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Ferrell earns PRCA team roping honors

Sunday, December 11, 2005

(Photo)
Ty Ferrell of Sikeston ropes a steer during the PRCA's Will Rogers Stampede.
SIKESTON -- When Ty Ferrell competes in front of hometown fans at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo for the first time next year, it will be as the circuit's champion heeler.

To win the championship, Ferrell accumulated the most win earnings as a heeler in team roping competitions in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's Great Lakes Circuit during 2005.

Ferrell said this championship was "much more rewarding" than making it to the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, last year. "I've reached one of my main goals," he said.

Additionally, Ferrell's partner, Gabe Gwaltney of Joplin was first among team roping headers.

Team roping is the only true team rodeo sport, according to the PRCA Web site. Two mounted ropers - a "header" and a "heeler" - team up to lasso a steer and immobilize it.

The header first ropes the steer's head, removes the slack, and cinches the rope around his saddle horn to lead the steer "in tow" behind him. Once this is achieved, the heeler ropes the steer's hind legs.

Time stops when both ropes are tight and both horses are lined up facing the steer. The sport's top competitors do this all in about four seconds.

Ferrell, who has been roping since he was big enough to ride a horse, has been both header and heeler over the years but lately has focused on heeling.

Ferrell actually started the year partnered with Cory Smothers of Henryville, Ind.

"We won the Cape Girardeau rodeo last year," he recalled. "Around April, he got a job roping for a guy in Wisconsin and that left me without a partner so I started roping with Ben Ray of Murray, Ky., who is who I roped with last year."

Ferrell worked with Ray for about three or four weeks before another change came along.

"Right at the end of May I got a call from Gabe Gwaltney," Ferrell said. "Him and his partner had split up and he wanted to know if I wanted to rope with him. The only way we could rope together was if I moved to Joplin, so I up and moved with about $600 in my bank account. It was stressful because $600 would only go about one weekend."

Fortunately for Ferrell, he won about $2,000 on their first rodeo, "so it was a really good start. That took the stress off for awhile."

By the second weekend of July, Ferrell and Gwaltney were 11th in the circuit.

At Spooner, Wis., the biggest rodeo in the circuit last year with a team roping event, Ferrell and his partner had another big day: "We won second there and that moved us up toward winning the circuit."

From that point, they led the circuit until mid-August. "Then our traveling partners, Jeff Brown and Cody Graham, ended up having a hot streak and moved ahead of us," Ferrell recalled.

"Going into the circuit finals at Louisville, Ky., I was $1,200 out of first place," Ferrell said. The team roping competition had three go-arounds, each worth about $1,000.

In the first go-around, they won with a time of 6.4 seconds, putting Ferrell just $200 shy of first place for the season.

Then his team had a serious setback. Before competing in the second round, both of Gwaltney's horses got injured.

Using a borrowed header horse, Gwaltney almost nearly missed the steer in the second go-around but finished with a time of 12.2 seconds.

Their traveling partners, who were leading the competition, had an even worse round leaving Ferrell and Gwaltney a chance for victory in the third go-

around. "They came out and missed, so all we had to do is make a clean run," Ferrell said.

Ferrell and his partner finished at 6.5 seconds in their third go-around, putting them back in the running for the championships. "Then the two teams after us missed so we knew we won the circuit," Ferrell said.

Ferrell said it was a nice end for his rookie season - a season of ups and downs, among them the death of his heeling horse.

"It's great when you're winning, and really stressful when you're not," Ferrell said. "This year I was full time - that was my only income."

Ferrell is currently ranked 8th in the Resistol Rookie Standings for team roping heelers, a standing he accomplished while competing in about half the number of rodeos as most of the rookies on the list.

In 2006, Ferrell will team up with Smothers again. Around the first of the year they are headed to Denver to compete. "We should get back about the middle of February," he said.

Among the highlights for this coming year will be competing at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo. "This year team roping has become a standard event along with all the others," Ferrell said.