SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Tuf Cooper was in attendance at EnergySolutions Arena two years ago when Fred Whitfield broke the tie-down roping arena record with a 7.0-second run.
He still remembers how crazy the crowd went that night. On Saturday night, the packed house went wild for the 24-year-old Cooper, who shattered Whitfield’s record with a run of 6.6 seconds.
“I was there when Fred set the record in 2012,” Cooper said. “The rodeo setup in Salt Lake is inside a basketball court (where the Utah Jazz play), and it’s set up for fast times. That’s what the fans want to see there, just like at the (Wrangler) NFR.”
Cooper indeed delivered for the fans in attendance Saturday night, not only putting his name in the record books, but earning $5,072 for winning the Days of ’47 Rodeo.
“Right in the middle of my run, I felt like I could’ve had the world record (6.3 seconds); it felt that fast,” Cooper said. “Once the run started off fast I thought I could get it, so I went as quick as I could.
“It’s cool to see the event evolve to allow these faster times, and to break a record Fred had is really awesome. He didn’t say anything about it tonight, and he probably doesn’t even know he had the record because he has so many of them. When you break one of his records, you know you’re on the right path.”
Cooper came into the weekend with a $35,201 lead over second-place Hunter Herrin in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings.
He’s had a big 2014 so far – already eclipsing $100,000 in earnings this season – and says not winning the world title last year was a big motivating factor for how he’s competing this season.
“I’m mad at myself for last year, and I’m trying to be as aggressive as I possibly can every day,” said Cooper, who won world titles in 2011 and 2012. “Also, my horsepower has been great this year, and that has made a difference too.”
As Cooper continues to lengthen the distance between himself and the rest of the pack, he says staying motivated to keep the gas pedal down is easy.
“I just remember what happened last year,” he said. “And then I look at what Kaycee (Feild) is doing in the bareback riding. He has an even bigger lead in his event than I do, and he sure isn’t slowing down. I want to do as well as I possibly can every day, and I’m not backing off for a single second.”
Even with all of his accomplishments so far in his young career, Cooper still took a moment to enjoy the fact that he set a record Saturday night.
“To tie one that fast is always great, and to show up next year and see that I have the arena record will be nice,” he said. “I’ll have it at least for a year, and hopefully I’ll break it again next year. I just want to thank everyone who works in rodeo for giving me the chance to do this for a living.”
Other winners at the $246,419 rodeo were bareback rider Winn Ratliff (86 points on Diamond G Rodeo’s Zion’s Iron Age), steer wrestler Wyatt Smith (3.6 seconds), team ropers Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton (4.0 seconds), saddle bronc rider Rusty Allen (90 points on Flying 5 Rodeo’s Spring Planting), barrel racer Nancy Hunter (13.05 seconds) and bull riders Caleb Sanderson (85 points on Diamond G Rodeo’s Hair Trigger), Trey Benton III (85 points on Diamond G Rodeo’s Zion’s Lil’ America) and Tim Bingham (85 points on Diamond G Rodeo’s Mud Man).
Courtesy of PRCA