Stephens. Texans Jeffreys and Jones won $80,000, Cactus Saddlery Pads and Cactus Ropes.

 

Rocha headed on his 14-year-old gray horse, Shadow, who joined the family as a 4-year-old. Stewart heeled on a 10-year-old sorrel horse he calls Shorty that he bought from Daniel Braman.

 

It was a banner day and career best for both ropers. 

 

“This is the biggest win of my life by far,” Rocha beamed. “My biggest win before this and my last win before this was winning a 10.5 roping heeling five years ago, and we split $7,500. I don’t know how I can top this.”

 

“I won $20-some-thousand in the Incentive Average at the Gold Plus USTRC Roping in Gonzales, Texas, in 2015,” Stewart said. “That was my biggest win ever before today. Winning $70,000 at one roping is just unbelievable.”

 

BFI Watch Parties are a thing now, thanks to livestreaming on the Wrangler Network. 

 

Rocha and Stewart had never had any success together before their 34.53 on four steers won it all in the BFI 10.5. 
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“I have an awesome group of friends who were watching it live, so we were texting and talking about it on the phone during the roping,” Stewart said. “I grew up watching the BFI. It’s so cool that they’ve opened it up so there’s something for everybody and made a week of it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

 

Stewart’s a freight broker by trade.

 

“I broker freight to 18-wheelers, and keep them loaded every day,” he said. “There’s really not a whole lot of time for roping, but this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. I figure I’m getting a little long in the tooth, so I better give it a whirl. If they’d let me pay my entry fees today for next year, I would.”

 

They’ve both roped most of their lives. 

 

“I’ve been roping since I was 14 years old,” Manuel said. “I won my first buckle in 1986 in the ribbon roping. I rope most days now, after I get my work done. As long as I can pay the bills, I get to rope. That’s my reward for working hard.”

 

First thought the Rochas have for their $70,000 is using some of it to remodel their bathroom. Manuel left the Lazy E for the first time with roping memories to last a lifetime.

 

“I love the Lazy E,” he said. “I’ve only seen this arena on TV when I watch the Timed Event. This is only the second time I’ve ever been to Oklahoma in my entire life. This place is amazing.”

 

For Stewart to still be horseback is against all odds.

 

“I started roping when I was 9 years old,” he said. “Then I had a car wreck when I was 26, and broke my neck in three places. There were eight back surgeries after that. But I just couldn’t quit roping. 

 

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a roping that made my hands shake, but this one definitely did. With all this money up and the whole world watching, I was nervous. As for the money, I think my wife already ran off with it.”

 

Click here to view full results from the 10.5 with 9.5 Incentive.

Goforth and Anaya Do Work at BFI 11.5 Businessman’s Roping

The BFI 11.5 Businessman’s Roping is only open to ropers over 30, but Rusty Goforth and Andy Anaya have 100 years between them. For roping four steers in 34.19 seconds, the happy champs stormed the Lazy E Arena for $140,000 and the thrill of their roping lives. 

 

Goforth, who’s 40, is a 4+ header. He lives in Mineola, Texas, with his wife, Elizabeth, and kids, Bella, Luke, Levi and Grant.  

 

“This is great,” Rusty said. “I grew up watching the BFI all these years, but this is the first one I’ve gotten to come to since it moved to the Lazy E. This is a great honor.”

 

Anaya’s played on roping’s biggest stages. But as he gets set to turn 60, it’s been a minute since he’s stepped onto center stage.

 

“This is really big for me,” said 1989 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year Anaya, who grew up in Arizona and now lives in Canton, Texas. “I’ve never won anything this big. I’ve put in a lot of work, so this means a lot to me.” 

Rusty Goforth and Andy Anaya rode Paul and Spanky to the winner’s circle and a $140,000 payday at the BFI 11.5 Businessman’s Roping.
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It being a Businessman’s Roping and all, both of these guys do have day jobs. Goforth owns a feed store and fertilizer business in Mineola—Big Country Farm Center. 

 

“I started roping pretty young—when I was 10 or 12,” Rusty said. “But I took on my business at 22, back when I was a broke kid. So I didn’t rope for 10 or 12 years. I just started back up roping two years ago. I can take a little more time to rope now that my business is established.”

 

Anaya actually roped at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo over 30 years ago. That was half a life ago, and he heeled for Robert Scoggins. The BFI 11.5 Businessman’s Roping is capped at a 7 heeler, and Anaya is just that now. 

 

“What’s shocking to me is that I caught four in a row for this guy,” Andy grinned. “We’ve only roped together a few times. We’ve placed before, but I’ve also missed some steers for him.”

 

Anaya works for fellow team roper Brad Lands at Larrett Inc., which is a drilling company. Andy takes care of the horses and cattle as the ranch manager, and says Brad is surely in the running for the best boss award. 

 

“My boss wants to rope more than I do,” Anaya said. “Brad and I rope every day, and sometimes Tyler Wade and Tate Kirchenschlager come rope with us. Brad is totally devoted to roping. He wears me out. He’s in it to win it.”

 

Goforth and Anaya came from third high callback behind Joe Beaver and David Markham, and Mark Calagna and Justin Saulters. And yes—that’s THE Joe Beaver, the ProRodeo Hall of Famer. Both of those teams finished in the top 10. 

 

Second to Goforth and Anaya in the average were Jeff Schieber and Nathan Golay. They were 34.47 to Rusty and Andy’s 34.19, and went home with $90,000, Cactus Saddlery Pads and Cactus Ropes. Three-Steer Consolation Average winners Mel Smith and Larry Cox won $7,500 and Cactus Saddlery Pads. 

 

But in the end, this was Rusty Goforth and Andy Anaya Day. 

For roping four steers in 34.19 seconds, Goforth and Anaya scored $140,000, Cactus Saddles, Heel-O-Matic Bones and Hox, Gist Buckles, Resistol Hats, YETI Roadies, Justin Boots, Cactus Ropes, Texas Saddlery Briefcases and HATPACS. 
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“I really enjoy roping,” said Goforth, who rode his 13-year-old gray horse, Paul, on game day. “I want to win, but it’s not how I make my living. That said, I don’t do it just for fun, and I do want it to pay for itself. Winning $70,000 is great money. But being able to win first at this roping is just an unbelievable honor. This is crazy.

 

“We come to several ropings a year here at the Lazy E, and I’ve always had pretty good luck here. This place has been great to me.”

 

Anaya roped in the BFI a few times. He took that in this year from upstairs in the Ropers Cantina with fellow NFR team roper George Aros. Boss Brad and Andy are partners on the 8-year-old bay horse Anaya won the roping on. They call him Spanky. 

 

This was an emotional win for Andy.

 

“I grew up poor,” he said. “Without roping, I might be dead. It’s all I’ve ever done. Roping’s been my passion all my life. My whole family watched this (on the Wrangler Network), and they’re all bawling. I only wish my sister was here to see this.”

 

Andy lost his little sister, Sandra, to colon cancer at 40.

 

“Losing my baby sister is the hardest thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said. “Sandra roped, and she would be so happy right now. She was my biggest fan. I just wish she was here. My nephew Michael, who’s Sandra’s son, is like a son to me. He’s 30 now, he ropes and he’s my biggest fan now.

 

“I’ve been to the Lazy E a lot of times in my life. But I hadn’t been here in a really long time. It’s just a beautiful facility. I can’t believe I just won $70,000. I’m sure I’ll spend it roping. All I know is if a guy’s going to rope, he needs to be at this roping. This is unbelievable.”

 

Click here to read the full results. 

Wilfong and Thompson Hit $180,000 Jackpot at BFI 12.5 Oilfield Classic

Texans Chick Wilfong and Todd Thompson struck it rich and banked $180,000 for roping four steers in 32.58 seconds at the 2022 BFI 12.5 Oilfield Classic. Held April 3 at the Fabulous Lazy E in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the 323-team Oilfield Classic paid like a slot machine with a twist—which was that it was only open to ropers 21 and over. 

 

“This is the BFI, and there’s nothing else like it,” said Wilfong, 49, who lives in Avoca, Texas, with his wife, Jodi. “Success at the BFI is what every roper aspires to. It’s not the open, but it might as well be to us.”

 

Wilfong, who stays super busy doing 50-75 comedy shows a year and running his own construction company in addition to cows and yearlings, is a 5+ header and a 4+ heeler. His heeler is a 7 heeler who “never heads.”

 

“I never dreamed of winning money like this roping,” said Thompson, who calls Munday, Texas home. “To back in the box for $90,000 a man at 53—it’s incredible what’s happened to this sport.”

BFI 12.5 Oilfield Classic champs Chick Wilfong and Todd Thompson were awarded $180,000, Cactus Saddles, Heel-O-Matic Bones & Hox, Gist Buckles, Resistol Hats, YETI Roadies, Justin Boots and Cactus Ropes at the Lazy E. Oklahoma reservists Tim Robinson and Jerry Skaggs won $120,000, Cactus Saddlery Pads and Cactus Ropes.
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Intercollegiate superstar sprinter Thompson leaned on his sports history when he and Wilfong rode in to rope their last steer at third high callback. Though he was ranch-raised, he went to Baylor University on a track scholarship and set his ropes aside for a few years as a young man.

 

Thompson’s roommate on the road all four years of college was five-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson. The speedster legend served as Todd’s best man when he married his wife, Kelly. Thompson was a six-time All American in track, and ran on two national championship four-by-four relay teams. 

 

“At the level we ran at in college, I was put in a lot of high-pressure situations that prepared me for situations like we were in today,” Todd said. “I ran against Olympians, and that’s helped me handle my nerves in all aspects of life.”

 

After college, Thompson returned to his ranching roots. Todd and his brothers, Tyler and Trey, run 1,600-1,700 cows as Thompson Ranches. Todd and Kelly have four kids, Chace, Tori, Tyson and Kreece, and the three boys have roped since they could walk. 

 

Chace was the 2013 Resistol Rookie Header of the Year, and headed for brother Tyson at this year’s BFI. Kreece—who’s a rodeo rookie this year—headed for Chad Williams at BFI ’22, and they missed the 15-team short round by one hole at 16th. 

 

Thompson laughed at where his $90,000 was headed.

 

“One of the boys may have already found a horse he wants to buy,” he said. “Everything is geared toward them now.” 

 

For those of you wondering about family ties on the heading side here, Chick Wilfong is the son of the late Harry Wilfong and the nephew of renowned bronc and bareback rider Bob Wilfong. In fact, this Saturday, April 9, Chick will be giving Uncle Bob’s acceptance speech at the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Fort Worth. And yes, Chick is named after legendary bareback rider Chick Elms, who was his dad’s best friend in college. 

Wilfong and Thompson roped four steers in 32.58 seconds to take the win in the BFI 12.5 Oilfield Classic.
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Former tie-down roper Chick Wilfong won the Oilfield Classic riding a 10-year-old R.A. Brown Ranch-raised sorrel horse he calls Oscar. Thompson rode a 14-year-old red-roan horse he calls Playdough, who’s an own son of Peptoboonsmal. He bought him as a 3-year-old, and rode him on the ranch a couple years before taking him to the arena. 

 

Wilfong and Thompson have roped together quite a bit, and only live about 40 miles apart. They stay on the same page, so didn’t even need to pow wow before their high-team steer. 

 

“Our plan is always the same,” Wilfong said. “We just want to be winning it when we ride out. This is a big win, and continued improvement is always my next goal. Onward and upward. I always want to keep reaching. I was successful as a calf roper, because I never was satisfied without being all I could be. That mindset just spilled over into my team roping.” 

 

Wilfong and Thompson both journeyed to the Lazy E early to watch the BFI. Naturally, Thompson was pulling for his three sons, as was Wilfong. Chick also cheered for another personal favorite. 

 

“I was pulling for Joseph Harrison, 100 percent,” Chick said. “He’s helped me so much with my roping. I practiced with him this week, and we roped in the #15.5 here. The look on Joseph’s face when they told him he won Heel Horse of the BFI was priceless. It was clearly the culmination of a dream. It was really cool.” 

 

Thompson’s placed several times at the World Series of Team Roping Finale in Las Vegas, and “won a pickup roping one time.”

 

“But this is my biggest win, no doubt about it,” he beamed. “My main roping goal at this point in my life is to try and keep my son Tyson in horses. We have seven or eight heel horses between us. I can’t really help Chace or Kreece with head horses, because I don’t head. But I can help with riding heel horses, and get the ones that need it to some ropings.” 

 

“Winning this roping is very surreal,” Wilfong said after it was over late Sunday night. “It hasn’t soaked in yet. But I do have an idea what I’m going to do with all this money. I just bought a new skid steer for my construction company. I think I’ll just walk into the bank tomorrow and pay it off.”

Click here to view the full results.

Home-State Heroes Jake Cooper Clay and Billie Jack Saebens Take $150,000 W at 2022 BFI

Fans who attended the 45th annual Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic at the world-famous Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma were treated to the tightest short round in BFI history. And it was Sooner State cowboys Jake Cooper Clay and Billie Jack Saebens who came out kings of the 126-team BFI from third high callback to take the sweet $150,000 victory lap after roping six steers in 47.11 seconds. 

 

“The BFI is the most prestigious roping there is, in my book,” said Clay, 23, who calls Sapulpa home. “I’ve watched the BFI forever. You can’t look away from the money, and there are so many people watching. Even people who don’t team rope know what the BFI is. What means the most to me is to look at the list of all the guys who’ve done good at this roping, and now I’m on that list.”

 

“The money’s good, but the confidence that comes with a win like this one might be even better,” said Saebens, 33, who lives in Nowata with his fellow Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier wife, Ivy. “I know I work hard at it, and have good horses. But you go to ropings, and you drive— I live dang near in Kansas, and I drive to Texas every week—and sometimes it feels like you get your butt kicked over and over. Capitalizing at a roping like this helps a guy forget about all the losing, all the driving and roping in the cold in Nowata.”

Oklahoma’s Jake Cooper Clay and Billie Jack Saebens kept $152,000 in the Sooner State with their big win at the 2022 BFI.
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On top of the $152,000 payday, which also included $2,000 for fourth in the first round, Clay and Saebens were awarded Coats Saddles, Gist Buckles, YETI Luggage, Resistol Black Gold Hats, Best Ever Pads, Justin Full-Quill Ostrich Boots, HATPACS and B&W Trailer Hitches. 

 

Finishing just one-tenth of a second behind Clay and Saebens’s 47.11 were James Arviso of Seba Dalkai, Arizona, and Josh Patton of Shallowater, Texas, who stopped the clock six times in 47.21. The team earned $103,000, including $100,000 for second in the average and $3,000 for second in the short round. Arviso and Patton also took home Lazy L Saddles, Best Ever Pads, Justin Smooth Ostrich Boots and B&W Trailer Hitches.

 

Cowboy Curveballs

The twists and turns at the 2022 BFI were wild. Arviso’s the 18-year-old nephew of Derrick Begay, and won the Hooey Jr BFI Open earlier this BFI Week with Oklahoma’s Landen Glenn, who’s also 18. Fast forward to BFI Day, and Glenn won the Rickey Green Award for the Overall Fast Time at the BFI behind Aaron Tsinigine with a 5.47-second winner in Round 3. Tyler Wade and Saebens won the inaugural RG award in 2019, by the way.

 

The Wrangler and Priefert Short Round winners were Bubba Buckaloo and Joseph Harrison with a 6.95-second run, which was good for $4,000. That put them fifth in the average for another $30,000 after roping six in 48.33. The third-place team of Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler were 47.35 on six for $70,000. Chad Masters and Cory Petska finished fourth in 47.92 for $50,000. 

 

Sound Familiar?

If Jake Cooper Clay rings a bell, yes—Julana and Dwayne Clay DID name their son after roping legends and 1988 BFI Champs Jake Barnes and Clay Cooper (who also won the 1982 BFI behind Bret Beach). “They’re Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper, and I look up to them so much,” Jake Cooper Clay said. “They’re awesome.”

 

If the head horse Clay just won BFI ’22 on looks familiar, there’s good reason for that, too. Zac Small won the 2016 BFI with Wesley Thorp riding Streakin Sun Dew, who’s Sun for short, and also qualified for and rode him at the 2016 NFR before leaving the rodeo trail to become a veterinarian. 

Jake Cooper Clay’s Sun was voted Montana Silversmiths Head of the BFI in 2022.
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Sun was named the Head Horse of the BFI, which came with the coveted Montana Silversmiths bronze and a $500 bonus check.

 

“Kaleb Driggers bought Sun from Zac Small; then Jake Cooper bought him from Driggers; then Driggers bought him back; then I bought him from Driggers about a month ago,” Clay said. “Sun’s 17 now, and still going strong.  

 

“Horsepower’s the biggest thing, because the score’s so long and the steers run so hard. Good horses make all the difference here.”

 

Clay also rode the 2021 Head Horse of the BFI. Kevin Williams let him ride RC Shining Freckles, aka Leroy, and he, too, caught the judges’ eyes.

 

The Other Horse Hero

 

Harrison was deeply touched to take Heel Horse of the BFI honors with his horse The Governor, who like Sun is a sorrel. The Governor is 10, and his registered name is Freckles Instant Coffee. 

 

“This award is a bucket-list thing for me,” Joseph said. “I’m a horse trainer, and this is a very prestigious roping. We don’t get very many horses like this one in a lifetime.”

 

BFI Best 

Back to Clay and Saebens, Clay placed 10th at last year’s BFI with Rance Doyal, and has cashed a few go-round checks on the heeling side since he first entered in 2017. Clay’s planning to put his $76,000 half of the big BFI win toward horsepower and rodeoing.

 

“This money is going to help out so much, especially now that everything’s costing so much,” he said of fuel prices, which are pushing $5 a gallon, even in Oklahoma. 

Saebens thinks BFI ’22 was his seventh, and he’s made the short round five times and placed fifth twice. He often wears the reserve BFI buckle he won in 2017 with Coleman Proctor.  

Clay and Saebens roped six steers in 47.11 seconds to edge the 126-team field by a mere tenth of a second at BFI ’22.
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“I think my success at the BFI has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve had two Heel Horses of the BFI,” said Saebens, who plans to reinvest his half of the windfall win into more horses and the house he and Ivy built a couple years back. “My black horse Kevin was Heel Horse of the BFI in 2017 when we won second. Kevin got hurt a couple years later, so I borrowed a bay horse I trained named Hank back from Mark Fenton in Missouri and he was the Heel Horse of the 2019 BFI.”

 

Team Clay and Saebens is full steam ahead on the rodeo trail. They joined forces right after the Fourth of July run last summer, and are rolling again in 2022. When the two teams behind them failed to pass them, Clay and Saebens were sitting side-by-side at the back end. Brenten Hall—who shared in a memorable $150,000 day heading for Jake in the #15 roping at the 2016 World Series of Team Roping Finale in Vegas when they were both 17—tackled Clay to kick-start the celebration. 

 

“When we won fourth in the first round, I thought, ‘This is going to be a good day,’” Clay said. “We weren’t in the top six in the average going into the fifth round, then we were third high call. You never know at the BFI. I just wanted to catch that last steer, and let the rest take care of itself.

 

“The BFI is the most prestigious event I’ve ever won. I think the Lazy E is an awesome spot for this roping, because the arena’s big, the score’s longer and it really tests us. My next goal is to make the NFR, and try to win a gold buckle.”

 

Buckle Swap

Clay wore his Ellensburg Rodeo buckle on BFI Day. Saebens wore one from the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. Both plan to wear their shiny new Gist Silversmiths BFI buckles.  

 

“I hate to mess up such a beautiful buckle, but I don’t think I can keep myself from wearing this one, especially after they put my name on it,” Clay said. 

 

“I wouldn’t normally wear a second-place buckle, but I do wear the one I won with Coleman in 2017,” Billie Jack said. “It’s hard to win second at the BFI, let alone first. I will absolutely wear this one for winning it.”

Billie Jack rode his 7-year-old sorrel horse Metallic Twist a.k.a. Milo, that he bought from Max Kuttler last February. 
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“You’re not going to get through this roping without a good horse,” Saebens said. “Milo’s a great horse. I rodeoed on him last summer, and he’s been my #1 all winter. I feel like Jake and I roped pretty good today, and we drew decent. Everybody ropes good, but I think our horses were what made the difference for our team. Jake never reached one time, and I never took a crazy shot.”

 

Strategic Wisdom

Tackling the tightest short round in BFI history—less than a second separated the top seven teams, and there were only 2.78 seconds between 15th and first—took hard-earned self-discipline for Saebens. 

 

“I paid zero attention to the times,” he said. “Whenever they would start announcing times, I would think about something else. I was thinking, ‘If I draw a steer that makes me win fifth, I’ll win fifth.’ I rope for a living. If I try to press too hard, I mess up. I’ve done that enough that I know better. 

 

“The way I think of it now is that I just let the roping come to me. When the shot presents itself, I take it. I wasn’t planning on throwing fast on that last steer. Things just opened up, and it happened. I used to have a bad habit of thinking I had to be fast when somebody made a good run in front of me. I’d throw whether I was ready or not. It’s taken a lot of work to get out of that, but it’s coming together now.”

 

Sweat Equity

Clay and Saebens live about an hour apart, and rope together a lot. Work ethic is this team’s heartbeat. 

 

“We put in the hours,” Billie Jack said. “I know everybody works hard at it, and we do, too. When we aren’t practicing together, I can guarantee you Jake Clay is scoring and roping. It’s what we do.” 

 

It seems unanimous that the 440-foot-long Lazy E Arena is the perfect place for this roping. 

 

“I love it here,” Saebens said. “I like that they can put the barrier out there longer. The ground’s really good, and that makes my horses feel better and work better. It’s two hours from my house, and the fans who come here to watch love roping. That’s awesome. The payout and long score set this roping apart. And there are no other arenas where you can have a scoreline like this one that’s climate-controlled and comfortable year-round.”

 

Best Ever

Saebens set his alarm for 5 a.m. on BFI Day. He woke up at 3:50, and was so excited that he jumped up and left early.

 

“This win is #1 in my career for sure,” he said. “We just beat 125 of the best teams in the world over six head. I’ve made the Finals a couple times, and have had some success rodeoing. But I’ve never had another win like this one. 

 

“I grew up in Eastern Missouri, and when I was a little kid, rodeoing and roping for a living was the pipe dream. I told myself, ‘I just want to make a living roping and riding horses.’ Everybody says they want to be a world champion. I would love to say that, and that’s what I want to be. But I’m not going to say that’s my goal, because my goal has never changed. I want to make a living roping and make good horses. What a day.”

Click here to view full results from the Feist. 

 

Speed Williams and Matt Sherwood Are First-Ever BFI Legends Champs

It took 10 gold heading buckles to win the inaugural BFI Legends Roping, and Speed Williams and Matt Sherwood were the over-40 guys who brought their best game to the world-famous Lazy E Arena on April 1 to get it done. Eight-time champ of the world Williams, 54, headed for two-time world heading titlist Sherwood, 52, as one of 34 teams entered that treated the crowd to a sweet real-time walk down memory lane.

“Are you kidding me, I won $20,000 for roping with Speed Williams?” Sherwood grinned at roping’s end. “I’ve never run a steer with the best header in the world ever to live. To be able to keep my composure and do my job is very rewarding to me personally. What a fun situation to find myself in.”

Speed’s first-round draft picks for the BFI Legends Roping were his partner in eight-gold-buckle crime, Rich Skelton, and seven-time champ, Clay Cooper. 

Williams and Sherwood won $40,000, Texas Saddlery Briefcases, Gist Buckles, YETI Roadies, Justin Boots, Cactus Ropes and HATPACS for winning the inaugural BFI Legends Roping. 
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“I called Clay and asked him if he was coming to rope with me,” said Williams, who lives in Comanche, Texas. “He said he wasn’t coming. I said, ‘What? It’s the Legends Roping. They can’t have it without you and Jake (Barnes). That’s just not right.’ But they’d already booked a roping school.”

Then came the timely text. 

“I texted Speed and said, ‘Hey, do you want to rope at the BFI and the Legends Roping?’ Sherwood said. “He texted me back and said, ‘Clay’s not coming, so I’ll rope with you in the Legends. But I’ve already got one in the BFI.”

Williams doesn’t just “have one” in today’s BFI—he’s heading for Speed and Jennifer’s baby boy and 15-year-old son, Gabe, thanks to the Legends Roping luring him to the Lazy E. 

“There was no way around it if I came and roped in this Legends roping,” Speed smiled. “So at dinner that night, I said, ‘Buddy, they’re having an over-40 Legends Roping at the BFI this year.’ His eyes lit up. He said, ‘Does that mean we’re going to rope in the BFI, Dad?’ I said, ‘It sounds like it, buddy.’

“What I was really concerned about was whether or not my body was going to stay healthy for all the practice getting ready to come here, because my son is worse than Rich. Back in the day, I could go to Rich’s house, run 40 or 50 and leave. I’m all day doing lessons, and my son wants to rope all day and all night. About a month ago, I got some big, stout, hard-running steers, so we could prepare. My son is truly excited to rope in the BFI. I’m about worn out.”

What a wonderful reunion the BFI Legends roping was. Rounding out the top four teams were Jeff Hilton and Zane Bruce, Tyler Magnus and double-dipping Bruce, and Tee Woolman and Walt Woodard. 

Speed Williams and Matt Sherwood roped five steers in 40.9 seconds to take the 2022 BFI Legends title. 
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“I’ve seen guys here that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Speed said. “We got to visit and shake a lot of hands with a lot of guys we haven’t gotten to see. Getting to see peers you haven’t seen in a lot of years is pretty cool. And it’s been a long time since I’ve stood on stage for winning something. So that’s kind of special.”

“I love the concept of the BFI Legends Roping,” added Sherwood, who’s heading for Utah’s Kycen Winn in the 2022 BFI. “I got to see a lot of people here that I haven’t seen in quite a while, like Kevin Stewart, Chris Lawson and George Aros. It was so great to see so many of these people I haven’t seen rope in a long time.”

Speed rode a 9-year-old he calls Green Light that he bought from Dustin Egusquiza, in part because he was a little bit green to be going out on the rodeo road. 

“He’s kind of special, and has some personality to him,” said Williams, who noted that his name is because daughter Hali has a horse they call Red Light, who has some similar traits. “He’s a little bit like Viper (Speed’s rodeo-career signature horse), because he’s so broke. I’m kind of excited about him.”

Sherwood rode a 7-year-old mare he raised that his family calls Cory. 

“She’s out of a mare that went blind as a baby,” Sherwood said. “I gave the mare to a buddy of mine in Utah, and Cory is her first colt. Cory got her name because whenever we were breaking her, my boy was riding her around without a tie-down. And it was right after Cory Petska won the world (in 2017) with no tie-down.”

Williams has won the BFI with Skelton three times, in 1998, 2001 and 2002. His favorite memory is winning it the first time. The worst was the year he was sick as three dogs on BFI day. 

What sets the BFI apart from all the rest of the ropings in the world?

“Horsemanship,” Speed said. “There are a lot of guys who can rope now. This roping separates the guys who can ride and control a horse, and set the run up for their heelers.

“My best advice to headers at their first BFI is when you think you’ve seen ’em enough, hold your horse in there just a little longer. And the bottom line is, the BFI is a marathon.”

“The BFI has just gotten bigger and bigger,” Sherwood said. “BFI Week now has something for everybody—the youth, the old guys, the best guys in the world, the girls—and it pays so good.

“I think the Lazy E is a great place to have BFI Week. Reno’s so far for the guys in the Southeast, but almost everyone can get here in 20 hours or less. This facility is amazing, and with this big arena, the BFI is back to a longer barrier. I think this is a phenomenal place for this phenomenal event.”

 

Full results to BFI Legends

BFI Legends Results

Aggregate: 1. Speed Williams and Matt Sherwood, 40.9 seconds, $40,000; 2. Jeff Hilton and Zane Bruce, 44.0 seconds, $10,000; 3. Tyler Magnus and Zane Bruce, 45.38 seconds, $5,000. 

First Round: 1. Manny Egusquiza and Monty Joe Petska, 6.64 seconds, $2,000. 

Second Round: 1. Chris Francis and Josh Patton, 5.41 seconds, $2,000. 

Family Tradition Trumps All as Mitchell and Hargrove Go 1-2-3 in BFI 15.5 Roping

Spencer Mitchell and his 15-year-old nephew Trigger Hargrove delivered in dominating fashion with an $86,000 1-2-3 punch in the BFI #15.5 Roping, which was held April 1 at the Lazy E Arena. With 31.22 seconds on four steers, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo header Mitchell and young Hargrove cashed the $40,000 winners’ check. Mitchell switched ends and heeled for Trevor Kirchenschlager to take second and $26,000, and Trigger heeled for Casey Hicks for third place and $20,000 on top of the win with Uncle Spank. 

After taking command of the roping heeling for Kirchenschlager at second high callback, Mitchell had that rare and special walk back up the arena knowing he had the roping won no matter what happened on his high-team run with Hargrove. 

“It was a fun feeling, and a relief,” said Mitchell, 33, who calls Orange Cove, California home. “I stopped in the arena and uncinched my (heel) horse, because I had to calm myself before going back in there to rope with my nephew for a lot of money. 

The 2013 day 24-year-old Spencer Mitchell cheered his 6-year-old nephew Trigger Hargrove on to his first-ever saddle win in the BFI dummy roping. Mitchell Family Photo

“Wanting to do good for him and succeed with him was huge. I could see that as a family, we had the opportunity to win first through third. That was an exciting factor. I had to get ahold of my nerves and get back to what I was here to do.”

Trigger’s the son of Spencer’s sister, Ashley, who moved to Oklahoma for college and never left. Cool is the fact that Spencer was by Trigger’s side when he won his first saddle for the dummy roping win at the 2013 BFI, when Spencer was 24 and Trigger was 6. Heck, Uncle Spencer used to change Trigger’s diapers.

“I’d say there’s less pressure to roping with family for Trigger,” Spencer said. “But for me—being the older one who’s had some success in the past and who people expect to win—there’s more. I look for Trigger to succeed as he keeps pushing his roping to the next level.”

Spencer has obviously had a big hand in Trigger’s climb up the roping ranks. 

“Spencer’s had a lot of influence on my roping, but even more on my horsemanship,” said Trigger, who lives in Gracemont, Oklahoma. “He’s helped me out a lot on things like where to put my horse and when to pick him up.”

Things got a tick wild on their high-team steer, to the point where Trigger reached down and dallied with both hands to get the flag. The kid’s flair for walking on the wild side is likely a genetic link to Uncle Spencer. 

Spencer’s roped at two NFRs to date—he headed for his late boyhood besty Broc Cresta in 2011, and for Dakota Kirchenschlager in 2012, a few months after Broc left us so suddenly at The Daddy in Cheyenne at 25. Trigger ropes with a BC sticker on the back of his hat. 

“Broc was a big deal in my life when I was little,” said Trigger, who’s early career highlights also include the win in the #10.5 with Brandt O’Connor at the 2020 USTRC Finals, and $25,000 and a truck at the 2020 Original Team Roping Association Finals on his 14th birthday. “Broc was always with (Uncle) Spank. All I remember is me and him roping the dummy as many times as we could until my mom would make me go to bed.”

Mitchell and Hargrove roped four steers in 31.22 seconds to take the 2022 BFI #15.5 win.  Andersen CbarC Photo

Horsepower is huge in the conditions demanded here at the 440-foot-long Lazy E. Spencer heeled on his 2022 BFI and rodeo partner Jason Duby’s sorrel mare, Tuesday, who came from Brandon Beers. Mitchell headed on his own 11-year-old sorrel, blaze-faced horse, Snapchat, who came from his friends at Lost Creek Ranch here in Oklahoma. On an interesting side note, Kirchenschlager headed for Mitchell on Spencer’s heel horse Barracuda. 

Hargrove heeled on his 14-year-old brown, bald-faced horse, Whiskey. Uncle Spencer had the horse after he bucked some people off. Spencer’s wife, Whitney, twisted his arm into giving Whiskey to Trigger when she saw them hit it off. Spencer and Whitney’s little boy, Broc, will turn 5 on May 29. 

 Spencer’s a renowned switch-ender, so his versatility came as no surprise. Mitchell and Hargrove are both Team Cactus members. They used a medium Thrilla on the back side, and Spank headed with a soft Hooey.

“Anybody who knows me knows that if I had a choice, I’d heel,” Mitchell said. “Heading is amazing, too, and I’ve always promised Trigger as he’s been growing up that as he moves up levels I’ll rope with him more and more. To come back first and second heeling and heading was fun. Going from one side to the other back-to-back almost relieved a little pressure.”

In case you’re curious, Spencer’s an 8+ header and a 9 heeler. Trigger’s a 7 heeler, so they were a perfect match in the #15.5. They hope to hook up for the BFI one day soon. For now, they’re thinking they’ll reinvest the family’s windfall win into more horses. 

“Coming from the West Coast, I prefer the longer starts and the stronger steers,” Mitchell said. “It makes it a tough roping and a true contest, and the Lazy E’s a great place to have this long score. The conditions today were really tough. You have no choice but to stay aggressive here. If you back off at all on either side, you’ll step on yourself.”

 

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Arviso and Glenn Take $25,000 Hooey Jr BFI Open Title

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Arizona’s James Arviso and Oklahoma’s Landen Glenn haven’t had many chances to rope together yet in their young careers. But the 18-year-old high school seniors have already found chemistry, and the ability to come through in the clutch and close the deal when it really counts. Coming from third high call, Arviso and Glenn roped four steers in 32.93 seconds and struck for the $25,000 win Thursday at the 2022 Hooey Jr BFI Open at the world-famous Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. 

If Arviso’s shy grin and humble words seem familiar, it’s because he’s cut from the same cloth as his Uncle Derrick Begay. James is the son of Derrick’s sister, Jamie, and her husband, Jon Arviso. 

“My Grandpa Victor (Begay, who’s Derrick and Jamie’s dad) has probably had the biggest influence on my roping,” James said. “He’s been pretty hard on me my whole life, and it seems like because of that things are starting to come along now.”

Roping and rodeo fans will also recognize the buckskin mare James rode to the win at the 2022 Hooey Jr BFI Open. Keta, who’s 9, is the horse Uncle Derrick rode at last December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. And yes, he’s been borrowing his nephew’s ride and rode her at this winter’s Texas building rodeos in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth. 

The ropers James looks up to most—Uncle Derrick, Aaron Tsinigine and Erich Rogers—should come as no surprise. James and his family share the same hometown of Seba Dalkai on the Navajo Nation with Derrick. But true to family code, Arviso didn’t care to take much of the credit for the big win.

“Landen does his job really well, so I just try to do mine,” said James, who hopes to get to the NFR one day. “This is definitely one of my biggest wins. I don’t win first a lot. I’ve been coming here the past three years, and this is the first time to win it. The steers were fast and strong, and the barrier was out there a ways. They dang sure put on a good roping for us young guys, and make it as realistic as it gets to the big BFI. It’s pretty cool to get my first big win here at the Lazy E.”

Arviso plans to stick his heading half of the money into savings, with the hope of rounding up enough money for back-up for Keta. Glenn also rode a buckskin, and says his horse Jammer, 12, has been a game-changer. 

Arviso and Glenn roped four steers in 32.93 to win it all in Thursday’s Hooey Jr BFI Open. 
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“I got him from a guy in Texas three years ago, and we’ve just clicked,” Landen said. “This horse made me the roper I am.”

Glenn, who lives in McAlester, Oklahoma, will ride Jammer when he heels for Tsinigine in the BFI here at the Lazy E on Saturday. Arviso and Glenn also won the Hooey Junior Patriot Open in Fort Worth about three weeks ago.

“We’ve been planning on roping together here for six or eight months,” Glenn said. “But we haven’t gotten to rope together all that much yet. James is smart, and always does his job. He makes sure he scores go, then goes and catches. He never takes any dumb shots. He makes it easy. I’ve just got to come around there and throw my rope. James has never turned me a steer that wasn’t heel-able.” 

Arizona’s Jace Thorstenson and Denton Dunning came from sixth to finish second in the roping with 35.75 to Arviso and Glenn’s 32.93. 

James Arviso and Landen Glenn won the 2022 Hooey Jr BFI Open and $25,000.
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“This is one of the biggest ropings I’ve ever won—100 percent—because it’s so prestigious,” said Glenn, whose goals include making the NFR and winning the world. “It’s BFI Week, and we all grew up watching the BFI.”

Glenn’s hero?

“Jade Corkill,” he said. “He’s the best. He’s the man. I always watch him rope. He does everything right, and whether he’s trying to be 3 or 8, it always looks the same.”

It meant something to both of these young guns to get a big win at the Lazy E.

“I love this place,” said Landen, who also hopes to put his half of the cash toward additional horsepower. “I’ve won more money at the Lazy E and John Justin Arena (in Fort Worth) than probably anywhere else. I’ve won more at those two places than everywhere else combined. I only live two hours and 20 minutes from here, so the Lazy E feels like home.”

Click here to view the full results