Jon Englund and partner steer their way to national championshipA few decades ago, Jon Englund, owner of Englund Marine Supply, purchased a horse.

"I bought a horse several years ago and thought it would be fun to ride it on the beach ... and it wasn't."

So, looking for something a little bit more exciting, Englund became involved with the sport of team roping.

"I always had enjoyed rodeos, and the roping especially," he said.

One of rodeo's featured sports, the event pits a team of two on horseback against a steer. The steer is let loose in a ring and the two cowboys try to rope the animal in the quickest time possible.

The teamwork comes into play as one roper, the "header," must capture the steer's head first. With the steer's head in the lasso, the "heeler" then tries to get his lasso around steer's hind legs by timing his throw to coincide with when the steer's legs are kicking in the air, so they land in the lasso and he can tighten it.

The sport grew from the everyday ranch chore of securing a steer for branding.

Englund, who now has been roping for 30 years, is a header and he and his teammate Glen Grenke of Jordan Valley have enjoyed success. The two recently won a regional championship that placed them in the running for the U.S. Team Roping Championships national final in Oklahoma City where he'll compete with about 4,000 other ropers.

The competition starts Sunday and runs until Nov. 2. Englund said he's looking forward to the chance to compete with some of the best ropers in the nation.

The U.S. Team Roping Championship is a national roping association that organizes tournaments around the country.

Englund, left, shakes the hand of his partner Glen Grenke of Jordan Valley after a recent win.

Photos courtesy U.S. Team Roping Championship

Team roping is one of the fastest growing equine sports in the nation, according to the roping association. The sport's popularity, the association says, lies in the ability of almost anyone to take it up regardless of age or gender.

In August, Englund and Grenke took first place at the Northwest Regional Finals at Winnemucca, Nev. That win, which earned the pair almost $5,000, earned them their place at the national finals.

Every roper in the association is classified by numbered skill groups from 11 on down. Englund said he competes in the five group.

Contacted in Arizona, where he owns a recreational boating wholesale store, Englund said he's optimistic.

"Well obviously driving out from Astoria to Oklahoma City you hope to win," he said. His two quarter horses, Magic and General, will make the trip with him.

Englund has never taken on the other events of the rodeo ring, such as bull riding or steer wrestling. Instead, team roping has always held enough appeal.

"I just like the thrill of coming out there and going hard," he said.

In addition to the general roping competition, Englund said he and Grenke will also compete in a few specialty events. As the two are both older than 50, they'll be in the "century" ropers category.

Some of the top ropers in the nation from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) will also be competing in the championship's open rounds. While Englund won't be competing against these cowboys, he said they hold invaluable training seminars between events

Englund said he'll start Tuesday then compete through next Sunday for the championship.

He said competing in these national events means he'll be facing ropers from states such as Arizona, California, Texas and Oklahoma. They have a certain advantage over Oregon ropers, who often have to deal with more muddy conditions.

"You start taking on these Arizona and southwest state guys they rope year 'round," he said. "It's kind of fun to beat them."

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