MEMPHIS -- A local roper was a big winner recently during the United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC) Muddy River Classic being held at the Agricenter ShowPlace Arena in Germantown, Tenn. Heath Sanders of Leachville roped five steers in a time of 33.25 with partner George Eldridge of Anna, Ill., to win $2,667 of the $7,030 purse besting 56 other teams in #15 competition. The win qualifies both ropers to a spot in the Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping Oct. 22-30. More than $120,000 in cash and prizes is expected to be doled out over the weekend to 1,000 teams from across the region.
Sanctioned events, like Muddy River Classic, give team ropers an opportunity to qualify for the premier team roping events in the nation -- the USTRC Regional Finals Series and the Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping. Offering an estimated combined total of $2 million in cash and prizes, Regional Finals events are a stepping-stone leading to the USTRC Cinch National Finals of Team Roping in Oklahoma City, Okla., Oct. 22-30. An estimated purse of more than $5 million in cash and prizes will be on the table for the taking at the event expected to attract more than 7,000 teams.
Team roping is a timed event that requires a team effort. A team is made up of a "header" and a "heeler". The header's job is to catch the steer around the horns, and then set it up by turning it across the arena. The heeler then rides in and ropes the steer around both hind legs. The clock is stopped when the steer is secured between both ropers and their horses are facing each other.
Much like in the sport of golf, ropers are handicapped or receive a classification rating based on their skill level and competitive ability. Ropers can be classified from a #1 to a #10, depending on their roping position and ability. The added total of both roping partners handicaps determines their division eligibility. For example, if the division is a #11, the total rating for both ropers cannot equal more than 11, with some divisions requiring a handicap floor.
The United States Team Roping Championships, headquartered in Stephenville, Texas, is the official home of America's Cowboy Sport, representing more than 35,000 competitive team ropers across the country. USTRC brings the sport of team roping to the national stage by providing competition with integrity as thetrusted source of team roping competition rules and classifications. USTRC events paid out more than $20 million in 2010 to team ropers from all walks of life.