After her big win at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, Sawyer Gilbert, 19, leapt inside the Top 15 of the PRCA/WPRA Breakaway Roping World Standings. And now, the young roper continues to shine in unusual breakaway roping setups by winning the Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up, held Sept. 15–18, 2021.
Gilbert roped two head in 5.0 seconds to take home the inaugural Pendleton Round-Up Breakaway Roping Title, worth $5,981, and the No. 1 position of the World Standings with $45,674.32 in season earnings, giving her a $1,973.12 lead on Shelby Boisjoli.
“I didn’t think I was going to get to see No. 1 for a while,” Gilbert said. “I’m just trying to keep the same mindset that I was in trying to get to No. 1. Win, lose or draw, I have the Finals made, so that is kind of part of the goal complete. The grass is maybe the coolest rodeo ever. It might be even cooler than Cheyenne. Coming off that hill. There’s no start. It’s strictly cowgirl/cowboy up. Whoever understands cattle the best is going to win.”
After drawing up 48th in the Monday, Sept. 13 slack, Gilbert executed her plan of having no fear and no hesitation on the grass where many horses slipped and fell. She split third with Taylor Munsell in the first round with a 2.4-second run, worth $2,268 each.
“I literally had a smile on my face the morning of the slack because I walked in there and I’m like, ‘This is cool,’” Gilbert said. “I didn’t even know what calf number I had. I didn’t really care. I wanted to be soft with my left hand and let my horse find the calf. I wanted to be really calm in the back of the corner and, no matter what happened, I wanted to be at full speed when I got to the barrier line.”
Gilbert left her mark on the grass after winning the final round with a 2.6-second run, worth $1,589.
“The short round kind of caught me off guard with how fast the calf came running past me. I committed way too hard,” she said of her start, though she got out at the barrier clean.
Gilbert cowgirled up and, for it, got to make the coveted victory lap around the track.
“It was a big circle, and I was running out of stuff to do,” Gilbert laughed. “I think it was a cooler feeling to take the victory lap than it was to run that calf down the ally. It’s a pretty special moment that not a lot of people get to experience, running around that circle with all those people yelling.”
Gilbert rode her brother’s 12-year-old gelding, Big Enough, who she felt was the right horse for Pendleton.
“He is definitely an athlete,” Gilbert said. “The way that he handles himself in those types of setups. He’s so fast and so strong, but he’ll stand there and let you score. His setup is Pendleton in the grass and being able to do all that cool stuff with his body on the grass. That is his kind of deal.”
With nearly 10 days left in the 2021 Pro Rodeo regular season after being on the road all summer long, Gilbert understands how difficult it is to stay committed down the road.
“It feels like all this hard work we’ve been doing all summer and the battles that we’ve fought isn’t for nothing,” she said. “When I drove into Pendleton, Jordan (Fabrizio) was with me, and we were both exhausted. I was just like, ‘I am tired. I’m not saying that I want to quit because I’ve never said that I wanted to quit, but I am just saying I am tired. I’m tired of driving and I’m ready to win something and then I’m ready to go home.’ And in that order.”
Gilbert had entered rodeos in Amarillo, Abilene, Stephenville, Texas, and the Tour Finale in Salinas, California, but after roping her first calf in Pendleton, she quickly made the decision to draw out of the Texas rodeos and finish the season out strong at California Rodeo Salinas and prepare for the National Finals of Breakaway Roping in December.
“I’m going stay focused on what’s ahead and not try to get so strung out,” she said. “I just have Salinas left. We’re sitting in the parking lot roping the dummy. We’re hanging out and staying calm. It’s hard not to now, when you look at the standings. I’m trying not to overthink it, like the ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid.’ I’m trying to tell myself to just keep doing it.”