Randy Warner (second from left) and Howard Scates (third from left) hold buckles and stand in front of the saddles they won at the American Cowboys Team Roping Association national finals in Reno, Nev., Oct. 27. ANDY SCATES photo
RENO, Nev. — A miracle.
That’s all Robin Warner could say after her husband, Randy Warner of Cove, roped his way to a roping championship with teammate Howard Scates of La Grande at the American Cowboys Team Roping Association national finals in Reno, Nev., Oct. 27.
And considering what Warner and Scates had to overcome to win that title, miracle might be an understatement.
The duo out-roped more than 760 teams that signed up for the competition, set up as a four-steer average format, progressive on one.
For the non-roping aficionado, this means if you miss your first steer, you are out of the roping.
The same goes for the second and third steers. If you miss any of the first three steers you don’t make it to the short round.
Scates and Warner, both members of the La Grande Mavericks team roping club, have roped together off and on for several years at roping club practice nights and a few other ropings in Oregon and Washington.
But there was something special about this late October day in Reno.
Earlier in the week, Scates had roped with his son Andy while Warner roped with his friend Ryan Perin, but neither team quite connected for a win even though they had roped well together previously.
“We had entered the national finals roping online before we left home,” Randy Warner said.
“It is set up so if you enter early you rope later in the rotations.
“If you enter late you rope early, and we wanted to be later in the rotations.”
The 760-plus teams that signed up to rope that day were sorted into rotations of 50 teams each.
Scates and Warner were team No. 552, which meant they were team No. 2 in the 12th rotation.
“We roped our first steer relatively fast in the indoor arena on Saturday afternoon, then we went out the tunnel to an outdoor arena where we roped two more steers in decent time” Scates said.
This meant that the team had a good chance to be in the short round, where only the top 10-15 teams end up getting a check or prizes.
At this point the team was sitting in the third high-call (third place) position out of the 560 or more teams that had roped to that point.
“This is when the psychological pressure starts to really build if you let it” Randy said.
“Your emotions start stirring and you can hyperventilate or ‘choke’ when it comes time to make your final run of the day. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
“I really didn’t think we would hold our third high-call position with approximately 200 more teams left to rope before the short round, so we kind of throttled back on the pressure garbage.”
Forty-four teams made the short round out of all that had started that morning, including Randy and Howard, still in the third high-call position.
The short-round starts with the slowest to the fastest cumulative time on the three steers each team had caught to this point.
After a lengthy wait, it was finally time for Howard and Randy to rope.
“We both occupied ourselves as best we could until it was our time to back into the roping boxes. We heard ‘sixth high-call, fifth high-call, fourth high-call.’ The fourth high-call team roped and caught and now it was the moment of truth for Howard and me,” Randy said.
They each went into their respective boxes, glanced at each other to see that they were set, then Howard nodded for the release of the steer.
The team drew an average steer, not too slow or too fast.
Howard, working on the head side, roped the steer in about the seven-second hole then turned the steer. Randy made his entry for position on the steer then zeroed in on the hind legs, catching the back end.
They inched by the fourth high-call team by just 21/100ths of a second, locking down no less than a third-place finish.
“We were both hollering and congratulating each other as we watched the final two teams call for their steers,” Randy said.
The second high-call team, which roped after Howard and Randy, missed. That moved the duo into second place, which pays out to go along with reserve national champion saddles.
Now there was just one last team to go.
“We couldn’t stand it. We went back down the out-tunnel to watch the final team go,” Howard said.
The last team safetied up and let the steer out.
The header caught the steer toward the far end of the arena, but the heeler missed.
“We went ballistic, bumped fists, shook hands and slapped backs. We were now national finals champion ropers of the 30th Anniversary of the American Cowboys Team Roping Association. We could hear Andy, Ryan and Robin celebrating in the arena seating area as we rode around to the front of the facility to put our horses up and get ready for the awards presentation ceremony,” Howard said.
“It was our day,” Randy added. “We were successful in not beating ourselves and Howard did a great job catching and handling all four steers.”
But it is called team roping for a reason.
“It takes a team to compete and win: five brains reacting, five hearts beating, twelve legs running.,” Howard said.
With the victory Howard and Randy walked away with $$$$, 30th anniversary ACTRA saddles, buckles and Wrangler gift certificates.
The victory was extra special for Randy, who four years ago broke the humerus in his left arm.
He lost the use of the arm due to severe radial nerve damage.
After surgery and about 18 months of physical therapy, he was back roping.
And now, just four years later, he can call himself a national champion team roper.
Miracles really do happen.