August 28, 2011 -- Spencer Mitchell has been team roping with Broc Cresta for nearly 20 years, since they were little kids in Santa Rosa, Calif., "pretending we were team roping together at the National Finals Rodeo."
The pretending is all over now. A win at the $185,361 Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo on Aug. 28, along with another in Coeur D' Alene, Idaho, over the weekend, has moved Spencer Mitchell and Broc Cresta up into the rarified air of a top-five spot in the world standings for team roping.
"We figured we had enough to make it to the (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo) a week or two ago," Spencer Mitchell said, "but this should guarantee it. I've been looking forward to roping at the National Finals Rodeo for a long time. To make it with Broc Cresta makes it even more special."
It nearly happened for them a year ago. Cresta made his first Wrangler NFR, but Mitchell fell short, ending up 17th in the regular-season standings.
"We're just going to try to finish this year as strong as we can," Mitchell said, "and then gather some horses up to practice hard for the NFR. I like roping fast, so it should fit my style, but you never know. Some guys you think will do well there can have trouble. I'm looking forward to it. I have been for a long time."
If they rope like they did at the Rancho Mission Viejo arena, Mitchell and Cresta will be just fine.
Their time of 4.8 seconds was three-tenths faster than their nearest challengers. Defending World Champions Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith tied for second place with Ty Blasingame and York Gill in 5.1 seconds. The win paid Mitchell and Cresta $5,776 each.
"I had missed six (steers) in a row last week before we went (to Rancho Mission Viejo)," Mitchell said. "Then we flew back up to Idaho and won in Coeur D' Alene, too, so it turned out to be a good week anyway.
"I rode Quincy Kueckelhan's horse. I had never ridden him before, but when I watched him, he reminded me of my horse. He scored outstanding and finished strong. It's the time of year when guys need to trade rides back and forth to help each other out."
Mitchell wasn't the only champion at the PRCA's richest two-day rodeo to leverage success here into a first Wrangler NFR berth.
Casey Colletti shared the bareback riding title in the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo with Ryan Gray - each man earned 86 points - to continue his amazing one-month hot streak that began with a win at Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days.
And he did it as a last-minute injury sub, a benificiary of the PRCA's new 30-hour replacement rule.
"I got the call from PROCOM on (Aug. 23) that I was in the rodeo as a replacement for Clint Cannon, who got hurt (a torn groin muscle)," Colletti said. "When the entries closed, I was No. 32 in the standings (only the top 30 are invited). That was the Friday before the short round at Cheyenne."
With the $6,338 he earned for sharing the title with Gray, plus a second-place finish at the Range Days Rodeo in Rapid City, S.D., and a third-place result at the Horse Heaven Round-up in Kennewick, Wash., Colletti finished the weekend with $10,074.
That moved him from 12th to sixth place in the world standings, ironically just ahead of Cannon.
Gray, who tied Colletti for the title at Rancho Mission Viejo, also shared the title in Kennewick, Wash., with traveling partner Jason Havens, and earned checks in three other rodeos for a weekend total of $10,685. He advanced to 11th in the world standings.
The other champions were steer wrestler Lee Graves (4.1 seconds), saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell (85 points), tie-down roper Monty Lewis (7.9 seconds) and bull rider Shane Proctor (93 points).