By: Jolee Jordan
On Sunday, November 8, barrel racers will dart down the alley at Will Rogers Memorial Center, kicking off what promises to be the most lucrative week for female rodeo athletes in the history of professional rodeo.
As the most established women’s event in the sport, it’s fitting that the barrel racers get the party started. But for the first time, women competing in multiple disciplines, including team roping and breakaway roping, will also have their chance to rope in a piece of the huge purses offered November 8-15 across three separate events and four venues in Texas.
Headlining the week is the Women’s Rodeo World Championship presented in partnership by the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). The event guarantees a $750,000 payout and culminates in Main Event Championship Rounds held in conjunction with the PBR World Finals in Arlington, Texas, on November 13-15.
When combined with The Cowgirl Gathering and the WPRA World Finals also contesting that week, a historic $1.2 million is projected to be paid out to female rodeo competitors across the eight days.
It’s a long way from a fall weekend in September 1947 in Amarillo, Texas, when ranch cowgirls Thena Mae Farr and Nancy Binford produced the Tri-State All Girls Rodeo, not the first rodeo ever held just for women, but the most successful and significant to that point. The ladies not only competed in every rodeo event, but they also took on every role in the production from fighting bulls to serving as pickup men (in this case, wo-men). The success of that event led to the formation of the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) the following year which eventually became the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA), long the sole association promoting women in rodeo.
But with the addition of women’s breakaway roping at WCRA Major events as well as the explosion of large payout jackpot events for lady ropers in the last few years, the future ability of ladies who don’t run barrels to make their living inside rodeo arenas has skyrocketed.
“Women’s Rodeo World Championship is the type of event we’ve been waiting for our whole lives,” said roper Lari Dee Guy, an eight-time World Champion in the WPRA in every roping discipline offered. “To say it’s historic for women’s rodeo is underplaying it. They came out of the gate with something so above and beyond for the ladies of the sport, and we are so lucky to have this opportunity.”
As competitive opportunities expanded in single events, ladies were often forced to choose which discipline in which to compete on a given day, a problem solved by the Women’s Rodeo World Championship. Not only the largest payout for an all-women’s event ever, it also includes more than one discipline, giving ladies the opportunity to show off the diversity of their skills.
And every event pays the same, including both ends of the team roping—$60,000 to the winner with a $20,000 bonus to the All Around Champ.
The purse isn’t just top-loaded either — the event will write out 312 checks with the average amount being paid per check a robust $2,400.
“It’s super crazy… I just found out that I get to go heel for $750,000,” said Macy Fuller, the 2014 College National Champion Breakaway Roper and All Around Cowgirl. “I’m the girl who sold her breakaway horse when I graduated from college because I thought, ‘Breakaway is over for me.’
“I never thought I’d be roping for this kind of money, and on the stages they’re offering now. It’s awesome.”
In addition to the size of the purse, the Women’s Rodeo World Championship is also unique in its structure, using a tiered approach that gives female rodeo competitors of every skill level an opportunity to get to the final round. This approach is designed to level the playing field by placing competitors of comparable skill, using earnings and rankings in the respective disciplines as the gauge, into their own competition pools, whether Pro or Challenger.
“The WCRA has tiered the championship event, giving athletes of all skill level a chance at that $60,000 paycheck,” said Guy. “There has never been a time for women rodeo athletes like this, and the WCRA has stepped up in a big way for women from its inception.”
“It’s a good time to be a cowgirl,” added Fuller.
Open entries began in July and will close at 11:59 p.m. CT on October 25. WCRA Pool entries open October 27 at Noon CT and close October 29 at 5 p.m. CT. You must enter by first registering at entrytool.com and then completing the on-line entry process including payment.
Late entries for the Open to the World will be taken beginning November 2 at Noon CT and close November 6 at 5 p.m. CT. There will be no walk up entries taken on site.
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