Mark Aragon and Al Schultz win world team roping championship

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Photo courtesy Jennings Photography Pagosa Springs’ own Mark Aragon (right) and his father-in-law, Al Schultz, celebrate winning the world team roping championship on Dec. 14 at The World Series Grand Finale IX at the South Point Hotel and Casino Equestrian and Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The duo split a check for  $240,000 as part of their winnings.
Photo courtesy Jennings Photography
Pagosa Springs’ own Mark Aragon (right) and his father-in-law, Al Schultz, celebrate winning the world team roping championship on Dec. 14 at The World Series Grand Finale IX at the South Point Hotel and Casino Equestrian and Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The duo split a check for $240,000 as part of their winnings.

Not many people can claim they rescheduled Cowboy Christmas from the Fourth of July to Christmas, but Pagosa Springs’ own Mark Aragon and his father-in-law, Al Schultz, did just that on Dec. 14 at The World Series Grand Finale IX at the South Point Hotel and Casino Equestrian and Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

Aragon and Schultz won the world team roping championship, along with a check for $240,000 and a plethora of prizes including  a bronze sculpture trophy and new boots.

Aragon and Schultz were the second team in a Finale that led wire to wire for the win.

When accepting his winnings, Aragon said, “You know, we’ve had some bad times the last 5 years, my father-in-law and I lost our wives to cancer so, to win this with him and to share it with my family it’s unbelievable, outstanding. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Aragon met his late wife, Kitty, (Schultz’s daughter) in Cody, Wyo. Kitty was an avid team roper and he credits her with his interest in team roping. Kitty passed away at age 39, on Jan. 14, 2010, after a courageous battle with cancer.

Schultz is the president of the Cody Nights Rodeo board of directors. Schultz also lost his wife, Judy, to cancer and is a cancer survivor himself. But with all of the tragedy he has faced, Schultz is still best known as the guy who keeps an arena with plenty of steers at his practice arena for all the Cody-area kids and anyone else who really wants to rope.

Team roping boasts the largest economical component of the recreational horse world, producing over $60,000,000 in purses each year. Excluding horse racing, the combined purses of the various team roping associations surpass all other horse events combined. The World Series of Team Roping Finale has quickly become the richest, and most prestigious, showcase for the sport.

The following information was reported in the Cody Enterprise.

Schultz and Aragon were assigned to the Cactus Ropes No. 9 division based on Aragon ranking as a “five header” and Schultz a “four heeler.”

Their last steer didn’t take the handle well and big Al took his time with an extra swing or two to cinch the catch. Aragon said, “That was 55 years of experience looking over those heels, I guarantee.”

The secret of success in team roping is two-fold. When the steer is set free from its pen the header, in this partnership Aragon, pursues, twirling a rope and settling it over the head of the running animal. The heeler, Schultz, must cleanly rope two hind legs. If either misses, no score is tabulated.

“We roped the best we ever roped,” said Aragon, who felt by the third steer, “‘Hey, we can win this thing.’ I don’t know how, why or what, but we did it.”

Numbers also favored Schultz and Aragon. In the finals, they knew what they needed to win. Their aggregate time of 37.70 seconds topped the second-place team from Oklahoma by 9/100ths of a second.

Schultz, 68, and Aragon, 50, pulled off the sweetest rides of their lives while overcoming the biggest losses of their lives.

Lew Freedman with the Cody Enterprise contributed to this story.