The Roundup -

Young Mandaree Roper Making History

 

Jace Johnson and his partner, Tyler Jiron, during their winning event.

Mandaree's Jace Johnson is making strides in his career as a team roper, and hasn't let his young age stop him.

In March, Jace was the youngest winner ever of the National Team Roping Finals in Wickenburg, Arizona, taking home a trophy saddle, belt buckle, and $100,000, shared with his draw partner, Tyler Jiron. Despite having only three solid years of roping experience, Jace, who was 14 at the time of the Finals, teamed up with Jiron to rope four steers in just 40.53 seconds. Jace competed against more than two hundred teams of seasoned ropers, some even two and three times his age.

Though Jace had just three years practice before his big win, he has had a lifetime of experience on horseback. His parents, Shane and Jaimie Johnson, run Johnson Performance Horses and ranch east of Watford City, and Jace started riding at a young age. His grandfather, Jarrette Johnson, "would pony him through the Badlands when he was just two years old", Shane said. His maternal grandmother, Darlene Baye, was a high school barrel racing champion on the 1950s.

Jace accompanied his parents to the livestock sales ring regularly as a child. "Jace would sit outside the sale barn all day long", his father Shane remembers. Bill Parker, Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee and National Finals Rodeo roper, ran the horse sales at the time, and gave Jace his first rope. At the age of 12, Jace got serious about the sport. "We got up in the morning, had Bible study, his mom would work on his schoolwork with him, and then instead of going to the playground, he went to the barn", Shane said. Jace set his sights on winning in the sport, and would practice every day, spending up to 4 hours a day for each roping. The youngest of eight Johnson children, Jace said he "goes to a roping and he knows everyone, even the announcers. They're like family".

Jace poses with his trophy saddle. He also took home a belt buckle and $100,000 shared with Tyler. Jace was 14 years old at the time of the Finals, making him the Youngest Winner to date.

Next up on Jace's schedule is the Bob Feist Invitational in Reno, Nevada, the biggest one-day roping after the NFR itself. The roping is by invitation only, and there is about $800,000 in cash and prizes at stake. Jace was invited by Mike Beers, 1984 world champion team roper. Beers invited Jace to rope as his partner in the Invitational, after working with him for about three years. Jace will be the youngest ever to participate in the event, at just 15 years old.

Despite his newfound fame and potential for world success, Jace remains humble. "I just go in there, do my best, and see what happens. I stay humble and let God do the rest", he said. He credits his parents for much of his success, saying "I know that my dad will get me somewhere by pushing me". Jace has his sights set on qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo, and some day winning a world champion title. His mother Jaimie says of his future, "We believe in thinking positive. Jace will be a world champ someday". "He is an excellent rider", father Shane adds.

 

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