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Eddie Hawley: former Hays resident wins big at INFR...again!

 

December 4, 2019

Eddie Hawley's family poses with him after winning the INFR's 2019 team roping championship in Las Vegas last October. Left to right are Ed Hawley (Eddie's father), Eddie, Eddie's wife, Brittney and youngest daughter Ellie, and Ruth Hawley, Eddie's mother. Eddie and Brittney's oldest daughter, Rylee is standing in front. Eddie is holding his championship buckle and an eagle's feather. The championship saddle is in front of the group. The event was held at South Point Equestrian Center and Exhibit Hall.

The Indian National Finals Rodeo, Inc. (INFR) held its 44th championship event the end of October in Las Vegas. At the latest Finals Eddie Hawley and his team roping partner, Myles John, won their second consecutive world title. No stranger to this international competition, it was Eddie's thirteenth time to qualify to compete at the INFR and his fourth time to win a team roping championship. Eddie grew up in Hays and graduated from Dodson High School in 2002. He and his family now live in Surprise, Arizona.

A short primer about the Indian National Finals Rodeo, Inc. (INFR) and the annual Finals event

The first INFR championship competition was held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in 1976. Several regional Indian Rodeo Associations around the U.S. and Canada were united to create the INFR. The INFR represents 3000 Native cowboys and cowgirls from 11 regions across the U.S. and Canada. The 400 top athletes, representing as many as 75 tribes, come together each year to determine the best rodeo athletes in their respective specialties. Finals competition includes eight rodeo events including bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, ladies barrel racing and ladies break-away roping.

Athletes compete for $1 million in prize money at rodeos across the U.S. and Canada during the run-up to the Finals in October. The rodeo tour begins each February in Arizona and Florida, then moves north. The 400 top competitors reach the Finals in one of three ways: as a top ten earner from the tour (200 rodeos are staged each year); as the top earner in one's event for a specific region (Eddie Hawley is in the Southwest region encompassing southern Arizona and southern California); or, winning the year-end final event in a region. Over the years Eddie and his roping teammates have qualified both as top ten earners through the rodeo tour and by winning their region's final event. This year he noted, "We qualified through our earnings on the tour."

From Hays, Montana to Surprise, Arizona and on to the INRF in Las Vegas

Eddie wrote, "I always said I could live in either of two places, Montana or Arizona." That statement was prophetic. He and Brittney, his wife, met in college at Bozeman. She and Eddie moved south so she could finish her college work (she's a Nurse Practitioner) and they never left Arizona. With daughters Rylee (4) and Ellie (2), the Hawley's make Arizona their home.

Eddie earned a degree in Construction Engineering Technology at Montana State University. I asked how he got interested in that field of study and he said, "My dad, Ed, works in construction and I like to build things as well." Eddie now works with a company he described as a "heavy civil engineering construction company." The company mainly works on water and wastewater treatment plants for municipalities. He noted, "I do like what I'm doing so I guess it's working out."

Interest in roping started at an early age for Eddie. He grew up riding horses and roping and added, "That's all we did in the summers. Competing at rodeos was just a part of it." Because he enjoyed the competition of rodeo and team roping, he stuck with it. He tie-down roped in college and enjoyed it but decided, "I would stick with team roping."

At this stage in his life Eddie said he's always balancing family, work and rodeo. He cannot compete full time but does manage to compete in 30-40 rodeos a year. Last year he traveled 35,000+ miles to events in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana. His wife and daughters travel with him to many rodeos. They stay in their living quarters trailer about 90% of the time. To make the number of desired rodeos requires a lot of night driving, trying to fit as many rodeos as possible in a two or three day stretch. Sometimes his roping teammate hauls Eddie's horse so Eddie can fly to an event and minimize the amount of time he's away from work. Eddie's mom, Ruth, told me that Eddie's business partners are also in to rodeo and they try to accommodate him when possible.

To practice Eddie built an arena at his house which he said makes an "amazing difference" in keeping skills sharp. He shared that wife Brittney will often "have the horses saddled when I get home from work" so he can practice. His teammate, Myles John, lives four hours away at Indian Wells, Arizona so it's not realistic for them to regularly practice together. During rodeos close to Surprise, Myles stays with the Hawley's and the two practice roping. Myles and Eddie have roped together for 5-6 years and as main partners for the last two years. Eddie added, "We've roped with each other long enough that we each know what to expect during the run." Eddie is the header and Myles the heeler.

During Finals week of the INFR in Las Vegas check in begins on Monday with two performances on Tuesday and Wednesday, one performance each on Thursday and Friday (determined by fastest time or scores) and the championship round on Saturday night. This year Eddie and Myles' combined time for four steers was 23.90 seconds. Second place was 25.20 seconds.

2018 Indian National Final Rodeo (INFR) champion team ropers Myles John (l) (tribal affiliation-Navajo) and Eddie Hawley (tribal affiliation-Gros-Ventre) pose with their championship buckles during closing ceremonies in Las Vegas. Hawley and John won the team roping event in 2018 and again in 2019. Hawley grew up in Hays and is a 2002 graduate of Dodson High School. The ropers both live in Arizona. This was the fourth world championship in team roping for Eddie, son of Ed and Ruth Hawley.

See Page A8: Eddie Hawley wins at INFR

For wins both in 2018 and 2019 Eddie's wife and two daughters as well as his mom and dad were at the championship round. He wrote, "It makes it that much more special to have my family to share a championship with. I couldn't have done it without my family's support."

Asked, "What is the payoff to winning?" Eddie wrote, "It seemed almost impossible to get one, let alone four championships! Each win is special in its own way. Our goal every year is to win it and come out on top. Two years in a row is amazing." He added, "To be listed with the past world champions is truly an honor."

In his mid-30's I wondered how Eddie viewed his future in team roping. He said, "The sport keeps getting tougher and tougher. The increased competition motivates me to work every day to keep up." For Eddie, "Rodeo is a huge part of our (family) lives and I do not see that ending anytime soon." Of his future in rodeo, he remarked, "Hopefully I can have my name on the list of champions a few more times." Don't look for Eddie Hawley to be ending his rodeo career any time soon. And congratulations to Eddie and Myles on their second championship in a row.

 
 

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