The competition is ‘gonna be tough’: Diné ropers saddling up for NFR
Making the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is nothing new for Erich Rogers and Derrick Begay.
The two Diné team ropers have qualified a combined 20 times with Rogers making his 11th straight trip to the NFR.
Blazing a new trail this year is Gilbert, Arizona cowgirl Danielle Lowman. The Diné cowgirl earned her first qualification in the women’s breakaway event.
“This is something that I’ve worked hard for,” said Lowman, who is currently ranked No. 8 in the world with $34,843 won in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
“I feel very fortunate to go up and down the road with these ladies,” she said. “This is something that I always wanted to do and the more I kept going, the more I got confident in my roping because you learn by just watching what they do.”
Lowman said she’s picked up a lot in her two years on the circuit by learning from ropers like Kelsie Chace and Jackie Crawford with the latter being rodeo’s most esteemed cowgirl.
“At first it was kind of overwhelming to ask them questions but once you warm up to them it got easier to be around them,” she said. “They have a lot of knowledge and I wanted to learn from the best.
“I just feel very blessed because being around them has helped my roping so much,” she said. “My roping has changed in the last two years.”
The NFR breakaway roping will take place at the Orleans Arena on Monday and Tuesday with the top 15 breakaway ropers competing for $200,000 during the two-day, 10-round performance. Each day the performances will start at 1 p.m. (MST) with five rounds on Monday and Tuesday.
Lowman said she’s dedicating her NFR debut to her late father and grandmother. Her dad, Ernie Lowman, passed away in 2013 while her grandmother Frieda J. Alex died last year due to COVID-19 complications.
“I had a rough year in 2020 but this is what she would have wanted me to do,” Lowman said of her late grandmother. “She wanted me to follow my dreams and she wanted me to push myself to be at the top.”
And now that she’s made the NFR, Lowman said she’s feeling very emotional of not having her grandmother there to watch her.
“It’s a little sad for me because she is not here to celebrate with me,” Lowman said. “Now I just gotta push forward and make her proud up there in heaven. I have to go rope for my grandma and my father because they basically made me see where I could go.
“I want to go in there and do the best that I can and hopefully it works out in my favor,” she added.
As the No. 2 team-roping header in the world, Rogers is also hoping to have things fall his way during the NFR that starts on Thursday and ends on Dec. 11 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Rogers has amassed $122,017 during the 2021 season while roping with No. 3 roper Paden Bray as the Texas cowboy has collected $116,936.
Last year the two ropers won the average race when they were a perfect 10 for 10 at the 2020 NFR, which was held in Fort Worth, Texas, due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Nevada.
“We’re just lucky and blessed to have had a great year,” Rogers said. “Hopefully when we get to Vegas we can capitalize and try to do good.”
And while they were able to rope all 10 of their draws last year, Rogers suggested that’s easier said than done.
“It’s hard regardless,” Rogers said. “It’s 10 steers in 10 nights. You just have to take it one run at a time and that’s what I have my mindset on.”
Begay is taking that same approach as he is teamed up with Washington cowboy Brady Minor. Both cowboys had to find new partners for the NFR since their regular season partners did not make the top 15 in the PRCA world standings.
“They say it’s the best 15 guys in the world,” Begay said of the NFR. “It’s one of those deals to where you have to do the best you can each night. It’s a lot harder when you try to be a certain time or when you try to beat a certain team.
“Everybody knows the competition is gonna be tough,” he added. “But if you just rope the way you do and do your own job the rest will take care of itself. That’s kind of how I’m going about it.”
With $70,893 won, the Seba Dalkai, Arizona, cowboy comes into the NFR ranked No. 11 in the world. This past year, Begay roped with Corey Petska but unfortunately the Marana, Arizona, cowboy finished the season at 17th in the world.
With that, Begay is roping with Minor, who comes in at No. 14 in the world.
“He’s a good partner,” Begay said. “He’s been there and done that. He knows all the ins and outs about rodeo, so he’s pretty smart with his rope. Everything I turn for him, I know he’s gonna catch two feet.”
And while this is his ninth qualification, this is Begay’s first one back since 2018.
“I’m glad to be back,” he said. “This is exciting but I’m getting closer to ending my career. I like to be home more but I’m just very appreciative that I’m back here in Vegas.
“I’m gonna do the best I can, and I’m gonna try to have fun,” he said. We’ll just see what happens.”