LAS VEGAS — Riding a horse called Hollywood, Sawyer Gilbert wrote a story with her breakaway rope during the Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping that could rival the best stories on the silver screen.
The 19-year-old phenom from South Dakota claimed her first world championship with a dramatic come-from-behind effort during the second and final day of the Wrangler NFBR. She entered the Finals ranked second in the world standings.
“This was my dream before it was even possible,” Gilbert said after clinching the title in the Orleans Arena, Dec. 7. “I always wanted to be a world champion.”
Noting she got on a horse the first time her mother let her out of the house, and that dad Lloyd showed her how to rope not long after that, Gilbert said her gold buckle season began in Cheyenne.
“Cheyenne on was when I stepped up, knew that I could do it and kind of believed in myself,” she said. “That was definitely the turning point to my season.”
Gilbert went to the lead in the standings following a win in Pendleton, Ore., then slid back to second after finishing second at the ProRodeo Tour Finale in Salinas, Calif., behind regular season leader Shelby Boisjoli.
During the opening day of the second Wrangler NFBR, Gilbert stayed solid, roping all five calves but a broken barrier had her third in the average at the halfway point. She came out swinging on the final day, earning a share of the Round 6 win with Kelsie Domer with a run of 2.0 seconds. She also inched up a spot in the average when Taylor Munsell took a no time.
Gilbert relied mostly upon her good sorrel mare Hollywood, though she jumped on her paint horse Roger for a round or two on Monday.
“My paint horse kind of made me, we grew up together,” Gilbert said. “But getting back to Hollywood on Tuesday was necessary. She fit the set up a little bit better, she was trying harder out in the field. Those calves were sure getting it today so I definitely felt that I wanted to be on the fastest horse.”
The tide changed when rock solid Boisjoli took a no time in Round 8, leaving Gilbert as the only roper to have stopped the clock on every calf. Even a heartbreaking barrier penalty in round9 did not slow the momentum.
“I rope aggressive, that’s just the way that I’ve always done it,” Gilbert said.
The competitors roped in reverse order of the standings in Round 10, leaving Boisjoli and Gilbert as the last to rope with Gilbert just $86 ahead.
“I’m pretty sure my dad knew but I told him not to tell me,” she said when asked if she was aware of the situation. “I just knew that I was ahead in the average and I knew that even if I broke the barrier, all I had to do was catch.”
Determined to do whatever she could to grab the buckle away from the teenager, Boisjoli stuck one on in 2.1 seconds to win second in the go. Gilbert answered with a 2.5, enough to grab the final check in the round and secure the average win.
Gilbert’s 46.3 second time on 10 head was worth $11,313. Munsell was second at 25.1 seconds on nine head, while Boisjoli was third at 33.6 on nine. Munsell was the high money earner of the event with $20,421.
Gilbert earned $19,532 after placing in five rounds during the Finals to claim her first world title by just $2,197. She won $71,654 at ProRodeos in 2021.
“Every moment of my life has probably been leading up to this but there’s a lot more to come,” Gilbert said. “This isn’t going be the last one.”
Courtesy of PRCA