My boys and I raced over to Reno right after their state high school finals awards ceremony in Bishop, Calif., and got there just in time to catch Sunday afternoon’s World’s Greatest Roper short round on June 20. Californian Russell Cardoza, who currently calls Terrebonne, Ore., home, was flawless in four rounds of heading, heeling and tie-down roping for the $25,000 champ’s check, Cactus saddle and Gist buckle. Russell, 23, roped at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last December. He heeled for Charly Crawford there, and they placed in six rounds and finished third in the average.
Russell, the 2008 Columbia River Circuit all-around and team roping titlist—with B.J. Campbell—also won the 2009 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo with B.J. With a total time of 107.6 seconds on 12 runs, Russell’s margin of victory was 4.5 seconds over Texan Colby Lovell’s 112.1. Two-time World’s Greatest Roper Daniel Green, who like Cardoza is a California native, was third with 123.6 seconds on 12, and world’s fastest heeler Jade Corkill (he and Chad Masters set the 3.3-second world team roping record at NFR ’09) finished fourth in 131.7. Texan Landon McClaugherty rounded out the winner’s circle in the fifth spot with 134.8 seconds on 12 head. Golden State National Finals heeler Caleb Twisselman turned in the fastest round of the day with three runs done in 22.6 seconds for $6,000. The $71,000 World’s Greatest Roper event, which was presented by the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, is a Lazy E
Winning the World’s Greatest Roper was a really big boost with all the big rodeos coming up. This is a tough event, but I drew good and my helpers roped good. Justin Davis heeled for me in the heading, and my rodeo partner, Charly Crawford, headed for me in the heeling. Doing well in all three events feels good. I went to my first (Wrangler) Timed Event (Championship) earlier this year, and practiced hard for that too.
I wasn’t too nervous riding in to rope that last steer (he was high man back; the fourth round of heeling was last). I just didn’t want to slip a leg. Charly set that last steer up good for me, just like all the others. I like being high call back, because I don’t really like having to catch up. Then I just do what I have to do, and if I win it, I win it. If I win second, I win second. We knew we had a really good steer, so it felt pretty comfortable. This feels really good. I’ve been roping my whole life to win something like this, and it was pretty competitive.
It was my third year to enter the World’s Greatest. I won a little bit the first year, but didn’t do any good last year. I head, heel and rope calves every day, so this is a fun deal for me. I just made sure I got everything caught. At a deal like this, it’s all about no mistakes. If you make a couple mistakes you get to fighting your head and thinking about it.
I rode my 10-year-old bay mare Mo in the heading and heeling. I heel and haze on her at the rodeos. She’s who I rode at the NFR. I made her myself, and have roped on her three years now. She’d been branded on and was actually a barrel horse when I got her. After three months of arena roping, I started taking her to the rodeos.
I roped calves on John McFarland’s bay mare Lori. I borrowed her for the Timed Event too. I’ve been practicing roping calves a lot. Sam Willis has been helping me. Sam’s daughter, Sammy Jo, and I are getting married on November 6.
Winning $25,000 right before we take off for the summer will make things a little easier. This event’s called the World’s Greatest Roper, so if you win it you get called the World’s Greatest Roper for a year. The money’s good too. But it’s not just about the cash. The confidence that comes with it is probably the best part.