Sawyer Gilbert drew up in the 125th Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days Championship Sunday performance as the fifth breakaway roper out on Sunday, August 1, 2021, determined to leave the arena with the championship title. By the event’s end, she completed the course, winning the sudden-death Championship Sunday performance with a 4.4-second run, worth $12,175.
Gilbert, 19, earned a total of $17,525 in CFD earnings from the final round earnings, plus placing in rounds throughout the week. She is the second CFD breakaway roping champion, but the first-ever competitor to have her breakaway earnings count towards the WPRA/PRCA standings.
Before competing at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, Gilbert was 19th in the WPRA Pro Rodeo World standings with $10,393.44 in season earnings and is now third in the standings with $27,918.44, unofficially.
“Everyone wants to run one here. It’s the ‘Daddy of ’Em All’,” said Gilbert, of Buffalo, South Dakota. “It’s even cooler to say that you ever won it.”
Fortunately for Gilbert, she had seen her calf run in that arena before and knew she had a good chance at obtaining the winning title.
“I got to watch [him] one other time in person,” Gilbert said. “I got the video from the girl who had ran it. He was straight down the pen. I had a real chance. I just had to make sure I saw my start and go get him.”
What made this coveted win more special for the young talent was following in the footsteps of her traveling partner, Jordan Jo Fabrizio, who won the inaugural CFD title in 2019.
“It’s amazing that two of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Champions are in the same rig,” Gilbert said with excitement. “I had to wear a red shirt. It’s Jordan’s favorite color and she won it in a red shirt.”
Gilbert’s trip to Cheyenne began on Wednesday, July 21, with the breakaway roping slack, where she advanced to the semi-finals with a 4.8-second run, to advance her to the performances. She drew up in the sixth performance and roped her calf in 6-flat, which was quick enough to garner a top-4 spot, worth $738, to advance to the semi-finals.
“It was one of those deals where I was tired. It was 7 o’clock in the morning,” Gilbert said. “Walking into this I figured, ‘If I just get out at the barrier … I don’t have to be close to the barrier … Just get out and, with my first shot, catch.’”
In the first set of the semi-finals performance, she made a smooth run in 4.6 seconds to place second, worth $4,612.
“I get to have more fuel money,” Gilbert said. “This is tough competition. The money is so spread out. You can be doing good and placing two or three holes out because you’re not drawing the right calf or something, and you don’t get any money. I think winning this takes some of the pressure off, but it’s also a little kick in the butt.”
Gilbert started out on a mare that she’s been riding throughout the summer, but the mare came up sore after the slack, which sent Gilbert home for a horse swap.
“She crossed over and hit herself pretty hard,” Gilbert said, explaining her mare’s injury. “I had a couple days off and went back to Buffalo, South Dakota, and I got to steal [my brother’s] horse from him. That horse has spent a lot of time in [the CFD] arena.
Big Enough, her brother’s 12-year-old gelding, was previously owned by CFD arena director Frank Thompson, so between her CFD-seasoned mount and traveling with the rodeo’s reigning breakaway roping champion, Gilbert’s stars aligned.
“I don’t walk in here with a chip on my shoulder,” she said. “I felt like I had a chance, I just had to keep it going for myself.”