Following regional championship win, SUU freshman prepares for College National Finals Rodeo

Erika Thigpen of Southern Utah University's women's rodeo team, date and location not specified. | Photo courtesy of SUU, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Erika Thigpen led the Southern Utah University women’s rodeo team to success at the Regions Breakaway Championship last month and claimed first prize in the breakaway roping competition.

According to a SUU news release, Thigpen, a freshman from Logandale, Nevada, won the championship in early April and will compete in June at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.

Breakaway roping, one of the oldest forms of roping in the Western world, consists of catching the head of a calf with a rope tied to the saddle of the roper’s horse. The breakaway roping champion is the competitor who catches the calf in the least amount of time.

This year, the SUU women’s team placed second in both the Weber State Rodeo and the CNCC Rodeo in Rangeley, Colorado.

“Growing up, my mom owned horses, which got me into riding. I started out in lower-level riding and competitions,” Thigpen said in the press release. “I just started out doing barrel racing and pole bending, and my childhood best friend got into mounted shooting, which I followed for a while.”

After a break from riding horses, Thigpen began roping again in her freshman year of high school and has competed in high school and junior rodeos throughout Nevada.

“All the failures and successes I endured over those long four years shaped me into the rodeo athlete I am today,” she said.

For the region competition, Thigpen said she spent countless nights and days in the arena, bettering herself as a roper and pushing herself to constantly improve. Of those who had helped her along the way, she credits her coach and parents

“Kari Brought always pushed me to be better, and without my parents, I would not have been able to rope consistent enough this season to win the title.”

Thigpen’s preparation for the College National Finals includes making sure her rodeo horse is in the best possible shape and practicing roping daily with a calf dummy. She also plans to visit an arena multiple times in the week leading up to the competition to practice her roping on live calves.

As she looks forward to the national competition, Thigpen said she is filled with gratitude for her team at Southern Utah University.

“SUU gives me a support group to fall back on and help me in the practice pen, as well as in the rodeo arena. Being able to have a team to fall back on and help me when I need it is the one thing that I couldn’t experience anywhere else.”

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