By Daniel Dullum
Though rodeo success on a national stage is nothing new for Macklee Austin of Valley Farms, claiming a top ten finish never becomes routine.
“I’m very competitive and I do set goals,” Austin said. “I make sure that I’m always testing myself.”
Earlier this month, the 25-year-old Austin lassoed a top ten finish at the Priefert (Ranch Equipment) World Series of Team Roping (WSTR), held Dec. 9-15 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Competing among over 480 roping teams in the WSTR’s “Heelomatic No. 11 Finale,” Austin and Wallace Berryhill of Bluewater, N.M., placed sixth overall with a score of 37.26, splitting the $64,000 prize.
“He’s my godfather and my father’s best friend from childhood,” she said, adding that while chemistry with a roping partner is important, “you really don’t get to practice with your partner very much. That’s because people often live so far away. it’s really just a matter of whether you click as a team or not.
“But I rope with my father (Daren Austin of Queen Creek) almost every day, and we know pretty much what each one is going to do. So while I don’t get to practice much with Wallace, it works when we get to a competition.”
And it works when Austin ropes with her father. In the WSTR’s “Fast Back Ropes No. 12” consolation round, the Austins finished seventh with a 32.79 score, good for a $7,500 payoff.
“You have to rope four steers. After the first three, you make it back to the short round, which is like the championship round,” Austin explained. “We (she and Berryhill) came in the 10th callback. As soon as we roped our steer, I just knew we were going to win something.”
The total purse for the roping competition was over $1.4 million. For the week, Austin pocketed $35,700 – before expenses.
“It was a record payoff. There’s never been a payoff like that before,” Austin said.
“And yes, I did have a good week, but people forget we still have to feed our horses, buy horses, buy cows to rope, and that’s also expensive.”
Austin began rodeo at age 7 when her father got her started.
“He still rodeos, and as a kid, that was the sport we played,” she said. “Our father taught us everything. He still ropes and does rodeo today. He taught us how to train horses and everything, and we’ve always lived the Western lifestyle.”
Austin started roping as a freshman at Queen Creek High School. One of the highlights came in 2006, when, as a senior, she won the state breakaway title.
Later that year, she won the Women’s Wildfire Roping competition at Saledo, Texas. All leading to a rodeo scholarship to Weatherford College in Texas.
“It was all pretty exciting,” she said.
When she’s not doing rodeos, Austin works as an agent for Belva’s Real Estate. “It’s been good so far. We’ve been busy lately and things are picking up, so that’s exciting.”
However, as long as she’s able, Austin plans to continue roping.
“The thing about competitive roping, is that there are classes geared to your level.”
“There are 80-year-olds that are still doing it, because they’re classed at a low enough level to where they can still win.”
As accomplished as Austin is at rodeo, she still sees room for improvement in her roping skills.
“I don’t think you ever get it down completely,” Austin said. “There’s so much to learn with so many different classes of competition. It’s like with Tiger Woods in golf: there’s always something to learn that will help you rope a little bit faster.”