Calf roper aims to lasso a championship

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2001

If you’re walking by Michael Mitchell, and he’s got a rope in his hand, you might want to stay away. He might just throw a lasso around you and reel you in.

&uot;He’s roped me, the bedposts and everything,&uot; said Mitchell’s mother, Linda Hutchins.

But Hutchins doesn’t mind her son’s antics. That’s because Mitchell has a promising career in calf-roping. The 16-year-old is headed to the 53rd annual National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) as a member of Mississippi’s rodeo team – and the only Natchez resident on the squad. The event takes place July 23-29 in Springfield, Ill.

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&uot;I just want to go out there and do my best,&uot; Mitchell said, adding that he’s excited to represent Natchez.

Mitchell competed in the state rodeo championships last week in Jackson. He finished in second place, eight points back. The top four finalists in eight rodeo events advanced to the national finals.

He also went to the NHSFR last year as a team roper and hopes his experience last year will benefit him this time around. &uot;I know what to expect when I get out there.&uot;

Mitchell started riding a horse at 2 and &uot;has had a rope in his hands&uot; since he was 5 or 6, his mom said. Watching rodeos on cable television and videos also peaked his interest. Mitchell stuck with calf-roping because he &uot;wanted to be tough in some kind of way, so I caught on.&uot;

The family owns its stock, making practice easy for Mitchell-although it hasn’t stopped him from roping other things. Mitchell’s father, Larry Hutchins, and two other men, Neil Morgan and Steve Green, have guided the teen’s calf-roping career. Hutchins releases the calves for Mitchell to rope, and Morgan and Green, calf ropers as well, give Mitchell advice.

Morgan also played life-saver last week in Jackson, driving daily from Nacthez with a horse for Mitchell to ride.

Mitchell has been practicing since his returned from Jackson and will continue to do so until the day he leaves. As Mitchell put it, &uot;Practice makes perfect.&uot;

It’s that continuous practicing and Mitchell’s will to succeed that makes his mother believe he’ll do well in Springfield. &uot;I think I’ve got a world champion.&uot;

Mitchell has made a little bit of cash as a calf-roper. He won $3,000 over Memorial Day weekend at a rodeo in Oklahoma. NHSFR contestants will compete for over $100,000 in prizes and $150,000 in college scholarships. The event will be televised nationally on Aug. 22 and Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. on the Outdoor Channel.