By Josh Allen, ONL Staff Reporter
Imagine hearing thousands of fans whooping and hollering while sitting atop a horse during the heat of competition. A head nod sends a calf out of a shoot with the quick action and speed of the horse underneath following quickly behind.
In less than a couple seconds, the rider throws a rope, lassoing the calf. The pull of the calf breaks the rope from the rider’s saddle horn, a buzzer goes off, the crowd kind of hushes a moment and an announcer reads off a time.
So it goes in youth breakaway roping. Gannyn Gower knows this feeling well. The 17-year-old Mason senior just took a second place finish at Shawnee’s International Youth Finals Rodeo (IYFR).
Her fastest roping time was 1.9 seconds, and out of 237 other ropers, Gower’s three-go-round average was the second highest.
That’s a feat she is proud of. The IYFR is a week-long rodeo that brings kids from all over the world to compete in the various different categories of rodeoing, from roping to bull riding to barrel racing and so on.
The young Gower said she has been roping since she was old enough to walk.
“My dad taught me how to rope,” she said. “I’ve been throwing around a rope for as long as I can remember.”
Now the young girl ropes all over Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri as a frequent competitor on the American Cowboy Rodeo Association (ACRA) rodeo circuit.
“Roping is really special to me because it keeps me in line, keeps me focused,” Gower said.
It’s deeper for the young girl than just that, though. There are emotional reasons the young lady is a die-hard roper.
“My brother was a bull rider and calf roper … he passed away after a battle with cancer eight years ago, so every time I rope, I do it for him,” she said. “But also for my grandfather, who came to every rodeo and supported me always. He passed away in January. It’s special because I rope for them.”
Gower will be rodeoing in Choctaw Friday and Pawnee Saturday morning. She said she needs to continue placing at the top, in order to be able to compete in the ACRA Finals, to be held in Springfield, Missouri at the end of September.
Throughout the year, ACRA competitors work to win the prize money given for the top spots. Those that win the most money throughout September and end up in the top 15 qualify for the ACRA Finals.
Currently, first place is sitting on about $2,000 in prize money. Gower said she is teetering on the edge — “almost, but not quite, in the top 15.”
“I have to keep winning if I am going to make it,” she said. “I think I will, I just have to work hard and go out there and be faster. I have to stay focused and do what I know best.”
Gower said she doesn’t just do it for competition. She loves roping for the sake of roping, and, most importantly, she said she loves working with young kids and seeing them become successful ropers in some form or fashion, whether rodeoing or just for fun.
“I love teaching kids how to rope,” she said. “I have a bunch of kids I work with, and it is so exciting to see them rope their first calf or get good enough to compete and win a little money. It’s all so exciting to see them take what I’ve taught them and do well.”
“I love that part the most,” she added.