For the last few months, the chase to be number one on the Challenger Leaderboard for the Women’s Rodeo World Championship (WRWC) was a two-cowgirl race between Brylee Braden and Rylie Romero.
When nominations for the event closed, Romero stood as the top dog in the challenger standings.
Romero honestly admitted that she was not expecting to be on top when the nomination period ended April 16, 2023.
“I was just hoping to get seeded to the Semi-Final Round,” Romero said, which she would accomplish by finishing second, third or fourth.
Romero and Braden battled for months and the two young guns separated themselves from the pack early. But Romero got hot in the final weeks of the nomination period to leap-frog her friend and roping rival to earn the number one position on the Leaderboard with 4,722.35 points to Braden’s 4,089.85.
“It’s very exciting,” the 15-year-old said. “I couldn’t be more blessed.”
Romero’s position means she is qualified for the breakaway showdown round.
What is the WRWC?
The WRWC is the most lucrative women’s only event in rodeo, offering over $750,000 in total payout to women competing in team roping, breakaway roping and barrel racing. It’s held in Fort Worth, Texas at the Cowtown Coliseum in the historic Stockyards on May 14-20, 2023.
Read about the 2022 WRWC Breakaway Champion Martha Angelone.
Competitors earn points toward the Leaderboard by nominating events in which they compete through the Virtual Rodeo Qualifier (VRQ) tool developed by the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA), who produces the WRWC in conjunction with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).
Romero will be making her first appearance at the WRWC though she was there to cheer on her older sister Sidnie last year. Unfortunately, Romero got sick during the event and didn’t get to watch but the Welsh, Louisiana cowgirl is quite familiar with the Cowtown arena.
“I’ve roped at the Saturday night rodeos there,” Romero said, referencing the weekly events held in the historic arena. “And I roped at the Cowtown Christmas WCRA rodeo when we got home from Vegas in December.”
That experience is one of her favorites in her career thus far.
“Roping with the t.v. cameras and the crowd, that was fun,” she said. She picked up a couple of checks after advancing to the Showdown Round there. “And Vegas is always fun, going down the Strip with your horse.”
Breakaway ties for Rylie Romero
Romero was born to breakaway rope, following her maternal lines into the sport.
“I’m third generation,” she said. “I’ve been on a horse since before I could walk.”
Though she’s done other rodeo events like barrel racing, pole bending, ribbon roping, team roping and goat tying, none compare in her mind to breakaway roping.
“Breakaway caught my heart,” she said, noting she was nine years old when she “zoned in on breakaway.” Her mother, Mandy Walker, also still ropes with her daughters.
Romero enjoys ropings over rodeos because she prefers an average. She’s already competed at some of the toughest junior ropings in the country and recently advanced to the Texas High School State Finals from her region for the second time.
Romero is a homeschooled sophomore who plans to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and study to be a lawyer specializing in real estate and finance.
“I got to tour the campus when we were there during the Junior Patriot,” she said. “I just fell in love with it, it’s beautiful.”
In her younger days, Romero was also a very talented gymnast. She competed in that sport for several years but ultimately made the decision to focus on rodeo.
Romero also spends time showing registered Red Brahman cattle owned by her cousins at Watkins Cattle Company.
“They’re my best friends, I love them all,” she said of her cattle. “They have such big personalties.”
Romero shows in 4-H and open shows, when time permits between ropings of course.
On the equine side, her top partner right now is the sorrel gelding Buster.
“He was my sister’s horse but I started riding him in January,” Romero noted. “We just clicked right away.”
Buster did a lot of the heavy lifting in Romero’s big come-from-behind victory in the WRWC Leaderboard race.
“I first started nominating and did good at the Chris Neal Memorial Day roping last year,” Romero explained. “Brylee and I were pretty much entering the same places all year.”
“The TXC Memorial in DeRidder, Louisiana is what put me over the top,” she said. The roping was held April 1-2 and she picked up two placings in the open average and one in the 15 & under on Buster and placed in the 19 & Under on another horse. In total, she was the high money winner of the event, making it back twice in the short round of every roping she entered.
Because she nominated all those events, Romero jumped to the lead following that weekend and never looked back.
“Brylee is one of my closest friends . . . as a competitor, she keeps you on your toes,” Romero said. “It was a blessing to be able to get in front of her.”
“It’s a good feeling to know you’re seeded and through to the final round,” she added.
Romero headlines the Challengers at the WRWC, which features a unique tiering system, dividing competitors into Pro and Challenger based on lifetime earnings. Though she is on the Challenger Leaderboard now, Romero has been competing against the Pro girls—her idols and friends—in open ropings for some time.
“Every weekend,” she laughed about roping against the best in the business. “It’s intimidating but fun.”
In Fort Worth, Romero will use her option to compete in preliminary rounds for points and money and use the “no pressure” rounds to get comfortable in the setup.
“I want to get Buster in there, get a feel for it,” she said. Once the Showdown round arrives, she’s got her plan. “By the time we get to the Showdown, we’ll know what to do: score sharp and get the neck.”