story by Lindsay Humphrey “I was born carrying a rope.” It’s a bold statement from 14-year-old Gunnar Tipton who’s been roping calves and heels competitively […]
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Meet the Member Sterlin Mitchell
story by Lindsay King
The first buckle 13-year-old Sterlin Mitchell ever won came as a bit of a surprise. The NMJHSRA breakaway roper waited outside the arena for his next event when he heard his named called as the breakaway champion of the junior rodeo in Farmington. “I didn’t know I had won it at first, but I placed well enough both days I guess. I was the only one to catch both of my calves. I was really proud of that buckle since it was my first one in junior high,” said the Lamy, New Mexico, native. That was last spring at the very first rodeo of the season. The rest of his year, where he also competed in ribbon roping and headed, shaped up to be quite the nail biter. It came down to his last run at state finals in the breakaway roping. “There was a lot of wind and pressure that day. I wanted to go to nationals so I could see what it would be like to compete instead of just watching my brother. I was sitting fourth and all I had to do was catch in a decent time.” He missed, but his goal for the next season was clinched.
Though the eighth grader is looking forward to adding reined cow horse to his list of rodeo events next fall when he gets into high school. His brother Trey, 17, just happens to be the reining state champion in the event. “I want to use his horse that he won state on. But next year we will be competing against each other in everything since we will both be in high school.” Though most of Sterlin’s success is found in the breakaway roping, his favorite event is the ribbon roping. It seems fitting since he likes to rope calves the best. “I just think ribbons is fun, it’s different. And I like having a partner out there.” This will be his second year roping a calf for Kylie West in the boy girl event. It just so happens that Sterlin’s calf horse happens to be his favorite mount. “He is fun to ride and he can do everything roping wise but also does reined cow horse too. My dad takes him to ranch rodeos. He was raised on the Singleton’s San Cristobal Ranch, where we live.”
Sterlin’s dad Grant works for the Singletons and it was the ranch work that first got Sterlin twisting a loop, ultimately leading him down the family trail of rodeo. Though his mom Connie never hit the rodeo trail, she’s in the practice pen helping every chance she gets. “She takes us to the rodeos that dad can’t make. But she’s also there to help us however she can, usually that means running the chutes in the practice pen.” Naturally, it’s Grant who has the biggest influence on Sterlin when it comes to roping. “My dad has taught me everything I know so far and helped me get started in roping. He’s always giving me tips when I get in a slump or just need help.”
Despite a strong affinity for the western way of life, Sterlin also has some athletic interests. He plays linebacker for his junior high football team and shoots hoops in basketball. “I really like both football and horse judging (in FFA) the best. I have a lot of friends on both of those teams. I like going to new places and meeting new people when I’m judging.” He also judges landscape design with his FFA chapter. Though his other skill ties directly back to his roots on the ranch. His mom taught him the art of leather work. “I’ve been making wallets, leggings, and belts for a couple of years now. My mom used to make leggings for all three of us and then sold some too.” Those are the very leggings accompanying Sterlin and his dad out on the range. “My favorite part of working on the ranch is when I go out with my dad to gather the cows and calves we missed when we were trying to brand or wean. We go out in the pasture and we rope them to bring them in.” He added with a grin and laugh, “They are usually the wild ones too.”