Dec 8, 2021
2021 National Finals Breakaway Roping
By Patrick Everson
Jackie Crawford made history last year as the first breakaway roper to win a world championship under the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo banner. Breakaway roping has been around for decades and honors a season-long champion each year, but 2020 marked the first time the women’s event fell under the NFR’s auspices.
But recall that the 2020 Wrangler NFR and National Finals Breakaway Roping were held in Texas, due to pandemic restrictions at the time in Las Vegas.
So on Tuesday afternoon, Sawyer Gilbert made some history of her own. Gilbert became the second breakaway roping gold buckle winner – but the first to clinch in Las Vegas. Not that Gilbert minds being attached to the second digit.
“No. 2 is my lucky number. I came into Las Vegas No. 2, and I got to be the second to win the title,” she said.
It was a bang-bang two days and 10 go-rounds – five Monday, five Tuesday – at Orleans Arena, and it was air-tight going into the final run, with Gilbert battling Shelby Boisjoli for the world championship.
“Oh man, coming into the 10th round, there was only like $86 between me and Shelby,” Gilbert said. “She went before me. I wanted to just make sure I didn’t break the barrier, and that I roped the calf clean.”
Gilbert did just that with a 2.5-second time and, in fact, finished with a 10-round total of 46.3 seconds to win the average, as well. That average check of $11,313 was key to claiming the gold buckle. Gilbert was the only roper of the 15 finalists to catch all 10 head, and she finished the year with $71,654, a little more than $2,000 ahead of Boisjoli ($69,457).
“I knew all I had to do was just catch that last one. I saw the rope go around his neck, and then the emotions came,” Gilbert said. “I’m not a big emotional person, but after getting back there with the other ropers, and them congratulating me, that’s when I started getting a little wet around the eyes.”
Gilbert barely had time to hit her hotel and change before she was whisked to the Thomas & Mack Center for Tuesday night’s sixth go-round of the Wrangler NFR. During the rodeo, she was introduced to the crowd of 16,000-plus as the new breakaway world champion.
“I’m not sure what I’m gonna do yet. I haven’t really had time to come down,” Gilbert said. “I kind of just want to spend time with my family and friends, and just enjoy the moment.”
It’s a huge accomplishment, and she’s certainly in a city that knows how to celebrate. But as she reminded this reporter, she’s not quite yet of age.
“I’ll probably just have a Diet Coke. I’m only 19 years old, so I don’t get to experience the full Vegas,” Gilbert said with a laugh and a smile.