By Ann Bleiker
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – The long anticipated Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping (NFBR) got off to a fast start on Day 1 on December 8 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
A familiar name, 19-time WPRA World Champion, Jackie Crawford took the first round victory lap stopping the clock in 1.9 seconds. Crawford, of Stephenville, Texas, was the second to last roper to go in the first round after finishing the 2020 regular season ranked No. 2. She was facing a stacked leaderboard with three 2.0-second runs leading the way. 17-time WPRA World Champion JJ Hampton set the bar early with a 2.0 second run, and was followed immediately by three-time WPRA World Champion Hope Thompson, who matched her time. The third roper to turn in a 2.0 was eight-time world champion Lari Dee Guy.
“This is so awesome and I am so excited about the Betty Gayle Cooper award,” said Crawford, who has previously won two WPRA Breakaway Roping world titles. “When JJ (Hampton), Lari Dee (Guy) and Hope (Thompson) came out and made those two-flat runs, I was like man they are going to have that award split but I wasn’t going to let them have it easy. We just went at it first round and it worked out. Calf was a little slow, I pulled and came down with the right time.”
“Being here means so much to all of us being the first time for this and we can’t thank everyone who has been behind it and involved in it enough. They have no idea how thankful all of us are.”
Not only did Crawford win the first round but she was also awarded with the Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff Fast Time Award presented by the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The award honored the late 1987 Cowgirl Honoree and a nine-time world champion that included being crowned the 1989 breakaway champion. Ratliff worked as a rodeo director of the WPRA to strengthen the sport and she coached the men’s and women’s rodeo teams for Southeastern Oklahoma State University to win national titles.
“This means so much to me to see this come to life,” said Cooper Ratliff, son of Betty Gayle. “I want to thank everyone for making this possible. My mom worked her whole life for the western industry and women in it. To see this happen, I just know she is looking down on this smiling. For someone like Jackie to win this award means a lot because she knows the impact she had on women in rodeo.”
Martha Angelone would match Crawford’s time from the first round to win the second round. Angelone, originally from Virginia but now residing in Texas, added her name to the history books outdistancing Jordan Fabrizio who finished in a time of 2.4 seconds.
“It is starting off pretty good and I just hope I can keep finishing it,” said Angelone after turning in a time of 2.3 and 1.9 to get the day started. “I like being able to rope one right after the other like this set-up is.”
The third round victor would go to Tanegai Zilverberg stopping the clock in 2.0 seconds edging Shelby Boisjoli with a 2.1. Zilverberg is coming off a reserve world champion performance at the WPRA World Finals in the tie-down roping.
“I had some nerves today,” said Zilverberg. “I was originally going to have my black horse and when I figure eighted eyes in the first round, I got on my yellow horse and figure eighted some legs in the second round for two no times, so my nerves left and it was more time to get my head in the right place and get it done.”
The final round for today went to Hope Thompson with a 2.2-second run. Thompson was hoping to capture the first round title but would have to wait until the fourth round to take that victory lap. Thompson is also coming off a world champion run at the WPRA World Finals in the team roping. She and Whitney DeSalvo teamed up for the 2020 WPRA Team Roping World Champion title. Thompson has some work to do still over the course of the next several rounds if she wants to add another world title to her resume.
“I am thankful to get this win, thankful to be here and it has been so much fun,” said Thompson, who was the big money winner on Day 1 with $10,309. “In the first round, I followed JJ (Hampton) after her two flat and we matched each other. We were cheering for each other and when Lari Dee (Guy) went, I said I hope we all get to stand up there together for the round win but we got second. Congrats to Jackie on the first round win.”
Thompson, Guy and Hampton are traveling partners so they will be able to cherish that first round memory forever.
Crawford leads the average with a total time of 9.4 seconds on four head heading into the next four rounds which will be contested on Wednesday, Dec. 9. Boisjoli is hot on her heels in a time of 10.5. Crawford is also in the driver’s seat in the world standings with $31,935 to Cassie Bahe Latham’s $28,591.
The first NFBR rolls on Wednesday, December 9 at 10 a.m. CT and can be seen LIVE and free on the Wrangler Network. Be sure to tune in for this historic event. Rounds 5-8 will be contested on the second day of the NFBR.
First day results: http://wpra.com/index.php/nfr-2020-results-breakaway-roping