Mike Johnson turns 50 next month, but he’s holding his own against world-class ropers who are half his age on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
While competing in the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo on Thursday night, Johnson, who lives in Henryetta, Okla., took the lead in the tie-down roping title race after turning in a speedy time of 9.9 seconds at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
Johnson is ranked No. 1 with a two-run time of 18.7 seconds, which could qualify for the Stock Show Rodeo finals round, which is scheduled for Feb. 8.
Johnson has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 23 times. His first NFR appearance was in 1983 when the PRCA’s equivalent of the World Series was in Oklahoma City. His last NFR appearance was in 2008.
In recent years, Johnson has been thwarted with nagging injuries. But he said he’s healthy this year and hopes to earn another NFR back number.
“I have to work hard at it, a little bit harder than the year before, but hopefully I can get one more good year out of myself,” Johnson said. “It feels good. I’m twice the age of the average competitor in my event and I’m really having a great time doing this.”
Johnson is ranked eighth in the PRCA early season world standings with $5,815. A big chunk of that came from earning $2,393 at the Texas Stampede Rodeo in Allen on the weekend of Nov. 8-9.
Johnson said one of the main reasons he wins is because he’s always had a lots of enthusiasm.
“The No. 1 ingredient would be passion,” Johnson said. “That passion carries over to me getting out of bed every morning, putting my braces on and going to practice and doing the things that it takes as a young guy to do it.”
Throughout the rodeo season, Johnson travels with his wife, Sherrylynn, a four-time NFR barrel racing qualifier.
“With most people in the workforce today, husband and wife go different directions,” Johnson said. “But we get to be together and be each other’s coach and each other’s buddies driving down the road. She’s my travel agent and she takes care of my business right there on the road.”
In barrel racing, 2012 world champion Mary Walker of Ennis is tied for first in Round One after turning in a 16.52 on Thursday atop her prize gelding, Latte.
“He’s just in really good shape,” Walker said of Latte. “He’s got a good rest and he’s got up to a high like he did last year.”
Walker is on a roll. On Jan. 23, she earned $10,000 after winning the Fort Worth Stock Show’s Super Shootout Rodeo. And on Sunday, Walker and clinched the barrel racing title at the National Western Stock Show in Denver ($7,905).
“He’s really on right now and he’s feeling good.” Walker said. “In this event, you have to have four feet under you and, with Latte, I have four great feet under me.”
In steer wrestling, two-time National Finals qualifier Bray Armes turned in a solid second-round time of 6.9 seconds. He is ranked fifth in the title race with a two-run time of 10.5. J.B. Lord is ranked No. 1 with a 9.1.
In bareback riding, former NFR qualifier Austin Foss got off to a solid start by turning in a first-round score of 77. He is ranked 10th in Round One in Fort Worth. Foss tied for first at the Denver rodeo last weekend.