FOWLER, COLORADO — A local athlete is preparing to compete on the biggest stage for breakaway roping, and she's making history while doing so. That's because this is the first year women ropers can compete at the National Finals Rodeo, put on by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
Erin Johnson, from Fowler, Colorado is one of the top 15 cowgirls in the world who compete in breakaway roping and qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She found out the news in late August that women could compete at the event, which came as a surprise.
"I heard the news and I thought 'oh my gosh,' I have a few chances to make this happen," said Johnson. "Up until about a year ago, I didn't really think this would be a realistic expectation for breakaway roping.
Johnson says she was down in the standings around that time, but she signed up for and competed in several rodeos, placing first or placing high in all of them. Eventually she qualified for the big stage, and with the addition of women breakaway roping to the National Finals Rodeo, she's hoping to add to her legacy.
"The National Finalists Rodeo is the most prestigious event of the year for all of the cowboys," said Johnson. "This is the first opportunity we've had to showcase our talent on a national stage and be treated as equals to other professional cowboys and cowgirls."
The Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) has named world champion ropers since the 1970's, but never on a stage as big as the National Finals Rodeo, which is much like the Super Bowl of rodeos.
Johnson has been crowned world champion three times by the WPRA. She's been competing in breakaway roping for more than 20 years, and when she's not competing, she's practicing at her home arena in Fowler throughout the week.
"There are a lot of women who spent their entire lives working at roping," said Johnson.
She says it's a dream come true to compete among some of the best at the National Finals Rodeo, but it's also a humbling experience for her to represent Southern Colorado, which is home to the WPRA and the PRCA.
"There are a lot of fans from here that follow rodeo that love to see our local cowboys and cowgirls get the opportunity to compete on the big stage with the best cowboys in the world," said Johnson. "It's really exciting to put Colorado's name on the list of contestants."
This is also the first year the National Finals Rodeo will be held at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Usually it's held in Las Vegas, NV, but the venue changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson is heading to Texas this weekend to compete in other events outside of the National Finals Rodeo. She'll be competing on the national stage December 8-10th.
Johnson is a mother to three kids and a wife, who enjoys spending time with her family outside of competing.
For more information about the National Finals Rodeo, click here.