“Faster than a blink of the eye and this cowgirl is a champion.”
Hannah Hughes proved she is the best of the best in the American Cowboys Rodeo Association (ACRA).
The Fort Scott cowgirl was crowned champion yearend breakaway roper climaxing her first year of ACRA competition.
“To be the event title winner on top of being the rookie breakaway champion was really exciting,” Hughes admitted.
Competing in majority of the 2020 ACRA sanctioned rodeos, Hughes had work cut out for her at the yearend finals.
“I was second in both the overall and rookie standings coming into the finals during January in Tulsa,” she said. “I knew I had to rope the best I ever had to collect either one of the yearend titles.”
Roping ability matched the test but championships were not determined until the last calf was roped. “I caught my calves, but I was still down in the placings until my final run,” Hughes reflected.
Her 3.7-seconds flag was third in the first go-round at the finals. Despite picking up speed, the cowgirl’s 3.2-seconds run still only placed third in the finals second go-round.
“I knew I had to put it all together on my last calf to be the yearend campion,” Hughes admitted. “Fortunately I had a good calf and dropped the flag in 2.4-seconds in the third round.”
That moved her up to win the breakaway roping average at the ACRA Finals. “It was such a blessing so I could be the ACRA open breakaway champion and also win the rookie award,” Hughes said.
To be a roping champion requires cowgirl skill as well as a good horse. “My 22-year-old sorrel mare Effie is very dependable and I always give her credit when I win,” the cowgirl acknowledged. “I’ve had Effie about eight years and wouldn’t be where I am today without her help.”
After the ACRA Finals, Hughes has directed her roping focus to college rodeo competition. “I’m a sophomore majoring in agriculture business at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) in Miami, Oklahoma,” she said. “I am on a rodeo scholarship and will be representing NEO in National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association competitions.”
In her second year on the NEO team, Hughes is anticipating the first college rodeo this weekend. “I didn’t have a great first season, and the coronavirus curtailed any fall rodeos,” she said. “There are nine spring rodeos so I hope I can continue to rope like I did at the ACRA Finals. I’d sure like to make the National College Rodeo Finals.”
Practice makes perfection according to the champion who has a regular roping routine to keep her skills in top shape. “I don’t use my good mare Effie that much for practice. I have an eight-year-old sorrel gelding called Ziggy I rope on mostly in the practice pan,” Hughes said.
Her rodeo scholarship provides housing for one horse, but Hughes keeps both horses at school. “I keep Effie on an exercise program, but I only rope a couple calves on her before a rodeo,” Hughes said. “Although Effie is getting old, I take good care of her. I think she’ll last two more years of college rodeo. Then Ziggy will work right into her place.”
Intending to graduate from the two-year NEO this spring, Hughes is uncertain where she’ll continue her education. “I sure plan to college rodeo two more years, but I just haven’t decided what school I’ll attend,” she said.
Summer months will be filled on the rodeo trail. “I intend to go hard on the ACRA circuit with most of those rodeos being in Oklahoma,” Hughes said. “There are a lot of jackpot breakaway roping events too so I’ll also go to as many of them as I can.”
Kansas High School Rodeo Association breakaway roping champion as a senior, Hughes was fourth at the National High School Rodeo Finals. Her youth rodeo career featured a number of yearend awards in several associations.
She’s pretty much a one event cowgirl at this time. “I have entered a lot of rodeo events through the years but I concentrate on breakaway roping nowadays,” Hughes said. “My college classmates want me to head in team roping and I might try some later on.”
Looking to the future, Hughes said, “I’m uncertain on my career plans. I am interested in equine rehabilitation which would be a perfect complement to continuing to compete on the rodeo circuit.”
While her 2.4-seconds ACRA Finals breakaway run is almost a snap of a finger, she’s been faster than that. “I had a 1.7-seconds run at the NEO Recruitment/Alumni Rodeo. I’ve had a few other runs just under 2-seconds,” Hughes remembered. “That sounds fast, but you have to be in order to win these days.”
“My NEO rodeo coach Kolby Ungeheuer has helped fine tune my roping in the jackpots and team workouts,” Hannah said.
An honor student, Hannah is the only child of Rod and Donna Hughes. “My parents both competed successfully in professional rodeo and are my best coaches and biggest supporters,” she added.
Even when one is a champion competing on the rodeo circuit is costly. “I’m fortunate to have BE Saddle Pads, Total Equine Feed and Better Equine Equipment as sponsors,” Hughes appreciated. “Those businesses owned by Bill and Jana Barcus of Paola are a big help for me on the rodeo circuit.”