For Sami McGuire, the Downtown Calves and Cans event in March was loaded with hidden treasures. Fulfilling a promise to herself, McGuire had packed up to spend a winter in Arizona in order to take advantage of the many competitive opportunities for ropers. Since she was staying within miles of the Downtown Arena in Wickenburg, she decided to enter the event so she could participate in the breakaway roping.
What McGuire didn’t realize was that the Downtown event was a Fast Track qualifier for the upcoming Women’s Rodeo World Championship (WRWC) to be held in November in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The first WRWC was held in November 2020 in Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas and set a new bar for women’s rodeo events with a payout of $750,000. The event is a result of the collaboration of the World Champion’s Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), who hosted the final round during the 2020 PBR World Finals inside Texas Stadium.
As part of its innovation within the rodeo world, the WCRA has added a new layer to the qualification process for their lucrative women’s only event with eight Fast Track Qualifiers (FTQ). FTQ events feature expanded Leaderboard points up to 20th position.
Winners in each of the three disciplines—barrel racing, breakaway and team roping—in both the Pro and Challenger Divisions at each FTQ event (for a total of eight Pro and eight Challenger athletes) advance to their own pool in the WRWC. Athletes are eligible to earn more than one FTQ in a given discipline.
The idea is simple — win the event and you’re in. Your position is guaranteed, you won’t pay entry fees and you’ll compete only against the other Fast Track qualifiers in their division in the opening rounds of the WRWC. The top four from each Fast Track pool, Pro and Challenger, advance directly to the Progressive Round.
While McGuire wasn’t quite sure what she was getting into in Wickenburg, veteran ropers Bev Robbins and Jessy Remsburg knew exactly what the stakes were when they attended the JX2 Team Roping in Tunica, Mississippi in early March, another Fast Track Qualifying event.
“We went just for that,” Robbins said. “We like going to the JX2 events and will support them so it was kind of a double whammy for us. We were in Texas and headed to Guthrie for the BFI Ladies Roping. But we drove from Texas to Tunica and then back to Guthrie just for the Fast Track Qualifier.”
“That’s why we went there,” agreed Remsburg. “It was a good roping and we really appreciate John Johnson at JX2.”
McGuire didn’t attend the first WRWC but was aware of the big event.
“I’ve never competed at any big breakaway jackpots before,” noted McGuire, who does have a qualification to the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) on her resume. “I mostly go to the little jackpots and some ammie rodeos.”
Robbins and Remsburg were not only entered at the first WRWC, they advanced all the way to the Main Event and roped for the big money. Robbins was battling during the week, having suffered a buck off in practice just prior to the event that left her with sore tendons in her wrist.
“I was struggling mentally. We made the top six last year and I missed our steer . . . . I missed for $100,000,” Robbins lamented. “It was brutal.”
From the minute that loop missed the horns, the ladies who both own WPRA World Championships in team roping began to plan how to get back to that moment again.
“I’ve got to redeem myself,” Robbins joked, “so we knew we had to try to get back.”
“We went there hoping to get qualified and we did just that,” said Remsburg. “We made four clean runs and ended up at the top . . . there wasn’t really anything special to it, we just did what we do in the practice pen every day.”
Robbins and Remsburg are not only roping partners, but Remsburg works for Robbins and is a “dear friend.”
“She travels with me,” said Robbins, who splits time between homes and businesses in Texas and Alabama. “She helps take care of the horses.”
Remsburg was enjoying time at home in the spring after the whirlwind at the JX2 and BFI events.
“We’ll be home about a month just riding the young horses,” she said. “We have a lot of horses and it is a lot more work than being on the road but for me, it’s more relaxing. I like taking a broke horse and teaching them to rope, seeing how they progress. It’s a cool feeling to ride them on live steers for the first time.”
The partners train horses together and Remsburg is a valuable asset to Robbins, an entrepreneur and single mom.
“She makes it where I can do it. Everything is ready to go when I get other things done.”
McGuire grew up with horses but not around rodeo until her family moved to Minnesota where she caught the bug from an uncle who team roped. The Melby family (which boasts two Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) barrel racers) took her under their wing, teaching her first to chase the cans.
By the time she hit high school rodeo, she was chasing calves, tying goats and doing all the events which eventually landed her a spot on the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team. But her path wouldn’t lead her into professional rodeo . . . rather she became a journalist before creating her own media and marketing company, High Call Media where she does everything from social media management to graphic design, all within the western and agricultural industries.
“Rodeo is my hobby,” she admits. “I don’t place my financial future on it. I don’t rope well when my livelihood depends on it.”
That McGuire can find a place to compete for big money without competing full time is absolutely the genius of the WRWC . . . even if she sort of stumbled into it.
“When I’m home in Oklahoma, I rope a little every other week, maybe go to a rodeo or two a week during the summer,” she said. “I’d never been out to Arizona for the winter and I wanted to try it. So, I was entering everything.”
McGuire entered up at the Downtown event, muddling her way through the entry process though she wasn’t versed in the rules—things like her status as a Challenger versus a Pro.
“I emailed some questions when I entered and someone called me,” she laughed. The WCRA staff walked her through the entry process and helped her realize that she could compete in the Challenger Division, which is based on career and recent earnings in the breakaway and barrel racing and on Global Handicaps numbers in the team roping.
“I was happy they called an explained everything because I almost entered the Pro Division,” she noted. “They were super helpful.”
Robbins ropes as a Pro with a long resume of wins and she is a fan of what the WCRA is doing, particularly for the women of the sport.
“I like the concept. You don’t have to travel to events all around the world, you can nominate where you are going.”
“I don’t try to haul to qualify to finals events,” said Robbins, “but I like to have a goal to work towards that you don’t have to leave your home and family and work behind and you can still be in the position to run for that kind of money.”
“And it’s great because everyone can do it.”
Folks like McGuire, who aren’t full time competitors. But by the time the Wickenburg event happened, she had been running through a drought with her rope.
“I’d been down here since January and had only placed a couple of times but I decided to keep entering until I went home.”
McGuire thought things were turning around when she won a benefit roping a few weeks prior to the Downtown event but then she failed to cash out at the next few.
“I’d been roping so badly but I had already entered,” she said of the Fast Track qualifying event. “I kept thinking that I was happy to be in Arizona, getting to rope and thinking of my friends at home in the cold.”
At the Downtown event, McGuire seized the opportunity. She roped her way to the high call position in the short go round and calming snagged the final calf to win the event and punch her ticket to the Fast Track pool during the WRWC.
“I still didn’t know exactly what I was roping for,” she laughed of feeling any pressure in the final round.
For Robbins and Remsburg, the win in Tunica was just exactly what they’d hope to do.
“It’s pretty handy and just makes things a little easier to get to the Main Event,” Robbins said. Incidentally, the pair went on to Guthrie and earned a top five finish to land them at the top of the WRWC Pro Leaderboard.
McGuire banked a much needed $1,600 and will make her travel plans to come west again in November.
“It’s really cool; I like what they’re doing,” said McGuire. “I have to really budget rodeo in but I love it just as much as those who do it full time.”
McGuire noted the time and expense of getting qualified to other major breakaway events.
“The Fast Track Qualifier is such a cool opportunity and I’m glad I did well.”
“It’s so unique that even though I’m not traveling to a rodeo every week, I still have the chance to go compete against those really great breakaway ropers.”
The Women’s Rodeo World Championship will be held at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 1-6, 2021 and will once again pay out $750,000 to female rodeo athletes. For more information on the event, how to qualify, and current leaderboards, visit them on social media or their website.
Visit womensrodeoworldchampionship.com to view upcoming Fast Track Qualifiers and all winners.
Visit HERE to view upcoming Fast Track Qualifiers and all winners.