The World Champions Rodeo Alliance rolled out a system of classifying breakaway ropers based on money won—sorting ladies into Challengers and Open ropers based on money won the past three years.
The WCRA considers ropers Challengers if they've won less than $5,000 in 2018, $7,000 in 2019 and $8,000 in 2020.
"Part of what we’ve been doing with our alliance partners is compiling data as far as breakaway roping goes, we’ve tracked earnings data on over 1,700 breakaway ropers," Bobby Mote, WCRA president, said. "Of those 1,700 breakaway ropers, we tried to figure out where the line is for a pro. Granted, as a pro, it isn’t insinuated they are making a living breakaway roping; but, when they’re all meeting up with the best in the game, they are winning with some consistency. We drew a line based on everything we know. That’s how we begin. As we move forward, there will be more than just two groups of breakaway ropers. Even in the Challenger set, there are ropers who are certainly not novice. They’ve been college rodeoing or high school rodeoing and their earnings don’t reflect how good they are. They won’t amass a whole lot of money in earnings and they might be really good. Until we see them in the WCRA or they go to the big jackpots, there's no way to earn enough money. It’s not perfect. But it’s dang sure a start."
The association debuted its first Challenger event at the Northern Breakaway and Team Roping Championships in Rapid City, South Dakota August 28, 2020.
"We had 73 enter the Challenger roping," said Billie Bray, chief marketing officer at Equibrand and NBC organizer. "We had another 95 in the Open, and the Challenger ropers were also welcome to rope in the Open. In the Challenger roping, I did two and a short. I had the payout broken down to 30%, 30% and 40% in average, with $4,000 added. We were able to give 16 checks to Challenger girls."
Douglas, Wyoming college student Quincy Segelke won the first-ever Challenger breakaway with a time of 8.84 seconds on three head, placing in both rounds and winning the average worth a total of $4,270. She's now 17th on the WCRA's Leaderboard, on which the top 16 get fast-tracked into the Women's Rodeo World Championship's $750,000 event in Las Vegas this November 3 through 7.
"I knew it was coming that they’d start classifying breakaway ropers, as it’s going to turn into something like team roping," Segelke, a senior in business management at Chadron State, said. "It gives the younger girls the chance to come in and get a taste of what it’s like to rope without having to go against all the big girls.”
In team roping, Denny Gentry's USTRC introduced handicaps in the early 1990s, fueling the explosion of team roping and building a multi-million-dollar industry around recreational ropers. That's evolved into what's now Global Handicaps, team roping's massive database that WCRA is also using to create its Challenger division in the team roping, setting it as a #9.5 capped at a 5.
"I think breakaway roping is tough to track—there’s the start, how consistently they can be in the barrier which is only measured with an electric eye, and how fast they can stop the run," Mote said. "It matters what the conditions are. Are there dairy calves with a soft start? For us, what we can measure right away is frequency of successful runs, whether it’s catches or wins."
In the barrel racing, it sets its Challengers' earnings at beneath $30,000 each year for the last three years. BRJ