Kayelen Helton had one of the winningest weekends of her breakaway career at the 2022 Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping in Hereford, Texas, on August 5–7, where she earned $16,580 and the event win.
Helton set the pace on Friday, August 5, on walking fresh cattle in Round 1 with an impressive 2.99-second run, worth $3,420. In the second round, she stayed safe with a 4.60-second run that paid $2,240 for third place. On Sunday, she came to the short round in the high callback position.
“Being high callback, I had some nerves,” Helton said. “That’s one of the biggest paying jackpots I’ve ever been to. Tiada (Gray) was third high call and made a great run and Loni (Kay Lester) was second and made an awesome run, so I knew I needed to use him to win first.”
The pressure suited her. Helton was 3.39 seconds and won the short go for another $2,360 check. Her time of 10.98 seconds on three head was enough to hold off Lester’s 11.41 seconds to win the aggregate and $8,560.
“I feel confident in that type of setup,” Helton said. “My deal was to hit the barrier on them—I feel like I did a good job with that. My other plan was to be ready to rope when I got there. So much can happen on big, fresh calves in big arenas. If you give them too much time, something is going to happen. So, I made sure to get to the front and ready to rope.”
Underneath Helton was her 11-year-old gelding, MJ Cody Wichita. “Cody” has been Helton’s mount for two years.
“The walking fresh is my favorite setup, and I think it’s his, too,” she said. “Cody scores great—he’s not a superstar, but he’s a winner. He gives you an opportunity to win every time.”
Helton was sitting pretty in the WPRA world standings after placing consistently inside the winter rodeos but has struggled to find her groove throughout the 2022 ProRodeo season. As a licensed professional counselor who works with children at a behavioral health center near her home in Stephenville, Texas, she’s taking off a few weeks in the summer to hit rodeos outside of Texas, which only increases her need to capitalize on the rodeos she does enter.
Her summer run, however, brought a slight dry spell. Helton recently roped in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and fell ill when she came back to Texas. During that time, she took several weeks off from roping. She only roped four calves in preparation for the Gripp, proving that the break may have been beneficial for both her and Cody.
“I had gotten real sick and didn’t feel like doing much, honestly,” Helton said. “I think we both needed the break.”
Helton started roping calves at the age of 10, steers at 12. She won back-to-back championships in the Texas High School Rodeo association and has continued to make a name for herself in both the team roping and breakaway roping. But despite being one of the top team roping cowgirls in the jackpot world, it’s not uncommon to hear Helton refer to herself as a “placer”—pulling checks at a lot of major events, but always flying just under the radar. However, the Spicer Gripp gives her a chance to change that narrative.
“I didn’t rope bad this summer, I just didn’t have the luck I wanted,” Helton said. “This definitely helps build my confidence.”
It’s a timely boost, as Helton prepares to hit the remaining Texas Circuit approved rodeos in pursuit of a position at the Texas Circuit Finals.
“I just want to thank the committee there,” Helton said of the Spicer Gripp. “It was a great roping, they really treated us contestants well, and it’s always a fun one to go to. I didn’t even win much in the team roping and still had a great time. They do a great job putting it on.”