In June, Sawyer Gilbert was ranked 100th in breakaway. Heading into the National Finals Rodeo in December, she sits at No. 2. It was a whirlwind summer for the 19-year-old from Buffalo, South Dakota. And as she will happily tell you, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The first thing you pick up on during a conversation with Gilbert is her directness. She’s not one for small talk or hyperbole. She prefers to travel alone to events, keeping herself company with music and her thoughts.
“I’ve got all my own rigs, so it’s pretty easy for me just to pack up and go,” she says. “Sometimes me and people don’t mesh that well so it’s better for me to stay by myself.”
These days, after a whirlwind summer that saw her rise up the rankings quickly, Gilbert sits all alone at the top of the PRCA/WPRA Breakaway Roping World Standings.
Gilbert found herself in the Top 15 after winning Cheyenne Frontier Days and hauling in $28,000 in prize money. The win came with a 4.4-second throw to win in her first time participating in the storied event.
She was the first ever Cheyenne Frontier Days Breakaway Roping Champion whose earnings counted toward the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association standings. After Cheyenne, the talented roper then continued her rise to number 1 by winning the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon in September.
“I remember in June, roping in Deadwood and then everyone drove to Fort Smith, and that was the first weekend of the year for me,” she says. “I looked at the standings, and I was like 100th. I thought, ‘This isn’t right.’ Just looking from where I am now to looking back to then, you have to just sit back and smile because a lot of cool stuff has happened.”
Cool stuff will continue to happen, too. In November, Gilbert will compete at the Women’s Rodeo World Championship in Las Vegas. Then in December, she heads to the Wrangler NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Heady stuff for the teenager who left college to pursue a fulltime pro career only months ago.
“It’s been a big learning curve,” she says. “But this past year has really taught me a lot about myself. It taught me the mental aspect. You set your goals and then you achieve them.”