By: Kendra Santos
Breakaway roping isn’t the only boom in women’s rodeo right now. Fact is, cowgirls have been holding their own in the team roping for a very long time. But developing the skill set it takes to step onto the biggest stages to rope for tall dollars as both a header and a heeler is no easy feat. And a staggering 32 wolfy women are doing just that here this week at the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s $750,000 Women’s Rodeo World Championship at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.
To put this talent and versatility into perspective, as of this year only nine men in history— Trevor Brazile, JD Yates, Speed Williams, Walt Rodman, David Motes, Mark Simon and Bret Beach, plus Clint Summers and Quinn Kesler in 2021—have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as both headers and heelers. The list of handy cowgirls here at the WRWC is long and impressive, and includes Jackie Crawford, Jimmi Jo Montera, Whitney DeSalvo, Lari Dee Guy, Hope Thompson, Kelsi Chace Domer, Martha Angelone, Maryann Miller, Nasia Chapman, Cadee Williams, Rylea Fabrizio, Ruby Magnus, Bailey Gubert, Justine Doka, Bailey Bates, Cindy Welling, Annette Stahl, Fallon Doka, Kylie McLean, Danielle Lowman, Kim Grubbs, Criquette Scott, Megan Gunther, Kennlee Tate, Rylie Smith, Shadee Langston, Christy McClary, Kaitlyn Torres, Heather Rogers, Maelee Heart, Eskie Heart and Bailey Kretschmer, who just happens to be the little sister of three-time World Champion Heeler Jade Corkill.
The “why” is because the WCRA treats heading and heeling as two separate events, and allows these talented women to count them as separate events toward this week’s coveted all-around title, which comes with a Coat’s trophy saddle and $20,000 bonus check. The “how” is the depth of handiness in this WRWC field.
“Anytime they’ll allow us to head and heel as separate events for $60 grand in both, heck yeah,” said cowgirl kingpin Crawford. “Plus, the all-around is such a big deal here. It’s not just a buckle, it pays $20,000. So I’m going to have all my guns loaded.”
Crawford struck for the $20,000 all-around bonus at the inaugural WRWC in Texas last year, where the third annual WRWC will be held in conjunction with the Professional Bull Riders World Finals next May.
Jimmi Jo Montera is a world-class heeler who’s also heading here at the South Point.
“I have such good headers on a regular basis that I’d be silly to head if it was just a straight team roping,” Montera said. “But since it’s two separate events with equal money to be won on both sides, why not rope both ends? It’s fun, and I can qualify for the all-around in the team roping alone. Don’t get me wrong—I’d rather heel for Lari Dee, if I had to pick one. But when we can do both, and it makes sense, we will.”
Whitney DeSalvo is the first woman ever to be ranked a #8 heeler. She’s heading here at the WRWC, too.
“I actually head a lot at home, because where I work, the oldest grandson heels and I turn him a lot of steers,” Whitney said. “So I head about every day for him. I’m heading here for Shelby Boisjoli (who will lead the Top 15 breakaway ropers into this year’s Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping here at The Orleans in December). A lot of people think of Shelby as a breakaway roper now, but when she first came here from Canada, she heeled a lot. When the breakaway took off, that became her main event. But Shelby heels awesome, too.
“There’s a lot to like about the WCRA, including not having to chase points across the entire country all the time, if you don’t want to. And because we were in the top 30 on the leaderboard, we didn’t have to pay any entry fees to rope here. That really makes it a no-brainer to do it all, and it’s fun. What’s not to like about getting to run at $60,000 two different ways? Thank you, WCRA.”