Turtle Powell and Luke Brown put on a heading clinic at the 28th Annual Mike Cervi Jr. Memorial Roping, Jan. 24 in Tucson, Ariz., but it was Jake Cooper and Jade Corkill who topped the five-head contest to earn $16,260 a man, plus trophy Runnin P saddles, Gist buckles, Resistol Black Gold hats and Justin full-quill boots.
Cooper of Stephenville, Texas, and Corkill of Fallon, Nev., came from the second-high callback position, while Powell and Brown nailed all four of the other five high-call positions with their respective partners.
The event had kicked off with a lone red Corriente dragging a head rope through the arena in honor of team roper Mike Cervi Jr., who was killed in a 2001 plane crash and for whom the former Tubac Pro Roping was renamed in 2002.
This year, the enter-twice jackpot (with a $500 per man entry fee) paid back nearly 100 percent to ropers, thanks to a long list of sponsors recruited by producer George Aros and Cervi’s former father-in-law, Mel Potter.
Roping in Tucson’s famous old arena over a 24-foot score, 11 of the 90 teams entered roped all their steers clean. In the short round, Clay Tryan and Patrick Smith laid down a smoking 6.6-second run to win the round and $1,000 a man. But they’d had an earlier penalty, and Luke Brown posted times of 8.35 and 7.73 with Paul Eaves and Martin Lucero to move into first and second, respectively, on five head.
After Kinney Harrell slipped a leg for Powell, Cooper and Corkill produced a 7.51 to take the lead with just Powell and Cory Petska remaining. They’d need a 7.84 to win, but Powell was off the barrier, and their 8.15 gave them a 38.03—just behind Cooper and Corkill’s 37.73—on five.
"I thought Turtle had it won when he roped. Jade and I had talked, and we thought second would be fine by us," said Cooper, looking up as Allen Bach rode by.
"Was that better?" he asked Bach, as the four-time world champ reached out to shake his hand. "That was great," answered the veteran, who had offered Cooper some advice on handling steers after Cooper’s fourth had pancaked before being hammered by Corkill as he jumped up.
"A lot of good heelers can get the easy ones, but Jade can get the tough ones, too," said an appreciative Cooper.
Still, Corkill, the cool-as-ice world record holder, admitted he panicked at the time.
"Luckily, that steer wasn’t one of the weak ones," Corkill said. "My horse rated good right there when he went down. It was kind of a lucky deal."
Humility notwithstanding, it was something to watch Corkill’s little sorrel weapon, Ice Cube, park it and then jump back in there to salvage the roping. Corkill also praised Cooper’s 15-year-old sorrel horse, Benny, for being broke enough to score so well and for having the speed to gather up fresh steers over a 24-foot head start.
"I like when they stick the score out there," said Corkill, who placed third at the roping in 2008. "It shows off the best horses and kind of makes it a cowboy deal."
Cooper said missing his first steer for his twin brother Jimmy, after they’d won the roping last year, really motivated him to catch five for Jade. He hoped the win would get the ball rolling for he and Jimmy after their sub-par winter at the rodeos.
Corkill, who’d placed second in the pre-roping the day before with Britt Williams for $3,600, went home with $19,860, while Powell and Petska earned $12,190 a man plus prizes for second.
Brown placed third for $8,130 and fourth for $4,065 with his partners to fill his truck with loot that included a custom-made Gordy Alderson trophy bit and $12,195. He and Eaves had also won the pre-roping the day before for $5,040 a man, bringing his two-day total to $17,235.
Brown, who’d kept his cool on both short-round runs despite hitting his hat just prior to delivery with Eaves and catching his horse’s tail leaving the box with Lucero, rode a gelding named JP that he bought from Justin Parish last August.
Ten percent of the annual proceeds from the Mike Cervi Memorial benefit the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, which assists professional rodeo athletes and their families after catastrophic injuries. The 2010 edition provided more than $13,000 for the fund.