WPRA Vice President
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Quick Turnaround in Arena Conditions in Cheyenne, Results in Two Arena Records
By Ann Bleiker
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
As the saying goes “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work,” and that was on full display at the end of 2023 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in regard to the barrel racing.
Sharon Harrell rounds the cloverleaf pattern in Cheyenne on Wednesday, July 26.
Photo by Jackie Jensen
The WPRA Ground Committee chaired by WPRA Vice President Heidi Schmidt and Mountain States Circuit Director Carla Johnson, had been keeping a close eye on ground conditions at this iconic rodeo and had been in constant communication with the committee. As the days went by and mother nature took its toll on Frontier Park, the WPRA ground committee phoned a friend of the industry – Randy Spraggins with Special T Tracks, known as the “Dirt Guys” – and asked if he would have the availability to stop in Cheyenne on his way back from the Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City.
WPRA President Jimmie Munroe then made a call to Tom Hirsig, President and CEO of the Cheyenne Frontier Days to get him on board with the idea and all was willing to give it try.
Randy Spraggins and Cheyenne Rodeo grounds crew repairing cloverleaf pattern prior to Thursday, July 27 performance.
Photo by Bobby Rosales
All Hands on Deck
Randy Spraggins arrived on Wednesday evening just in time for mother nature to drop a good amount of water on the arena.
“Wednesday night they received a pretty big thunderstorm, and it was a sloppy mess on Thursday,” noted Spraggins. “The committee was at their wits end, and I just asked them if they were willing to let me try to turn it around for them. Tom Hirsig and Frank Thompson agreed and told their crew to work with me and do whatever I asked.”
Wenda Johnson and Steal Money “Mo” turn in a time of 17.20 seconds on Thursday, July 27, the fastest time of the rodeo at the time following the dirt repair on the cloverleaf pattern in Cheyenne.
Photo by Click Thompson
Spraggins and the Cheyenne crew didn’t have much time to turn things around as the performance started at 1 p.m. but they got to work.
“With my main focus being on the barrel pattern I got to work on excavating the three barrel positions,” noted Spraggins. “I first had to remove the top layer so I could get to that second layer, work it and reset the foundation. Then I reapplied the top layer. I did have to rely on some old-fashioned techniques but got everything back in position by 12:35 that day.”
Wenda Johnson and Steal Money “Mo” turned in a 17.20-second run during that performance and marked one of the fastest times of the entire rodeo at the time. At that point the committee was sold on Spraggins and his ability to get safe ground for the human and animal athletes.
Sue Smith and Dashs Centerfold sped through the barrel pattern in Cheyenne during the final round stopping the clock in 16.89 seconds to set a new arena record and win the title.
Photo by Jackie Jensen
With the extended invitation by the committee, Spraggins continued to implement his skills and techniques with their crew and tools on-site and expanded the footprint to dry out the front of the bucking chutes and timed event end as well. By Saturday, things were clicking on all cylinders on the dirt front and with the hot weather and brisk breeze the moisture levels were getting balanced out to where they could apply additional water to work the ground. Spraggins felt in the back of his mind that with safe ground and the caliber of horses running in Cheyenne a sub-17 time was possible.
Proof Is In The Pudding, Or Dirt In This Situation
Randy Spraggins has truly learned the art of dirt after 40 years in the business. He came to the rodeo world via motor sports with truck and tractor pulls and a chance encounter of working with the late Jerome Robinson at an event in St. Louis. He had always had an interest in the sport of rodeo, but it was Robinson who invited him into the rodeo world, where he has remained and continues to make an impact.
“My goal for any event/rodeo committee’s ground is safety for animals and humans which then lends itself to a smoother rodeo production,” noted Spraggins. “If the ground is safe then every animal can perform to its full potential whether it be a barrel horse, bucking horse or timed event horse.”
Earlier this year, the WPRA Ground Committee also called upon Spraggins to offer consultation over the phone to RodeoHouston’s grounds crew. While his schedule at the time didn’t allow for him to be there in person, he was able to talk the crew through how to make their ground in Houston safer and the results spoke for themselves.
“Heidi was able to put a call together with RodeoHouston and I was able to take it from there,” noted Spraggins. “I told that crew that water is your friend and everyday when they would call with updates they would repeat that same saying.”
The exclamation point of Spraggins’ work in Cheyenne came on the final day of competition when his prediction of sub-17 second runs became a reality on the cloverleaf pattern at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. In fact, it didn’t just happen once but twice.
Summer Kosel was the first to set the arena record in a time of 16.97 seconds but that didn’t last long when Sue Smith and Dashs Centerfold “Centerfold” took their turn stopping the clock in 16.89 seconds.
“Everyone was overcome with joy watching the finals in Cheyenne and to see those two sub-17 second runs was the cherry on top of the transformation that Randy and the Cheyenne crew were able to bring to that arena,” noted Schmidt. “We are thankful that Tom (Hirsig) and Frank (Thompson) worked with the WPRA in extending an invitation for Randy to consult with them and their team and for Randy to agree. It truly shows when you bring the best in the business together to collaborate the end result can be incredible.
“The format in Cheyenne also worked to our advantage to allow this change to happen, while also maintaining the fairness of competition in line with our rulebook.”
The WPRA Ground Committee, made up of Schmidt, Munroe, Julie Herman (Wilderness Circuit Director), Sheena Robbins (California Circuit), Lois Ferguson (Texas Circuit) and Dillon McPherson (Montana Circuit), is actively reaching out to rodeo committees from coast to coast with the goal of making similar connections to elevate the dirt conditions that will in turn elevate the level of competition and product for the fans. However, they also ask rodeo committees to feel free to reach out to them to begin the conversation as they begin to plan for their 2024 events.
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