Sanders: Harris team ropers |

Sanders: Harris team ropers

Everyone knows the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was held at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas recently. What may not be common knowledge is that the World Series of Team Roping is held during the same time frame.

The words 'world series' gives the impression there is money to be made — and there is — lots of money.

The WSTR event is held in Las Vegas at the South Point complex that offers an arena and air-conditioned stalls for 1,200 horses. The South Point Hotel consists of three towers with each one containing 25 floors. There are 2,163 rooms within the complex.

Jess and Tabitha Harris, an Oral, S.D., couple, qualified for the world series earlier in the year. To qualify, ropers have to participate in a WSTR sanctioned event, accumulate $5,000 per team over several events, or win first or second in a sanctioned event. Entry fees for sanctioned events are $150 per person and a person can enter twice. This qualification earns each roper a spot in the world series finale in Las Vegas and also pays the entry fee of $2,000 per person for that series.

“Six-hundred-and-fourty teams roped three steers and the 55 teams that roped the fastest, made it into the short go (the final round).”

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Sanctioned ropings are held across the country. The teams practice when they can get together which sometimes includes jackpots. The Harris's go to several of the closer sanctioned competitions such as Billings, Mont., Rapid City, S.D., Cheyenne, Wyo., and some in Colorado. The Cheyenne team roping is held at the same time as Frontier Days, but is a separate competition. Jess won $23,000 at Cheyenne this summer. In 2015 he earned $200,000 at Reno.

Team ropers are individually rated from a 1 (beginner) to a 9, which are NFR-quality contestants. Tab, who is a header, is rated a four and Jess is a six and he heels. They have found partners with whom their styles and successes are compatible. Tab has roped with John Phillips of Casper, Wyo., for the past two years. Jess and Jeff Jasper, Sturgis, S.D., have teamed up for the past year.

Six-hundred-and-fourty teams roped three steers and the 55 teams that roped the fastest, made it into the short go (the final round). Each of those teams won $6,000 by virtue of attaining that level. Jess and Jeff were among them and when it was over, their team had won another $11,000.

Tab and John competed against 350 teams to get to what is called the finale in their division, which included 28 teams. They came in second and the team took home $152,000. The winning team of Sam Lunceford, Salem, Utah, and Brett Barrow, Vernal, Utah, earned $202,000.

Denny Gentry, founder of the WSTR 28 years ago, is the top man in putting on the world series. His wife, Connie, is the organizer behind the scenes.

"This year we had 4,000 contestants at the finals," Denny said. "Total payout for the seven divisions was right around $12.4 million for the week. The owner at South Point keeps improving the place so we keep going back."

Talk about a cowboy Christmas! ❖