Just because Fort Hays State University's Rodeo Team is in its off-season, members don't hang up their hats until their next rodeo in February. Although most have continued practice and competition over the break, none have had quite the success as Andover freshman Gage Blair.
At a United States Team Roping Championships Shoot-out on Jan. 1-3 in Guthrie, Okla., Blair won a total of $9,797.50. Although his team roping earnings actually totaled $19,595, that number was split up between Blair and his heelers.
For Blair, winning nearly 10 grand on the first day of 2010 was quite a way to kick off the new year.
"It gave me the motivation and excitement for the whole 2010 year," said Blair.
But he gives credit where credit is due. He knows he couldn’t have done so well without a great horse and fantastic partners. After all, it is a team sport.
"I couldn’t have asked my horse to work any better than he did, and I couldn't have asked my partners to do any better than they did," Blair said.
The Guthrie roping, held at the famous Lazy E Arena, was one of the first of the 2010 USTRC season. The total payout was $279,325.
Blair is in his third year roping in the USTRC. He also had quite a bit of success in the 2009 season, winning two regional shootouts as well as a national shootout that qualified him for the national finals.
Blair hopes to qualify for the finals a second consecutive year.
"Last year I went to nationals, and that's my goal this year."
At Guthrie, Blair teamed up with four different heeling partners, with which he made 12 fast, clean runs.
In the USTRC, team ropers are classified into divisions based on their team roping skill, and a team roper can be labeled anywhere from a No. 1 roper to a No. 10, with the latter being the highest level of skill. When a roper teams up with a partner, their two classification numbers add up to indicate which division they will compete in. For example, two No. 6 ropers compete in the No. 12 division.
In the No. 12 division average, Blair was 34.65 seconds on four head with T.C. Dawson, Haviland, also teaming up once with Gable Hilderbrand, Bartlett, in the No. 12 for a time of 6.66, as well as an additional run with Dawson for a time of 5.56.
He won the largest sum of cash in the No. 10 division average, in which he and partner Latigo Petersen, Syracuse, were 32.27 seconds on four head, winning the two ropers $16,540 and a regional shootout title.
Blair and Petersen were a mere 0.98 seconds shy from taking home the national shootout title and qualifying for the national finals on their first go of the season.
"Latigo and I went out and attacked our first three steers like we should have, but the final steer, I give all the credit to my heeler for how he roped him," Blair said. "He didn't hesitate at all and couldn’t have roped him any better than he did."
In the No. 10 division, Blair also roped once with Brett Christenson, Alva, Okla. The pair pocketed a little more than $1,000.
For more information on team roping and the USTRC, visit the Web site at www.ustrc.com. For more information on the FHSU Rodeo Team, contact advisor Garry Brower at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 628-4366.