By: Kendra Santos

CHICAGO—The contestant roster here at the million-dollar Windy City Roundup is rich with living legends. But no event is brimming with more talent or world championships than the breakaway roping. Three of the eight breakaway ropers here in Chicago—JJ Hampton, Lari Dee Guy and Jackie Crawford—own 48 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association gold buckles between them.

Not so ironically, two of the three cowgirl kingpins hang their hats in the Cowboy Capital of the World—Stephenville, Texas. Fact is, five of the eight breakaway ropers representing every cowgirl who’s ever saddled a horse here in the Windy City live within a pretty tiny, hour-and-a-half Texas radius of one another.

Breakaway legends JJ Hampton, Jackie Crawford, and Lari Dee Guy are in the house

No breakaway roper on the planet has ever backed in the box to take a swing at $50,000. But that’s exactly what’s happening here in Chicago. And these three girls get that. So, baddest of the bad breakaway ropers ever…What does this rodeo mean to you?

JJ HAMPTON, 47, of Stephenville, is a 17-time WPRA world champion (all-around, tie-down roping, heading and breakaway roping), wife to husband Ricky Prince and mom to son Kason: “It’s been a lifelong dream to be able to rope for the same amount of money as the contestants in every other event. It’s taken awhile, but we’re finally getting to do it. So it’s pretty cool. No, it’s really cool. This is a huge blessing for our sport, and all the women—for all of us who’ve worked so long and hard to be here, the breakaway ropers before us who blazed the trail and the women who’ll come after us. Breakaway roping has come a long way, and it’s incredible to be here and be a part of this. This is phenomenal. I love rodeo and I love to compete. So I’m tickled pink. It’s time to celebrate. Breakaway roping has evolved. Here we are, and it’s going to get nothing but bigger and better from here.”

LARI DEE GUY, 47, of Abilene, Texas, is a 13-time WPRA champ of the world (all-around, heading, heeling and breakaway roping): “I feel thankful, blessed, appreciative—all of the above—to be here. This is what we, as breakaway ropers, have all worked for; to get it to this point. We’re trying to make it the best it can be now, and to make it even better for the girls coming up. There’s a first for everything in life. This is that first for us. The WCRA gave us the first chance we’ve ever had to work for $50,000. What makes this really cool is that JJ and me started working together when we were 7 or 8 years old. We’ve roped with and against each other for 40 years. For us to be the ones who get to participate here together first is amazing. It sometimes takes awhile for things to catch on. The WCRA went out on a limb and gave us our first opportunity on a stage this size. I hauled (winningest cowboy of all time and 24-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Champion) Trevor Brazile’s horse (Deputy) here to Chicago. Now I get to rope for the same money Trevor does. Breakaway ropers have never been treated as equals to the greatest athletes before.”

JACKIE CRAWFORD, 36, of Stephenville, is an 18-time WPRA world champion (all-around, tie-down roping, heading and breakaway roping), wife to husband Charly, and mom to son Creed and stepdaughter Kaydence: “To me, this is everything for the breakaway world. This is the first time that our stage might reflect the effort that went into what we do. This is the first time we get to stand side by side with the contestants in every other event. For years, we’ve worked as hard as every other rodeo athlete. This is the first time we get to showcase all the years of our hard work. For every little girl who’s ever had a big dream, this is it—this is the crack in the glass ceiling. We are so appreciative that somebody stuck their neck out and took a chance on what we do. Our goal is to have breakaway roping at every major rodeo everywhere. We want to be at the Thomas & Mack (Las Vegas home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo). This rodeo right here is the stepping stone that’s going to put us breakaway ropers on the map. No breakaway roper has ever backed in the box for $50 grand. Here we are, and this is just the beginning.”