For nearly a full year Jordan Jo Fabrizio wore Raymond Hollabaugh’s 1983 Cheyenne Frontier Days tie-down roping buckle. Then, back in April, Cheyenne Frontier Days announced it would add breakaway roping for the first time in its 123-year history. Hollabaugh said that if Fabrizio won in Cheyenne then she could keep the 36-year old buckle. He’d get the historic 2019 buckle.
Hollabaugh is the head rodeo coach at West Texas A&M, where Fabrizio competed and now serves as assistant coach. The collegiate level used to be the highest level any breakaway roper could reach. Outside of the college circuit, breakaway ropers were relegated to the amateur rodeos, those sanctioned by the United Professional Rodeo Association. And in all five of Fabrizio’s seasons she failed to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo.
“That kind of lit a fire under me and made me bound and determined to do this no matter what,” she said on CFD’s championship Sunday. “We didn’t have the opportunities like this. ... I never would have guessed in my wildest dreams that we’d be out here roping at the Daddy of ‘Em All. It’s amazing.”
Fabrizio held off 241 other history-making ropers to forever put her own name at the top of the record books. She roped her first-qualifying calf in 4.42 seconds. Then she had a 4.15 in the first quarterfinal and a 5.23 in the second quarterfinal, just enough to qualify for the short go-round alongside 15 other cowgirls. Those select few got together before the Sunday rodeo on July 28 and posed for pictures in the middle of the Frontier Park dirt, a century’s worth of iconic scenery surrounding them.
They stood together elite. Former Gillette College ropers Rickie Engesser and Quincy Segelke, as well as Eastern Wyoming College cowgirl Jacey Thompson all roped their calves but not fast enough to advance. Taylor Munsell, the 2019 CNFR national champion failed to rope her only calf.
Along with Fabrizio, multi-time CNFR qualifiers Brandi Hollenbeck, Taryn Sippel, Kelsie Chase, TiAda Gray, KL Spratt and Kasey Eaves squeezed themselves in. Also included were Hannah Lee, former breakaway go-round winner at the National High School Finals Rodeo; Torrington native Jana Wiedman; and women’s roping legend Lari Dee Guy. Then there was Fabrizio’s younger sister, Rylea. All of them together, all part of history.
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“That’s when it finally hit me that, ‘Wow, we’re making history today,’ and how special it is to be a part of breakaway at this time,” the Canyon, Texas, resident said. “Not just for myself, for the other girls, we’re happy to be here and be representatives of the sport and hopefully help it move on and grow into bigger and better things.”
Riding on 10-year old Bingo, Fabrizio shot out of the elongated chute and roped her calf in just 4.18 seconds. No one could match that time on the final day. Twelve of the 16 competing roped their calves, Chloe Frey coming the closest to matching Fabrizio’s time with a 4.43.
Gray, Guy and Chase were the only other cowgirls to successfully rope all four head at Cheyenne. Chase would have won the short go had she not broken the barrier and taken a 10-second penalty on her 14.13. Regardless of time, however, they all took the time to enjoy the moment that Fabrizio saw through the spotlight.
“I’ll never have another opportunity like this,” she said. “This experience is something I’ll always remember and cherish and I just want to cry. I’m so excited.
“To be here and hopefully get more events for breakaway ropers and girls and to be an inspiration to girls coming up, give them something to look forward to.”