Against The Odds
By: SaraBeth Thompson
RFD-TV’s The American is the most significant one-day cash payout to be awarded at any rodeo event. It will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on February 28, 2016. Top qualifiers from the Semi-Finals, held February 17–21, 2016 in Fort Worth, will move on to compete against the top ten in the World at The American. They will compete for their shot at the $2,000,000 pot. Each event during The American will pay $100,000 for first place and $25,000 for second place. If a competitor who wins a qualifier can win his or her event, they will be entitled to a share of the $1,000,000 side pot.
There are three ways to qualify to compete in The American. The top ten contestants in the world receive automatic invitations. Additionally, a handful of exemptions are offered to the brightest rising stars and retired Hall-of-Famers in the sport. And, finally, hopeful contestants can pay an entry fee to compete at “qualifiers” throughout the year. In 2014, there were nearly 4,000 entries at 70 qualifying events battling for their chance at the half-million-dollar American Semi-Finals in Fort Worth, where nearly 600 athletes from around the world battled for 38 byes into The American. In 2014, we saw winners including Lisa Lockhart, Richmond Champion, Trevor Brazile, Wade Sundell, JB Mauney, Patrick Smith, and Kaleb Driggers, Tyson Durfey, and Hunter Cure. Richmond Champion was the only qualifier to win a round, taking home earnings of 1.1 million dollars.
The American will invite the top ten athletes from the 2015 PRCA, WPRA and PBR world standings and pit them against underdogs who advance from The American Semi-Finals. If a nationally ranked athlete wins, the prize is $100,000, but if a qualifier from the Semifinals wins The American, that lucky contestant shares in the $1,000,000 bonus prize money. Anyone can enter a qualifying race, and anyone can qualify to the Semi-Finals – which last year paid out a half-million dollars.
During the 2015 season, there were twelve qualifying races for competing rodeo hopefuls. Among these hopefuls was Florence, AL rider Alexandria Skipworth. Alexandria, 23, works by day or night shift at Tennessee Valley Authority as a radiation protection technician, when she’s not riding her fourteen year old barrel racing gelding, Perfect Definition (by an own son of Special Effort, out of an own daughter of Sticks and Stones). Alexandria began riding and barrel racing at a young age and purchased “Perfect D” in 2009. With her numerous wins adding up in 2014, she decided it was time to take a shot at the American Qualifier. She decided to enter the American Qualifier in Starkville, Mississippi in 2014. But after some tough luck, she packed up and headed home.
On Wednesday November 11, 2015 Alexandria and her boyfriend Cody, packed up and headed out for her second attempt at qualifying for The American. They headed to Fletcher, NC for the No Bull Tour race for the qualifier. The lack of luck continued when Alexandria’s truck began showing problems with the transmission. After calling for a tow and unloading horses in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, she turned to her mother for support. After hooking up a different truck to the horse trailer, Alexandria and her family quickly realized they had no trailer brakes or lights. A quick stop at the local Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. to re-wire trailer brakes and lights had everyone exhausted. After the lights were connected and things seemed ready to go, the truck wouldn’t crank.
After replacing the truck’s battery, Alexandria was finally on her way to her shot at The American. When Saturday and the day of the qualifier arrived, Alexandria and Perfect D couldn’t wait for their chance to show what they were made of. After everything she’d gone through to make the race, she was determined to turn her luck around. Alexandria made her qualifying run, only to be disappointed when the timers missed her run. It seemed as if this was Alexandria’s “if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all” weekend.
An hour after Alexandria’s first attempt at her qualifying run, friends approached her with kind and encouraging words. She was awarded a re-run, and convinced herself it was time for a change in her luck. Alexandria and her gelding “Perfect D” made their second run in Fletcher, NC, clocking a time of 13.948 – the fastest run of the Qualifying Race. Only Casey Peart of Charlotte, TN and her horse Packin French Socks were a close second with 13.997.
Alexandria confessed that her greatest weakness is, “I can be my own worst enemy. I constantly critique, and I look for ways to better myself, sometimes to the point of sabotaging my confidence. You’re never too good to learn something new.” The ability to persevere through adversity can make or break an athletic competitor. Although Alexandria had no shortage of bad luck over the weekend, she overcame adversity and won.
For more information about RFD TV’s The American, visit their website at www.rfdtv.com/theamerican.
Photo credit to Monroe Photos
But this weakness could also be viewed as strength. If you aren’t constantly critiquing yourself, who is? Barrel racers are sometimes beaten by .005 seconds. In the amount of time that it takes to bat an eye, the job of a competitor is to shave off that millisecond. Isn’t a competitive edge necessary if you want to improve? Confidence is also a necessity. We’ve all read about the power of positive thinking and how important it is to believe in ourselves. We just have to find the line between instilling winning confidence and finding humility in ourselves.
Alexandria’s perseverance can serve as an example for all young women in the sport.
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