Athens, Alabama's Chelsey Abernathy grew up rodeoing with her dad and brother, but she stepped away in high school to focus on softball and eventually went to the University of Alabama. But the roping bug re-emerged, and during her junior year she moved home and finished her degree virtually to restart her roping career. The result? A win at the World Champions Alliance's Stampede at the E, worth $12,500. The Breakaway Roping Journal's Amanda Terrell visited with Abernathy just days after her big win

Amanda Terrell: How did you get there, and how did you qualify?

Chelsey Abernathy: I decided to nominate a roping by the house about a week before the cut-off date, so I qualified through the Leaderboard, and I also entered the open. I made it back to the progressive rounds on both sides, but I made it to the Stampede at the E through my leaderboard nomination.

AT: Can you explain to someone who might now know, how the WCRA works?

CA: The WCRA is a great opportunity that anyone can truly take advantage of! You can nominate any roping or rodeo that is on the entry tool and you accumulate points, and if you are in the top 64 then you get to rope through the progressive rounds and work your way into the main event. It is something that everyone should be looking into and taking advantage of 100%.

AT: Tell me about this opportunity and what it was like roping with some of the “greats”?

CA: I am so used to seeing all these “greats” all over TV and social media, so it was surreal to be among them in the Lazy E. Roping against that caliber pushed me to want to be better, and I knew there was no room for mistakes with this group of girls! It was an amazing opportunity and I am truly so thankful.

AT: Although 2020 has been a crazy year, it’s also had some amazing opportunities for breakaway ropers. Tell me a little bit about your year.

CA: This year has had its up and downs! I just bought my horse Lil Kim, and it has been a transition for us to get together. But I am so thankful that there has still been some rodeos and some events to get to go, and we are just ready to continue going throughout the rest of the year.

AT: What was it like competing at the WCRA's Stampede at the E?

CA: I have never experienced anything like that, and I loved every minute of it. Roping against that kind of competition made me want to be better and made me want to give it my all no matter what happened. I am just so thankful for the opportunity to rope there.

AT: What was your game plan going into it?

CA: My game plan was just don't back off. My game plan was to take it one calf at a time, and do what I could with each calf I had drawn. I wanted to be sure that I left everything I had out there.

AT: What did you do to mentally prepare before you roped?

CA: Before I roped, I just took a deep breath and just stayed focus. I blocked out everything that was going on and focused on what I needed to do in my next run.

AT: Talk me through your last run—how did it happen, play-by-play?

CA: On my last run, my boyfriend Andrew Burks was in the corner with me, and he just kept beating into my head, "See the start, see the start." My first calf was stronger, so I knew that I had to see a little more so my main focus was just making sure my calf started, and hitting the barrier.

AT: What was your first thought as you rode out? Did you know you’d won it?

CA: After I roped my final calf, I turned around to check the barrier and I saw my boyfriend standing in the box clapping and he gave me a big nod, and I knew at the moment that I had just won, and it was the best feeling. All I could do was just smile and thank God!

AT: Tell me a little bit about your horse. How old is she, how’s she bred and where’d she come from?

CA: My horse, Lil Kim, played a HUGE role in all of this. My brother actually bought a bull dogging horse, and when he bought her, apparently, she was pregnant because shortly after having her Lil Kim showed up. Lil Kim is 9 years old, and my brother and sister-in-law raised and trained her. They let me ride her at a roping last November, and I told them after I ran my first one that she was staying with me. It took two months of bugging them, but I finally bought her in January of this year. BRJ