Get ready for some changes in this year’s Junior World Finals team roping competition.
Whitney Mitchell has replaced Bret Beach as the producer of the event, but this isn’t her first (Junior World Finals) rodeo. Mitchell first got involved two years ago when she created a website (juniorworldteamroping.com) to help the contestants and their families get information about the event as well as provide standings.
“I basically took it on as a side project to help the kids and the parents,” Mitchell explained. “And then I started helping with the finals … getting information from the kids and building that into the website.” Mitchell and her husband, two-time National Finals Rodeo team roping header Spencer Mitchell, took a more hands-on approach last year. While Beach was in the arena coordinating the event and Spencer served as a flagger, Whitney did most of her work behind the scenes.
“I was more in the background last year,” she said. “One thing I did was make sure the kids were in line in the alleyway before they competed. It was a lot of work because there were a lot of things, like the draw sheets and the order in which the kids would compete, I didn’t realize we needed to get to the contestants until we were already there. Last year was our first year being involved there and it was a learning experience. There are a lot of moving parts.”
Mitchell has been working to make sure this year’s team roping, which runs Dec. 6-10 at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, is more streamlined for everyone involved.
“I’ve really pushed our email newsletters and text communications,” she said. “We’ve implemented a lot of technology this year that will really help us and help the contestants. During the finals, I can text the contestants so that helps with our communication and it really helps our event run more smoothly.”
Mitchell also has changed the team roping divisions. The Open Division remains, but the #10.5 Division has been changed to the #9.5 Division. According to Mitchell, the benefits of lowering the division are two-fold.
“First of all, it increased our membership by probably 20 percent,” she said. “And I feel like the kids that are a lower number feel more comfortable in lower-numbered roping because they’re not competing against higher-numbered kids. We did this for the kids that are new to the sport and are still learning. And I feel like it has been well received by the contestants and their parents.”
As for those #10.5 ropers who can’t compete in the lower division, Mitchell has some words of advice. “My goal is to make these contestants understand that this is a stepping stone to something much bigger,” she said. “They don’t need to worry about being able to rope in the lower division, they need to worry about raising their number and being able to compete in the higher division and being the best they can.
“Our goal is to push these kids to be better and to compete at that next level so they can get to the Thomas & Mack.”
No matter what division the contestants are competing in, Mitchell helped ensure that this year’s team ropers will be roping the best stock. “We had a very generous donation from Chris and Kenna Francis, who supply all the cattle for the roping at South Point,” Mitchell stated. “They have agreed to donate a herd of cattle each day for our roping and that’s going to save us about $5,000 that will go back to the kids and their payout. The cattle quality is going to be 10-fold what it was last year so that’s really exciting.”
Mitchell is still working on increasing the payout, which is currently $20,000 for each event. And she and her husband are once again reaching out to PRCA team ropers to help at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena. “One thing we did last year is every single day we had somebody who was competing in the team roping at the NFR come and flag for us,” she said. “They would donate an hour of their time each day and come flag for the kids. When you’re a heeler and you have somebody like Wesley Thorp flagging it’s a big deal.”
With the 2022 Junior World Finals just three weeks away, Mitchell is still hard at work putting the finishing touches on this year’s team roping event.
“As far as running the event I’m not worried about that,” she said. “I just want this to be as good as it can possibly be for the kids and their parents.”