By Kendra Santos
This week’s $360,000 Cowtown Christmas is West Smith’s first World Champions Rodeo Alliance event. The 26-year-old Emmet, Arkansas cowboy is a numbers guy, and WCRA math makes sense to him. Tie-down roper Smith was 8.99 on opening night to top the first performance and advance alongside Florida teen Cole Clemons, who made a 9.42-second run, to Saturday night’s Showdown Round here at Cowtown Coliseum in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.
When Smith and his sorrel mare G—which is short for Gypsy—got stuck in the corner, the bucking chutes were coming fast. But once they connected, West blew through the run on the ground.
“The panic factor kind of set in, but I just told myself to go get the neck,” Smith said. “I’ve roped in this building seven or eight times, but this is the first time I’ve ridden this mare here. That calf was good on the ground. I’d take her at every rodeo this year.”
West has not been a world traveler, and has rodeoed within a pretty tight radius.
“I haven’t really tried to go too hard,” he said. “I went to eight rodeos over the Fourth of July the COVID year (2020), but besides that haven’t been out of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas much. I pretty much stayed home in 2021, then set a goal to make the (Southeastern) Circuit Finals.”
Mission accomplished there, and Smith finished second in the average at the finals and first in the year-end standings, which qualifies him to rope at next summer’s NFR Open in Colorado Springs.
He’s driving to Denver today for the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo qualifier, which is Friday and Saturday mornings. After things went so well last night, West booked a flight that lands here at DFW at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon to be back for the Showdown Round.
“My dad (Jay Allen Smith) will meet me with my other mare (a red roan he calls Rosie),” West said. “This is the first time I’ve ever felt like a real rodeo cowboy.”
Smith made his way here to his first WCRA event by nominating the Arkansas Rodeo Association Finals and the Southeastern Circuit Finals.
“I’d known of the WCRA, but just never got involved in it before,” West said. “I’m kind of a numbers guy, and I only have $250 invested (in nomination fees) to be here (where there are no entry fees). I won $1,600 for winning the performance last night, so my investment kicked in and my trip’s already paid for. I’ll pay $250 to rope for $15,000 (Saturday night’s champ’s check) any day. This makes sense.”
Being on the smaller side, Smith has looked up to some of the smaller tie-down roping studs over the years.
“I’m not the biggest guy, so I really watched Scott Kormos’s flanking and tying,” he said. “I always liked Brent Lewis’s style, too. He was so good on the ground.”
West will run into some tall competition come Saturday night, including 2020 World Champion Shad Mayfield, who’s seeded into the Showdown Round by being #1 on the Virtual Rodeo Qualifier leaderboard. Fat $25,000 bonuses await the athletes who finish #1 in nomination points in every event at week’s end.
“I’ll look at Saturday as just another day,” Smith said. “I’ve always known where I stood. Three or four years ago, it would have scared me to death to rope against those guys. Now I know that they’re roping suckers, but they’re human.”
Also advancing out of Wednesday evening’s first performance is 18-year-old Cole Clemons of Okeechobee, Florida, who was 9.42 seconds on his first calf. Clemons won the 2021 National High School Rodeo Association tie-down roping title. 2020 NHSRA champ Riley Webb will rope tonight. And all who advance to Saturday will square off against 2019 NHSRA titlist Mayfield.