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By Julie Mankin
Special To Ropers Sports News

RENO, NV (June 20, 2018) – A high school history teacher and truck driver came tight on the biggest win of their long competitive careers Wednesday during the second annual #12 High Desert Showdown. With a purse of almost a quarter-million dollars, the high-stakes amateur roping is part of Wrangler BFI Week in Reno, held in conjunction with the $500,000 Reno Rodeo.

Oregon native Molly Hepper, classified as a #5, and Nevada native Marlow Eldridge, a 7-Elite, have been friends since their high-school rodeo days. The third-high team back in the finals of the roping, they posted a smooth 9.42-second run and watched as the two remaining teams had trouble. They earned $60,000 cash and thousands of dollars in prizes for the win.

“Anytime we’re given the opportunity to rope for this kind of money, it’s a hell of a roping,” said Hepper, whose last day of school in Klamath Falls, Oregon, this year was just last week. “I never, ever dreamed I’d rope for this kind of money and I’ve been roping since I was 6 years old. For me to be in my 50s and still be able to compete and win like this is unbelievable.”

As for Eldridge, 54, he brought his entire family from Nampa, Idaho, to rope in Reno, where he’s celebrating his anniversary with wife Audrey. They were married at Lake Tahoe 23 years ago. Their son Jaylen is entered in the Junior BFI and daughter Candida (named after her Basque grandmother) is entered in the All-Girl Challenge.

“I don’t know – ask my wife!” Eldridge said when asked his plans for his $30,000 windfall. “I don’t know,” responded Audrey, who’d flown into Reno the same day, “but we’re going to have some fun tonight!”

The High Desert Showdown drew 156 teams that each paid a $2,000 entry fee to rope, making it one of the richest #12 ropings in the country. Only five seconds separated the top 15 after three rounds, and the 13th callback team moved up to fifth to split $20,000.

Wrangler BFI Week continued through Friday. For more info visit www.bfiweek.com. 

June 20: High Desert Showdown

First Round: 1. Tres Moore and Luke McClanahan, 6.78 seconds, $3,500; 2. Zane Yates and Ellis Yates, 7.0, $2,500; Second Round: 1. Jim Estill and Mike Johns, 6.46 seconds, $3,500; 2. Butch Gidney and Dee Gidney, 6.47, $2,500.  Short Round: 1. Jeff Atkinson and Brady Atkinson, 6.97 seconds, $3,000; 2. Taryn Krantz and Cody Wayne Castodio, 7.9, $2,000.

Average: 1. Molly Hepper and Marlow Eldridge, 34.07 seconds on four, $60,000; 2. Buster Berna and Tony Boggs, 34.16, $39,000; 3. Taryn Krantz and Cody Castodio, 34.56, $27,000; 4. Todd Hughes and Vic Morrison, 35.93, $23,000; 5. John English and Ty Yost, 36.81, $20,000; 6. Cory Wiese and Josh Love, 37.16, $15,000; 7. Jeff Atkinson and Brady Atkinson, 37.17, $13,000; 8. Derek Hee and Cliff Garrison, 38.04, $10,700, $5,350; 9. Ricky Bolin and Murt Stewart, 38.57, $8,500; 10. Dick Yates and JT Schalla, 39.47, $6,800.