Team Ropers Make Up for Lost Time in Abilene

by Jim Bainbridge
By Ruth Nicolaus/for the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo committee

ABILENE, Kan. – Team ropers Colby Lovell and Travis Graves are making up for lost time.

After not starting their rodeo season till early May, there are starting to gain ground in their quest for a berth in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Dec. 1-10.

Their 3.9-second run at Eisenhower Park earned them the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo title and checks for $2,367 each, which will help them advance toward the goal of another qualification for the WNFR.

They also won Kansas’ Biggest Rodeo in Phillipsburg in 3.8 for another $2,880 each.

Graves, who is 32 years old, has qualified for the sport’s Super Bowl seven times, while Lovell, 29, has been there five times.

Their run in Abilene was smooth. “We had a good steer, and Colby did a great job,” Graves said. “Sometimes everything goes good, and this was one of those times that everything went good. We’ll take it.”

Lovell and Graves have roped together since May, and Lovell was complimentary of his heeler.

“Travis is one of the best heelers there is. So if you turn one that fast, and turn one for money, he’s going to catch and finish the job. We just made a good run on the steer we had.”

The duo shares a common goal: a world championship. “He has the same goal I have,” Lovell said. “I came real close to winning the world (title) in the tenth round last year, and I lost my rope. We set a goal this year, to do whatever it takes, to win a gold buckle.”

Team roping may look easy to an outsider, but it isn’t, Lovell said.

“There are all kinds of things that play a role when you’re team roping and you’re trying to be that fast. You can’t stub your toe, and nothing can go wrong. It’s a chemistry, and when you get somebody you can win good with, it’s fun to rodeo.”

Lovell and Graves are both ranked in the top 15 in the WEATHER GUARD PURCA World Standings; Lovell is in sixth place on the heading side and Graves is 11th among heelers.

Bull rider Sage Kimzey tied for the win with his 85.5-point ride on Andrews Rodeo’s Bell Ringer.

The two met up two years ago in San Antonio, during his rookie year, when he made an 89-point ride on Bell Ringer. “That was the ride that propelled me and established me as one of the top guys. It put me on the map.”

Kimzey is ranked first in the world standings, and his year has been good. A win last week at Cheyenne Frontier Days “capped off the really hard part of our summer run,” he said. “I’m still just plugging away. It’s all about how bad you want it right now,” he said, referring to the busiest part of the rodeo season. “We’re all tired, we’re all homesick, we’re all beat up and sore. You really just see the guys who have the heart to make the (Wrangler National) Finals, and the guys who don’t want it bad enough.”

“This is the time of year that separates who really wants it and is craving it, and who might have a little bit of doubt or negligence to dedicate themselves.”

Chad German, of Groesbeck, Texas, also scored 85.5 points in the bull riding aboard Andrews Rodeo’s No. T76 to split the championship.

Barrel racer Jane Melby edged out her daughter Cayla Melby by a hundredth of a second to become the Abilene rodeo champion. The Burneyville, Okla. woman rounded the barrels in 17.39 seconds, with her daughter, Cayla, following in 17.40.

Other 2016 champions were bareback rider Tanner Phipps, Dalton, Texas (84.5 points), steer wrestler Chancey Larson, Manhattan, Kan. (3.6 seconds), saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M. (85 points), and tie-down roper Marcus Theriot, Poplarville, Miss. (7.9 seconds).

Next year’s rodeo will be August 2-5, 2017. For complete rodeo results, visit For more information on the rodeo, visit

Courtesy of PRCA