Clay Tryan and Jake Long just needed a clean run to win the $50,000-a-man RodeoHouston title at last out in the Super Series Championship Shootout, and they were, of course, the men for the job.
The flag fell in 6.4 seconds, putting Tryan and Long atop the PRCA’s World Standings for the first time in their three years roping together—a spot they don’t look to relinquish any time soon.
“I don’t know if I’m weird or not, but I want to win the next place I go just as much as if I hadn’t won this,” Tryan, 42, of Lipan, Texas, said. “This was probably the best rodeo win of my life, because when I won it the last time it didn’t count toward the NFR. It’s the biggest rodeo of the year, and you rope it out. Anytime you win something that big, it’s obviously exciting. I like to try to win, and I don’t like to lose. It’s just the way I am. I don’t care if tomorrow I’m roping for $100 or $100,000, I’m going to try to win.”
Partners since the 2019 Finals, this is the first time Tryan and Long sit atop the PRCA world standings together, Tryan with $65,921 and Long the identical sum. Tryan and Long are $18,216 ahead of reigning world champs Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira who split third at RodeoHouston and walked away with $28,500.
This is the second RodeoHouston win for Tryan (who won it with Jade Corkill in 2016) and the first for Long.
The duo’s week at RodeoHouston started off dismally, with Long being flagged out for a crossfire on their first steer, drawing the ire of fans on social media who felt like the rule had been unfairly applied.
“That was a tough situation,” Long, 37, from Coffeyville, Kansas, said. “I told somebody in the long run, we’d have won second that night. At the time it felt huge because it put us in a spot where we had to win first the last night. But truthfully, it probably was a crossfire. I wasn’t arguing whether it was or wasn’t a crossfire—I was arguing that someone two teams in front of me take the same throw. My argument was, if you’re going to let him do it you’ve got to let me do it. And the flagger’s point was he let a mistake by letting him do it and he didn’t want to keep making that mistake. I understand his point. If you’re going to throw there, you can’t be mad for getting flagged out.”
They won the last round of their set with a 4.3-second run, sneaking them into the semifinals. Tryan and Long split second and third in the semifinals, then ducked off to jackpot in San Antonio at the Rose Palace for the Crawfish Open on Friday—which Tryan won with Nogueira worth $7,600 a man—before heading back to Houston’s NRG Stadium for the final two steers.
In the Championship round of 10, Tryan and Long came out swinging with a 5.1, winning the go-round and allowing them to go last out in the clean-slate Championship Shootout. They watched as Curry Kirchner and Austin Rogers took a no-time, then as Clay Smith and Jade Corkill slipped a leg to be 9.3. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira took a no-time next to last out.
“Jake, he gets excited sometimes,” Tryan explained. “He’s real aggressive. I just kind of know him well enough now that I knew what I was going to do. I was going to run in there probably let my horse rate off and make sure I caught the steer. But when you do that sometimes you don’t pull him very good right away because you’re not going very fast. But all I told him to do is ‘Make sure I’m pulling the steer before you heel him. Let me get going first.’ We’ve been practicing and working on his horse so he said ‘Like we’ve been practicing at your house?’ and I said, ‘Yes like we’re practicing at the house.’ That’s the first time I’ve ever had a conversation like that before I roped.”
Lucky for Long, he’s been working on keeping his 9-year-old roan horse CJ just a tick more free, so he knew exactly the shot Tryan was talking about.
“Earlier, I was having a hard time getting around steers and maybe giving them a touch too much of a head start,” Long said. “My horse is a little tight. We were practicing at Barry Berg’s house, and we were just kind of talking about it. I’ve been trying to practice lately not necessarily freeing my horse up, but instead of heeling just for myself taking one or two more swings. Clay said, ‘Hey give me a second to pull this cow. He says sometimes I throw so fast I don’t give him time to pull the cow. I told him I’d do exactly like I do in the practice pen and get my swing over him and free my horse up. Him saying that gave me a lot of piece because truthfully I was a little bit double minded when I saw Kaleb miss.”
For Tryan, the long box and longer start was the perfect set up for his 12-year-old bay mare JLo, whose papers are littered with fast horses like Frenchmans Guy, Chicks Beduino and Casady Casanova.
“This is more her style than the Thomas & Mack,” Tryan said, commenting on the fact that he only rode her a few rounds at the Finals. “The Thomas & Mack feels different—it’s such a short score. A lot of horses people ride there aren’t even good at other stuff, they’re just good there. Houston is more like it is the rest of the year, with a long box and a longer score. She’s better at the longer scores for me.”
While Tryan and Long don’t yet have their California run plans solidified, they don’t plan to pull up much given their early lead on the pack. Last year it took $62,403.22 to qualify for the Finals in the heading, and $61,688.45 in the heeling. Already well above that mark, Tryan and Long will strive to maintain their lead throughout the regular season and give Long a shot at his first gold buckle and Tryan’s fourth. TRJ