Willow Raley and Gary Rodarmel were among 126 teams entered in the jackpot team roping event at the Routt County Fair in Hayden. Raley, who lives in Baggs, Wyo., earned notoriety this summer when she became the first woman ever to qualify for the short round of team roping at Cheyenne Frontier Days, one of the biggest pro rodeos in the West.

Photo by Tom Ross

Willow Raley and Gary Rodarmel were among 126 teams entered in the jackpot team roping event at the Routt County Fair in Hayden. Raley, who lives in Baggs, Wyo., earned notoriety this summer when she became the first woman ever to qualify for the short round of team roping at Cheyenne Frontier Days, one of the biggest pro rodeos in the West.

Team roper who made history at Cheyenne Frontier Days takes part in Routt County Fair

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Willow Raley, of Baggs, Wyo., and partner Pake Younger, of Grand Junction, placed 12th among 150 teams at the 117th Cheyenne Frontier Days pro rodeo, known as the granddaddy of them all, in July.

— The team roping duo of Jack Terrill, of Craig, and Chad Braun, of Baggs, Wyo., were the early leaders at the Routt County Fair in Hayden on Wednesday night, but it was one unassuming young woman in the field from Baggs, Willow Raley, who stood out from the rest after claiming a piece of pro rodeo history this summer on one of rodeo’s biggest stages.

Raley out of the slack field with roping partner Pake Younger, of Grand Junction, placed 12th out of 150 professional teams at Cheyenne Frontier Days in July. The duo actually ranked second after the first round of competition, and Raley became the first woman ever to make the short round and win prize money at Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne.

The team roping was poised to continue until at least 11 p.m. and possibly as late as midnight at the Routt County Fair on Wednesday with 126 teams entered in a tournament format. Competitors came from as far away as Jensen, Utah, and Grand Junction, and they represented largely the same crew that has been turning out for team roping at the Routt County Fairgrounds on Thursday nights all summer, so the competition was very familiar.

Raley, who ropes almost every weekend at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, said there are a lot of variables in team roping that can’t be controlled, and she was far from being assured of winning at the county fair.

Raley has roped with her husband, Aaron, who was taking part Wednesday night, for many years but roped header with quite a few cowboys at the fair in Hayden.

Before warming up a roan gelding for the night’s competition, she said the best roping horses are exceptionally quick and respond precisely to reining.

In Cheyenne, where team ropers compete in front of 25,000 people, there is a bigger premium on speed horses than usual because the steers are given an unusually long head start of 30 feet out of the chute. That means the header must catch up to the steer exceptionally quickly if the team is to stand a chance of a high placement.

“I rode a stud horse named PC Marzwood in Cheyenne,” Raley said. “He’s a really fast horse.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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