Winning Williams
Guts, Grace, Glory: The Hali Williams Story

Hali Williams is a young breakaway roper and daughter of 8-time World Champion team Roper Speed Williams. Hali has undoubtedly stepped out of her fathers shadow to make a name for herself in the roping industry—and this is her story.

Hali Williams made a statement throughout the 2023 ProRodeo season, from fiery winning streaks to cold stretches, making the NFBR and overcoming an injury to cap it off.
Hali Williams made a statement throughout the 2023 ProRodeo season, from fiery winning streaks to cold stretches, making the NFBR and overcoming an injury to cap it off. Photo by Click Thompson

Hali Williams is a rising star in breakaway roping with decades of familial roping history fueling her climb into the highest ranks of the sport, advancing to the 2023 National Finals Breakaway Roping with less than two years of ProRodeo under her belt.

Williams’ rodeo journey began while attending rodeos as a child and watching her dad Speed compete. These experiences sparked her interest in the sport from a young age, and she quickly found herself drawn to the thrill of roping and competing.

The Breakaway Roping Journal sat down with Williams to hear her story in her own words.

BRJ: So, obviously, you grew up in rodeo all the way with your dad. Tell us what some of your earliest memories of rodeo and roping were.

Hali Williams: “My first, true memory of a rodeo was actually in Houston. It was in the hospitality room where they had all the toys and stuff for all the kids. I think I was about 5. And I remember going out [to the rodeo] and thinking, ‘Oh, this is what dad does.’

And my first rodeo memory was my dad getting a special invite to our hometown rodeo in De Leon. And we’d bring two really slow steers. And we’d go and rope in the rodeo, and it was a huge production for just two runs.”

Is rodeo something that you’ve always been interested in, or was it something that you wanted you kind of grew to love?

My dad always gave us the option. If we wanted something, like a new pair of headphones, we had come out and rope the steer twice or reach from this distance. So, there was always an incentive to do good.

He never forced us to do anything. He wanted us to go and do other sports until we were older. He didn’t want us wearing out our shoulder or getting hurt because we weren’t strong enough to control a horse. You see a lot of kids when they’re really little, they start using kid rope to team rope, and that’s super dangerous. So, he would say, ‘I don’t want you doing anything until you’re old enough to be able to control everything using a correct size rope.’

Me and Gabe were both on select softball and baseball teams. And I was in gymnastics—I was on the Junior Olympics team.

When did you start rodeoing?

I was about to be sixth grader. I was so strong from gymnastics and then going to softball. I had all those muscles already engaged and built up from the exercises.

I was doing the all around. I was doing everything except the ribbon roping. I had a heel horse that I’d always played around with barrel racing.

I always say, if I wasn’t a breakaway roper, I would love to be a barrel racer. Redlight goes around the barrels. I play with him all the time anyway because it keeps him soft and picked up. Running the barrels on a good horse is such an adrenaline high.

That’s fun—tell us your dream barrel horse.

I’m a sucker for a Dash Ta Fame. If I was in the barrel racing world, I would have to breed to Can Man (Freckles Ta Fame). I watched him when I was little with Ashley Schafer in the ERA, and that horse is just phenomenal. You could head on him, you could breakaway or barrel race on him. I’d love to cross him with some sort of run just to have that little bit more speed on the bottom.

Walk me through junior high rodeo and any trials or tribulations you had during that time.

Sixth grade year, I won our region in the team roping and the breakaway.

I was throughout my junior high career—I was pretty consistent in the team roping. I think we counted it a couple months ago that I only missed four steers across three years. I like the team roping, I am hoping to compete in the World Series Finals in 2024 after the NFBR.

Did you go to public high school, or were you online?

I was homeschooled. I only went a private academy in Arizona for kindergarten. And then we moved out to Texas, and we just homeschooled. I feel like homeschool fit our lifestyle amazingly well. It gave us the opportunity to only be in school for two or three hours, and you could do it in the morning or the night depending on what all we had going on that day.

I do think homeschool can be a hindrance if your children aren’t around others socially. But with what my dad did, we were around kids our age all the time, as well as a ton of different people.

Throughout high school, when did you really start turning your focus away from the team roping and barrels and just going for the breakaway?

I was trying to get more into breakaway in junior high, and I ended up getting cut my freshman year at team roping. It gave me that ultimatum of, ‘Do I want to try to find another partner or just want to work with my breakaway?’

Talk to me a little bit about your high school rodeo career.

My freshman year I was terrible. I hurt my shoulder in a barrel racing accident, and I had a horse that wasn’t feeling his best. Plus, we had a ton of great seniors in our class, and it was really hard to complete against them.

Hali Williams transitions to the big leagues

Coming out of high school you bought your permit. How long did you have your permit before you filled it and bought your card?

I bought my permit two days after my birthday, and I went to the New Year’s Bash in Texarkana and won second in a round. And I was $10 shy of filling my permit. So, I entered the Odessa jackpot, and I placed in the rounds and won [a check] in the average. And I filled it, and I bought my card that day.

I’d never won a rookie title in high school or junior high, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal to me in 2022. I just wanted to get in there, and my main goal was to get in the winter rodeos for the next year.

In 2023 you break the doors down. Have an amazing winter rodeo season. We’ve discussed your story a little bit on [Breakaway Roping Journal], but I would love to hear in your words looking back at that summer now and how difficult it was.

I think it taught me a lot. It was something that… when you’re in the moment, you’re thinking, ‘Why is this happening?’ nobody wants that to be their story. You have phenomenal winter rodeos, you have a world title and your sight, and you just can’t get out or you can’t catch. You can’t do well for six weeks.

I think instead of just taking a relaxing breath and just letting it go, I kept trying to change stuff because it was going so bad.

Only good run I made in the six weeks was at Nampa, and I advanced the short round. The Nampa short round I missed. I’d came out there, and I blew my left coil, threw and missed. I think I went to Gordon, Nebraska, after that and went home.

How did you get back on track?

We’d be on the horses by 10, and we wouldn’t stop until 8:30 every night. We just would rope and watch the video. We had every horse saddled, and I would just rope.

I roped amazing the first day—and so my dad looks at me and says, ‘It’s something mental. You’re trying not to miss.’

After a week I went back out, and we had Hermiston, Oregon, Missoula, Montana and Jerome, Idaho that week, and I won more than $17,000.

We went and did good at Puyallup, and Sioux Falls, I didn’t draw good on the first one, and I drew a runner in the second round.

There have been a lot of things that changed my perspective on that year. You had people telling you the World Title is yours, you have to keep going. And I didn’t think it was getting to me because I knew we had Sioux Falls and the NFBR. But Shelby [Meged] was dominant that year. I mean, if you could win it somewhere, she was winning. Good calf, bad calf, she was on fire. And when you have someone that was doing that good behind you, it’s really hard to sit there and say, ‘Oh, you’re good.’

I enjoy seeing the camaraderie between you ladies. And it’s still so baffling to me that y’all’s mental game is so aggressive, competitive, hitting the barrier and going for broke every single time. And then if it doesn’t work out, you just roll over and go to the next one.

Both Taylor Munsell and Kelsie Domer, they’re so strong physically and mentally. They have so much strength in their bodies. You’ll see them doing stuff, and you’re thinking, ‘No way would I be able to do that.’

Taylor will make her run, and she’s like, ‘It is what it is.’ She just rolls on. She reminds me a lot of my brother. They’ve got the same attitude.

First trip to the NFBR and beyond

I would love to talk about the 2023 NFBR. You had that horse wreck and messed up your ankle, right? Or was it your foot?

It was pretty much hurt all over. We didn’t think I was going to be able to go. I thought I was going to have doctor release out of the NFR. If the wreck had been any later, I wouldn’t have been able to rope. And still to this day I think, ‘Should I have done it?’ Maybe not.

Do you regret doing it?

I don’t regret it. I think it taught me a lot of things about being able to rope with pain. But we were concerned that it might have done more damage than good right after. You got to weigh your pros and cons on whatever it is.

Luckily it went great. I mean, I won two rounds and placed in another.

What’s the update on your injury?

I actually just got cleared to start doing pretty much anything but saddling. I can’t lift anything heavy for another two months. My first rodeo back is going to be Houston. I haven’t had any warm up rodeos, but I’m looking forward to roping more again and having someone saddle my horse.

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