Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill cashed their first checks of the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Round 5, and they got it done in 3.9 seconds on the steer they dreaded drawing most.
Clay and Jade strategized their way around letting the same steer that took Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens out of the average in Round 2 do them dirty to share the victory lap with Erich Rogers and Cory Petska, who took the world championship race lead away from regular-season leaders Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira after a 3.9-second run of their own.
“That steer looked almost impossible to heel to me,” Clay said of the night Coleman and Billie Jack tried him on. “He was really bad on the second hop that first time, so I knew I needed to come straight back up the arena to keep him moving better, and Jade knew he needed to heel him really fast.”
The team with a set of six gold buckles between them struggled in the early rounds, finishing out of the money on opening night in 5.6. Clay missed their second and third steers, and Jade roped a leg in Round 4.
“I was missing the barrier and my timing was messed up,” said Clay, who’s roping at his 16 NFR here this year. “So we went and made some practice runs, and I got my timing back. Then I made 500,000 runs in my head.”
“Before we came down here I felt as good as I’ve ever felt about my roping and my horse,” said Jade, already a 10-time NFR team roper, who was so hot after roping that fourth-round leg that he walked back to his hotel that night. “I felt all the things I need to win to the max. Then we get here and it takes five rounds to win a check.
“The start seems faster here than it’s ever been. We weren’t setting things up and giving ourselves a chance to do good. We had a slow finish on our first steer, Clay missed those next two, then in the fourth round we had the one we both picked, Clay really got a good start, that steer peeled into me and I got stretched out.
“Clay missing those steers was my fault. I should have stepped our second steer left a little and kept him from stretching out and running like that, because that let him be a little low-headed. On that fourth steer, the steer’s feet hit before the bottom strand of my loop, because I waited too long to throw.”
The only credit Jade claimed in those first four rounds was the blame.
“Clay had a job and a half on his shoulders those first four nights, because I only did half my job,” Jade said. “Tonight (in Round 5), I shortened my loop up a little, got my angle a little steeper and created my own shot instead of waiting for things to happen. Basically, I finally just did my job.”
Clay’s been to Rodeo’s Super Bowl enough times to savvy that this is truly a 10-steer marathon, and that you can’t let stubbed toes in your rearview mirror impact your next run.
“I’ve had some bad NFRs and I’ve had some good NFRs,” he said. “If you make the Finals a lot, that’s just life. But you can win as much in the last five rounds as the first five rounds. You cannot give up.”