Gator Goodrich has had a rope in his hand since he was 3 years old.
He’s lassoed everything from the family cat to the patio furniture, which did not stand a chance once the young cowboy had it trussed up (there is video evidence).
Goodrich’s perseverance paid off in late June when the Stanfield teen won the ribbon roping title at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Huron, S.D.
“It was really cool,” Goodrich said. “I was nervous in the finals. About 5 minutes before I ran, I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes. Not enough breathing room to make any mistakes.”
In ribbon roping, one partner ropes the steer, while the other runs out, takes the ribbon off the animal’s tail and returns to the starting box.
In this case, Goodrich roped the steer, while his partner Adriene Steffen, of Sisters, retrieved the ribbon.
Goodrich and his partner got off to a good start at nationals with a run of 10.17 seconds in the first round. They followed up with an 8.84 run to reach the finals.
“We had a huge lead going into the finals on everyone but one team,” Goodrich said. “We had a 0.3-second lead on them. They missed, and I figured we need a 13-something to win.”
Goodrich, 14, and Steffens turned in a time of 11.73 seconds for the title.
“We got the start we wanted, and he went to the right,” Goodrich said. “I held him steady so she could get the ribbon.”
The champions in each event receive a saddle, buckle and a treasure trove of other items.
But Goodrich’s fortunes did not end there.
His horse, Goldilocks, 18, was named the AQHA Boys Horse of the Year. Goldilocks is used to the limelight, having performed at the Pendleton Round-Up with ropers Tuf Cooper, Trevor Brazile, and Goodrich’s dad, Brad.
This honor brought Goodrich another saddle and a scholarship.
“She is really good,” he said.
A busy week
Though Goodrich placed in just one event, he qualified for nationals in five and competed in four.
He also competed in goat typing, tie-down roping, chute dogging and team roping. He opted not to compete in the shooting event.
At state, he won the goat tying and tie-down roping, was second in chute dogging and ribbon roping, and was third in team roping. He was the reserve all-around champion.
He had a couple of tough runs at nationals, including in his signature event — tie-down roping.
“I missed one, and that brought everything down,” Goodrich said.
As Goodrich moves to the high school level this next year, he will continue with tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling.
A family affair
Goodrich was just 6 months old in 2006 when his dad won the all-around title at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston. He took a victory lap with his dad, and the rodeo arena has been his home ever since.
Like most cowboys, Goodrich started in mutton busting, and he still has his championship trophy from Toppenish from when he was 5 or 6 years old.
He learned to rope from his dad, who has had a good career competing on the PRCA circuit since 1987. Brad Goodrich has made six trips to the National Finals Rodeo.
“When I told my dad I wanted to calf rope, I was so small that I couldn’t flank the calf,” Gator said. “He went out and bought me a sheep. I have roped everything from cats to goats.”
Gator’s mom, Jodi, competed in barrel racing and breakaway roping at Walla Walla Community College and Cal Poly, and still makes a few runs around the barrels on the Columbia River Circuit.
His sister, Josie, also competes in barrels and breakaway roping, but a torn ACL kept her out of action this past year. A senior at Hermiston High School, Josie also plays volleyball and basketball.
Gator will be a freshman at Hermiston this fall. He’s already working out with the football team and participating in open gym with the basketball team.
From the Columbia Basin
In barrel racing, Pendleton’s Georgia Lieuallen finished 13th with a combined time of 49.374.
She was 33rd in the first go-round with a time of 16.746 seconds, then was 40th in the second round in 16.551. In the final round, she was seventh in a time of 16.077.
In tie-down roping, Handy Lieuallen of Pendleton placed 12th with a combined time of 50.12 seconds on three runs.
His first run was timed in 16 seconds, followed by an 18.25 in the second. In the finals, he clocked a 15.87.