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Area team wrangles roping title

Tensions were high as Claude Lowery and Kevin Barfield, both ofWesson, captured a time of 10.27 seconds to take the lead in theaverage in the No. 9 Preliminary at the United States Team RopingChampionships National Finals in Oklahoma City Oct. 27.

Only two teams remained to make their runs, but both teams wereranked above them. If either team wrangled a good time, it couldboost them above the Mississippi team’s 38.21 second averagetime.

“I was biting by fingernails as the last two teams went torope,” Lowery said. “I don’t wish any bad luck on anyone, but abarrier penalty or a single (hoof penalty) would still give thelast two teams a (pay)check, just not first.”

Wished or not, bad luck struck the two teams when neither made aqualified run and failed to score.

Their failure awarded Lowery, 58, and Barfield, 30, more than$30,000 in cash and prizes and a USTRC National FinalsChampionship.

“You would have thought I was a high school kid who just scoredhis first touchdown during a homecoming game. We were bothhollering just as loud as we could,” Lowery said.

More than 700 teams started in the No. 9 Preliminary Division, ahandicap division for amateur ropers. After three rounds, only 34teams from 21 states and one Canadian province remained for thefinal.

“The secret to our winning was that we had four clean roundswith no penalties,” Barfield said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetimeexperience for us. There’s a lot that goes into it. You have tohave the right horse, the right steer, flawless performances -everything has to be perfect.”

It was the first championship for the team, who also qualifiedfor the finals in 1994 and 2003.

The pair have been roping together since Barfield picked up hisfirst lariat 15 years ago. Lowery is a 23-year veteran of thesport.

“I owe everything to Claude,” Barfield said. “My relationshipwith him is more of one like a father and son. To see his facelight up like it did was hilarious. It was well worth it.”

Lowery, a Brookhaven CPA, said he intends to put his MartinChampionship Saddle on display in his office window.

“I haven’t gotten it down here yet,” he said. “I’m still waitingon a pretty stand I ordered for it.”

The championship is less than a month in the past, but the pairare already preparing for the next season. They will kick off thenew season Thanksgiving weekend in Jackson.

Mississippi was well represented in Oklahoma City for thechampionship. Michael Richardson, of Brookhaven, and HeathFairburn, of Topeka, won the No. 8 Preliminary Division.