At age 62, two-time world team roping champion Walt Woodard can hold his own against other high-profile cowboys who are 40 years younger.
Knowing he no longer has the speed he had when he was much younger, Woodard, who is from Stephenville, has devised a strategic method of becoming way more competitive during his senior years.
Woodard is using a lighter rope that he can swing faster as he competes in the world’s biggest rodeos.
“As I’ve gotten older, my swing has slowed down, so I’ve lightened up my rope a little bit and tried to work on my swing speed and it’s helping,” Woodard said. “I need to be able to swing the rope faster as I’m going down the arena because I’m 62 and these other guys are 22. They are young and fast.”
But when the team roping title was at stake during the Fort Worth Stock Show final round, Woodard, a heeler, swung his rope plenty fast enough to clinch the title with the superb help from his partner, two-time world heading champion Matt Sherwood.
During the final round, Woodard and Sherwood, 48, turned in a time of 5.5 seconds on their way to clinching the title with a three-run time of 15.6 as the Stock Show’s 2018 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show concluded it’s 16-day, 29-performance run during a sold out performance before more than 5,700 spectators at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
Luke Brown, 43, and Jake Long, 33, finished second in the title race with a 16.0 after the duo turned in a finals time of 5.8.
Other champions were bareback rider J.R. Vezain, steer wrestler Tyler Pearson, saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley, tie-down roper Shane Hanchey, barrel racer Amberleigh Moore and bull rider Trevor Kastner.
Woodard has won world titles 26 years apart on the PRCA circuit. He won his first gold buckle in 1981 and his second in 2007.
Woodard said he’s grateful to be able to hold his own against ropers who are younger and can make faster moves.
“It’s an absolute honor to be able to rope against these guys,” Woodard said. “They are so competitive. I’m blessed to still be in the game.”
Woodard said he will attempt to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this season. In order to qualify for the Las Vegas championships, he must finish in the top 15. Last year, he finished 21st.
Woodard’s most recent NFR berth – his 20th – was in 2011.
“My goal is to qualify for the National Finals again and I want to rope for another world championship,” Woodard said. “Nobody my age has done it in the team roping. I came out of retirement when I was 50 to see if I could do it and I won it when I was 52. Now, I want to see if I can do it while in my 60s.”
In bareback riding, Vezain a five-time National Finals qualifier from Cowley, Wyo., came into the Fort Worth finale in third place. But he was the last cowboy to ride, thanks to a reride because his first bronc stumbled.
As Vezain readied himself to ride on his second-chance bronc, he knew he needed at least 87 points to take the lead.
But Vezain turned in a score of 87.5. He clinched the title with a four-ride score of 338.5, a half-point higher than 2017 National Finals qualifier Mason Clements, who finished the rodeo with a 338 after turning in an 84 on his final round bronc.