All top 15 breakaway ropers qualified for the 2020 National Finals of Breakaway Roping helped sort this year's calves into the four pens they'll rope when they make history Dec. 8 to 10 in Arlington, Texas's Globe Life Field.
They roped through them at Bucky Harmon's covered Thrill Hill Arena outside Stephenville, in a jackpot set up.
The calves—owned by Jeff Yates and Lanham Mangold—are all mix-breed beef cattle with six to 10 runs on them each over the last couple months, including at The Cowgirl Gathering and the San Angelo Roping Fiesta.
"They’re big healthy calves, weighing 240 pounds to 280 pounds," Yates, of Corsicana, Texas, said. "We've got heifers and steers mixed together."
Two pens will be medium, one pen will be slower and one pen will be stronger, according to 2013 WPRA World Champion Breakaway Roper Hope Thompson.
"Both of the stronger sets will be on the calf roping side of the arena," Thompson said. "They’ll be stronger and with the barrier two-under, I hate to guess what the times will be. In that arena, being wide open, they’ll run even more than where we broke them in. You’ll have to just go run them down and be 2.5 to 2.9-ish."
Streamed live on The Wrangler Network, the NFBR will start at 10 a.m. and finish at noon, so the top 15 ladies will be running their calves at both sides of the arena and will move quickly from calf-to-calf.
"On the team roping side of the arena, we’ll run Lanham’s two sets," Thompson added. "They were softer, smaller calves. I feel like we’re going to catch up to them faster."
The fast-paced action works well for 18-time WPRA Breakaway World Champion JJ Hampton.
"I do better when I get to roping in a rhythm," Hampton said. "It’s good for me. I thought the calves were a pretty good set they put together. Of course we roped in a different kind of arena, so at the end of the day, we don’t know what they’ll do because it was a pretty decent set up."
"I thought they were great," Anna Bahe, who enters the NFBR 11th, added. "Some are runners, but we weeded out the really fast ones and we weeded out the really slow ones. I like all of them that going in. The start is two-under, so they’ll be running."
Eight-time WPRA World Champion Lari Dee Guy underscored the fact that the calves could very well get under Arlington's bright lights and change.
"Four or five different people compared lists of what each calf did," Guy said. "Which ones broke, which ones didn’t fight the chute and didn’t lay down. We tried to group them into even sets. When you’re roping in an indoor and then you take them to Globe Life, it doesn’t matter how good of a job you think you did on them, they’re probably going to change. We did everything we could, but we didn’t get to rope them in Globe Life like the calf ropers and team ropers did. On Tuesday morning at like 7 a.m., we get to run them through and take them to the back end. But we're just showing them the out gate, not roping them through—at least to my knowledge." BRJ