Local roper wins championship

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MEEKER I A local roper qualified to rope in the nation’s richest team roping during the recent United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC) Spanish Trail Classic held May 5 through May 8 in Moab, Utah.
Ed Watson of Meeker was the winner in the No. 8 Pick Draw division, defeating 114 other teams with partner Marc Wagner of Grand Junction, Colo. The duo roped three steers in 26.42 seconds to split a $3,098 paycheck from the $8,404 total purse. The win qualified both ropers for the Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping to be held in October in Oklahoma City.
The Spanish Trail Classic is one of more than 300 USTRC sanctioned and affiliated events to take place throughout the United States, including Hawaii, in 2011. A total of 535 teams competed in the event with more than $59,000 in cash paid to more than 190 ropers. Ropers saw winners take home six Cowboy Gold trophy saddles and 23 Gist Silversmiths trophy buckles, in addition to more than $160,000 in Flex Earnings to qualify them for the prized regional and national final shoot out position.
Sanctioned events, like the Spanish Trail Classic, give team ropers an opportunity to qualify for the premier team roping events in the nation: the USTRC Regional Finals Series and the Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping. Offering an estimated combined total of $2 million in cash and prizes, regional finals events are a stepping-stone leading to the USTRC Cinch National Finals of Team Roping in Oklahoma City, Okla., Oct. 22-30. An estimated purse of more than $4 million in cash and prizes will be on the table at the event, which is expected to attract more than 7,000 teams.
Team roping is a timed event that requires a team effort. A team is made up of a“header” and a “heeler.” The header’s job is to catch the steer around the horns, and then set it up by turning it across the arena. The heeler then rides in and ropes the steer around both hind legs. The clock is stopped when the steer is secured between both ropers and their horses are facing each other.
Much like the sport of golf, ropers are handicapped or receive a classification rating based on their skill level and competitive ability. Ropers can be classified from a #1 to a #10, depending on their roping position and ability. The added total of both roping partners handicaps determines their division eligibility. For example, if the division is a #11, the total rating for both ropers cannot equal more than 11, with some divisions requiring a handicap floor.
The United States Team Roping Championships, headquartered in Stephenville, Texas, is the official home of America’s Cowboy Sport, representing more than 35,000 competitive team ropers across the country. USTRC brings the sport of team roping to the national stage by providing competition with integrity as thetrusted source of team roping competition rules and classifications. USTRC events paid out more than $20 million in 2010 to team ropers from all walks of life.