RODEO: ProAm Heeler event provides learning experience for team roping competitors

Every year, the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo’s Super Tuesday roping competition gives spectators a chance to see some of the world’s top ropers show off their craft.

This year was no different, as Trey Yates, Kaleb Driggers, Junior Nogueira and many more were in attendance Tuesday at the Ector County Coliseum.

It was the start of a new season for the professional ropers, as some of them were fresh off appearances at the National Finals Rodeo, which took place in December in Las Vegas.

Yates was one of the competitors who was opening his campaign in a familiar setting.

“This is our first rodeo, we placed in the jackpot today and had a little bad luck to win first but I’m looking forward to the rodeo tomorrow and roping with Tyler [Wade] again,” Yates said. “I’m pretty lucky to have a good partner and looking forward to big things this year.”

Yates and Wade were able to strengthen their team roping connection throughout 2021, winning six rodeos before making their way to the National Finals Rodeo.

It was the second time Yates had advanced to the competition in his professional career, with 2018 marking his first appearance where he won the average and placed third in the world standings.

The teamwork between Yates and Wade has improved as they have become comfortable working with each other since that 2018 season.

“We roped all last year, we roped in the winter of 2018 and we had a good year last year,” Yates said. “We get along good, we rope good together.

“We’re friends and it just makes it that much more fun.”

Although the duo competed together in multiple events during the Super Tuesday showing, both also got the chance to test out how they worked with other teammates.

As is customary with the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo, ProAm Heeler and Header events were held where professional ropers are paired with amateur competitors.

Most of the amateur ropers had ties to the area, including Yates’ partner in the ProAm Heeler event.

Yates had two runs with Brady Howard, a freshman from the Odessa College rodeo team.

The team didn’t have the strongest showing in its second run, but came away with a time of 8.98 seconds in its first run with Howard serving as the header.

Yates said it was a different experience working with a partner he doesn’t usually rope with, but he felt it’s a positive that helps multiple people at rodeos.

“It’s cool, the horizons that this sport brings and the people you meet,” Yates said. “These ProAms are fun, you meet people and get to rope with them.

“The connections you make potentially last a lifetime, so it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”

It wasn’t too long ago that Yates was in a similar position to Howard, looking to make his mark on the professional side of rodeo through college.

Yates won the College National Finals Rodeo’s team roping championship in 2018 alongside Kellan Johnson and has made the most of his professional opportunities since then.

This year marks the sixth time that Yates has made his way out to Odessa, looking to add more money to his career earnings and get a strong start on qualification for the 2022 NFR.

Yates said he wishes he would have done better for Howard in their performance, but he hopes the experience stands out to the young roper for the future.

“I just hope that he remembers it, I know I will,” Yates said. “Maybe a year from now he’s here at the roping, we get to do it again and have a little success. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya