What It’s Like to be 3

3.5 Blaine Linaweaver and Jory Levy (San Angelo, Texas, 2001)

What I remember is that we were struggling. We were talking about going home. We weren’t winning and we didn’t know if we had what it takes. We didn’t have much confidence. It was my first year out and I was starting to think that I might not have what it takes.

We didn’t do good on our first one, and the second round was fast. A 4.5 or 4.6 was winning the last hole, It was dirty fast; Speed and Rich were 3.7 the day before, which tied the world record.

Our backs were kind of against the wall and we went as fast as we could go without making any mistakes. It felt like slow motion but it was also a blur. Everything just came together at the right time.

It’s not so much that I like owning the record, but I really believe it was a career-changing run. Before that run, I was ready to give up. I was ready to go home and work construction and rope on the weekends. After that run, we thought, ‘Hey, we can do this and we can hang with these guys.’

From there on I’ve made the Finals five times. It only takes one run to make you shoot for the top. It’s amazing what a little confidence can do.

The run was kind of do-or-die for us. We weren’t winning much and we were pretty broke. The night before, me and Blaine were laid up in the camper and he said, ‘We’re going to break the world record.’ Then we did. We knew the steer was going to give us a good chance. Back then, Blaine reached a lot more than he does now. The steer was just perfect. He threw his head up and stepped to the left and he had it on him boom, right then. Then he gave me the chance to come around there and slam it shut. It was dang sure what we needed to get back on track and it turned into a successful year for us.

The funny thing was the night before, Speed and Rich had tied the world record (then a 3.7). So it was kind of neat to take it from them after they only held it for 24 hours. What’s funny is, if I’m not mistaken, they had that steer that we set the record on before we did that week.

For my career, there are a lot of other things I’d like to do, but this has made me a lot more recognizeable.

Being 3 is not as exclusive a club as it once was. In fact, 16 different ropers have been a part of 3.7-second or faster runs-of which there have been 12. In 1986, Tee Woolman and Bobby Harris had the first 3.7-second run ever. It took 15 years for it to be matched-by Speed Williams and Rich Skelton in San Angelo. Then, a mere 24 hours later, Blaine Linaweaver and Jory Levy broke it with a 3.5-second run at the same rodeo. Then, a year later there were two 3.6 runs at the first Texas Stampede-then called the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Cup Finale. Speed and Rich and Clay Tryan and Michael Jones tied the 3.7 mark at the 2004 Wrangler NFR. Then, during the ninth round of last year’s Wrangler NFR, there was a flurry of 3s-including the tied record. In fact, 4-second runs didn’t even place in that round. Below, are the reactions of those men who set those marks.

3.5 Clay Tryan and Patrick Smith (Wrangler national Finals Rodeo, Round 9, 2005)
For me, it’s amazing how fast the sport’s gotten. The reason it’s gotten faster and faster is that guys are trying it. Everybody gets faster every year. I’m sure the 3.5 could be broken next year. It takes littler steers-which we had-but it’s just amazing that it’s gotten this fast.

When we were 3.5, we tied the world record and then that’s what won us the world championship. The importance of that run and the timing of it-being the fastest run ever and needing to win that round-was extremely important for us and that’s what won us the world championship.

Smith: The 3.5 is something that, honestly, a lot of guys said would never be done. A lot of guys told me afterward that they thought 3.7 would never be broken-that it was just the mark and it would never be beaten. I guess the 3.5 was amazing in that it happened when it did. It shows that anything can be done. Nothing’s impossible. I’m not going to say that they couldn’t be faster. Everything just has to fall in to place perfectly.

3.6 Clay Tryan and Caleb Twisselman (U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Cup Finale, Dallas, 2002)

That 3.6 is like the forgotten run. It never made the PRCA record books. But I was 3.6 that night and my brother (Travis) was 3.6 the night before. Every round was like 4 flat or 3 at that Tour Finale and it ended up being a great rodeo for us. We made quite a few fast runs-it was pretty cool. I actually thought then that the 3.5 would get broken there, everybody was talking about it. Everybody was being fast, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t turn out that way.

Twisselman: They had the score pretty short and the cattle were kind of old and Clay just had it on him right there. He was pretty much in the middle of the pen, maybe a step to the left, and I had a leg on my first one so I wasn’t trying to be real conservative so I just went to the end of it right there and everything came tight good, the steer handled fast and it was over before I knew it had begun.

I think it’s the fastest I’ve ever been. Now that there’s another 3.5, the 3.6 doesn’t mean quite as much, but I’d like to have a 3.4 one of these days if I have the opportunity.

3.6 Travis Tryan and Matt Zancanella (U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Cup Finale, Dallas, 2002)
That year at Dallas we were roping some older steers that were honest and handled pretty good. There was another 3.6 that year. When I roped him, Zanc just heeled him real nice and my horse, Walt, faced good. I looked up and saw 3.6 and was like, Wow. It didn’t feel like a run at the National Finals. It was kind of weird, but I’ve never been 3 there.

It was in the third round when it happened and we still had to rope another one. I knew we were fast because the steer just set up nice and my horse was good and I roped him fast and my heeler dang sure roped him fast. Everything just fit. It was just a nice and smooth 3.6 run. I’ve been 4 flat and it’s felt a lot tougher and faster than the 3.6 did. I think those steers were just a little tougher at the Finals. The score and the set up was the same. I just think the steers were really conducive to what was happening there that week. There were a lot of fast runs all week, but you still had to make fast runs, don’t get me wrong. At Dallas you can set up a lot easier and you just have to expose yourself some.

That’s the only time I’ve been 3. It’s cool, there’s only two teams that have been faster than that in history so it’s a cool accomplishment.

Zancanella: I remember when it happened, we hadn’t won much at those Tour Finales. I can’t remember a whole lot about it. Those kind of things are great, but I don’t think that’s the fastest I’ll ever be. I can sure see a guy beating it. They’ve already beat it. If it would have been the fastest time ever, I might have thought about it more. I know I was glad to win something, since we didn’t win much at those Tour Finales, so it was probably a shock. It was big because we hadn’t caught one up to that point and it kind of turned things around.

3.7 Bobby Harris and Tee Woolman (Spanish Fork, Utah, 1986)
It was a good run. It wasn’t a crossfire or anything like that. He was a big old Hereford-looking steer, and I just got out really good and hung it on him out there. Everything just set up really good. I was riding my little dun horse called Kojak and he just finished good. It was just a pretty good little run.

I don’t think much about that kind of stuff. It was exciting and everything, it was just a run and I probably didn’t win $900. To hold it for so long was something, but that’s what records are for-to be broken. Now it’s been broken several times.

Harris: The whole set up was determined by things getting so fast at that rodeo. It seems like something like 5 flat was winning the last hole in the go round and Tee and I were out of the average on our first one.

Anytime you’re fast like that, it doesn’t have anything to do with the heeler. It has everything to do with the header, you know, to get a good start and to get it on them so fast. Then I just had to rope as fast as I could. The funny thing was back then everybody said we were crossfired and all that, but I can’t crossfire anyway. The scores were longer back in those days. Nowadays, the scores are shorter and the steers are smaller, so what makes that run so impressive in my mind is that the scores were longer and the steers were bigger. Now, you kind of expect it.

The thing about it was, you weren’t trying to be 3 back then. Long 4s and 5-second runs were a big deal. When they called out 3 it was amazing. For the next 15 years, the set ups never allowed you to be that fast except at Vegas. I always thought it would be beaten at Vegas. That just shows you how slick things have to be to be that fast. Back then, it was just a big deal to be that fast. Then to have all those ropers go at you for 15 years was neat. I always tease Rich (Skelton) that we held it for 15 years but he only held it for 15 minutes.

3.7 Speed Williams and Rich Skelton (San Angelo, Texas, 2001)

That was kind of a special deal to me because I really wanted that record. It was something that really meant a lot to me. But I was well aware of the fact that many places we go it could get broken, and it didn’t even last 24 hours.

San Angelo is in a small building and a pretty fast set up. You can be pretty fast in it. It was straight down the middle and it happened pretty fast.

When Blaine and Jory broke it the next day, I was bummed out. I didn’t quite believe them. Then when I called Rich and told him, he didn’t believe me.

We’ve had some runs that could have been close to that new record, but little things happened. If we get the right steers at the Finals, that have been roped and handled, it’s definitely in jeopardy.

Skelton: I didn’t believe Speed when he called me and told me about Blaine and Jory breaking that record. Tee and Bobby were 3.7 at Spanish Fork and it lasted 15 years, but ours didn’t last one day. It was fun to have it for one day anyway.

3.7 Wade Wheatley and Kyle Lockett (U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company Cup Finale, Dallas, 2002)

There in Dallas it’s as fast or faster than the Finals. That run was kind of a pressure run for us because we were trying to make the Finals that year. We’d already been 3.9 in the first or second round. That week, I don’t know, we were just in the groove. That 3.7-second run happened so fast. My man, Kyle, didn’t miss a steer all weekend. He gets them tight as fast as anyone in those buildings and you have to have a guy who can get tight quick if you’re going to be 3.

In the whole pressure point on that stuff-we had to have that steer. There were guys being 3 that week so it was one of those deals were everybody was going full tilt.

Lockett: It’s a short, little quick set up. The steers were good, but I think everybody was roping pretty fast. That just made the rest of us step up and go faster. It was one of those deals we had to win. We won $35,000 there and it made our season. We showed up there 18th in the world and left in second. It was the first year they had it there. It was a quick set up, but it was wide enough that the headers could finish and the steers were good. The crowd’s always good over there and that helped.

3.7 Liddon Cowden and Brent Lockett (U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company Cup Finale, Dallas, 2002)

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, neither Liddon Cowden nor Brent Lockett could be reached regarding this 2002 3.7-second run at the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company Cup Finale in Dallas.

3.7 Trevor Brazile and Kory Koontz (Wrangler NFR, Round 6, 2005)

That was my first time to ever ride Walt, Travis’ (Tryan) horse, and it was kind of a blur. It was just like any other time you’re fast: You’re faster when you’re not trying to be. It definitely wasn’t the best steer we had the rest of the week. You know the saying that you have to slow down to speed up? It was opposite of what you think, everything just fell into place. Walt finished really good, a great head horse makes a difference. There’s just not much I can tell you about 3.7 seconds.

It was awesome to be able to help Kory. It was neat to be able to come through after as hard as he and Jake had worked.

Koontz: Leading up to the run, with everything that had happened (Jake Barnes’ injury), I can’t say that I had the most confidence in the world that we were going to be that fast. When we showed up that night and looked at our draw, I knew we had a really good steer. We had watched Travis Tryan and Allen Bach be a short 4 on that steer. We watched the video and it looked really fast. I remember Trevor saying, ‘It didn’t look like there were any mistakes in that run. That’ll just have to be quick enough.’ Jokingly, I said, ‘Maybe we can be a little faster.’

Riding in the box, you back in there and you don’t want to think anything negative, but Trevor’s on a borrowed horse, using a brand new rope, using a brand new glove and we hadn’t run a steer together. In your head, you wonder, ‘What are our chances, really?’ But I just had one job to do, heel the steer, so I turned loose of all that thinking and did my job. That was the fastest run I’d ever had right there and it was over before you even realize it’s started. I no more than left the box, swung my rope twice, and then the steer shot away and I heeled him. You can’t make that run consistently, it’s something that just happens every once in a while when everything comes together perfectly. To actually rope a steer in that amount of time-I don’t know that it can ever get faster than that 3.5 those guys had this year.

With all the stuff with Jake that had gone on, I was thinking it’d sure be neat to win the go round and dedicate the run to him. Then for it to actually come through and happen, it was a pretty emotional time for me. Especially the way the crowd got behind me and Trevor out there. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career.

3.7 Speed Williams and Rich Skelton (Wrangler NFR, Round 8, 2004)

That one wasn’t as nearly as special to me as the other one was (the 3.7 in San Angelo in 2001). Everything was happening pretty fast at the Finals. I’ve had some runs at the Finals that I thought were faster. I just don’t remember that run in detail. Anytime you’re trying to be that fast, everything from the flagger to the timer has to be on the same boat. I don’t think the 3.5 is safe. It’s definitely in jeopardy, but it all depends on what kind of steers we have at the Finals.

Skelton: We had to win the round that night, there were some guys getting real close to us in the race for the world (Williams and Skelton went on to win their eighth title.) We needed it at that time and it worked out for us. Speedy, like always, had it on him fast, and the steer kind of slowed up and came underneath me and I just slowed my rope down and I was by him too far and opened my loop up and got him. I probably didn’t have the best position, but It just worked out for us.

3.7 Clay Tryan and Michael Jones (Wrangler NFR, Round 7, 2004)

That was a big run. We were 3.9 the night before and then came back and were 3.7 and got some confidence rolling. It turned our Finals around-winning back to back rounds with 3s. The 3.7 put us up there in the average and made Michael and I have a record-setting Finals-where we won the most money anyone has ever won there in the team roping.

Jones: We had won the sixth round with a 3.9. We were in the top five in the average and if we were to win some go rounds, we had an outside chance to win the world. The steer we were 3.7 on ran a little bit and we knew he went to the right. Clay did an outstanding job of heading. I kind of let the steer step to the right, we knew he would do that, but I had planned on trying to keep him a little straighter. He really exposed himself, headed him good and when the steer turned, he set back against the rope, which made for a faster corner. Honestly, I didn’t’ heel him any different than I did any of the rest of them. It wasn’t a miraculous heel shot-I knew he had him fast-I just literally made sure I got two feet. It wasn’t wild or out of control.

Clay and I would meet every evening and talk about the steer we had and where we were. After we were 3.7, we had a really good chance of winning the buckle so we just kept going at them. That was kind of the turning point for us.

3.7 Wade Wheatley and Kyle Lockett (Wrangler NFR, Round 9, 2005)

I really had to reach on that one. He was getting away from me. Those kind of runs that feel fast are the ones that are real fast. That horse I was riding, Blair Burk’s Par, had a lot to do with it. He finishes so hard-he’s probably the hardest-finishing horse in the PRCA. On those horses that finish average you’ll have a hard time being 3. If you have a horse that finishes like the Tryans’ horses, you’ve got to have the whole thing: your heeler pulling back and your horse facing hard.

Lockett: This was the round that a 3.9 won last (the same round Tryan and Smith tied the world record). It was the toughest round ever at the Finals. The first team out was Logan (Olson) and Cody (Hintz) and they were 3.8. Those steers last year were the best steers they’ve every had, they were fresh enough and small enough you could be quick but they had been roped enough and were strong enough that they could take it. When those headers stick it on them fast, it all comes down to having the timing with your swing and your rope when they hit the line and they’ve already got it on them. It happens real fast, but it happens smooth, so it feels good doing it.

We’re not real crazy and wild, but we’ll dang sure take our first chance. Those top headers have it figured out now that just as soon as they’re at the line, they’re firing and they’ve learned how to catch them and handle them for us heelers to catch them. Those headers have been behind that set up enough now that they’ve all got it figured out. Speedy sure changed it. He was the only one, and now there are seven or eight of them that can spin them that fast. When it works out, it dang sure happens fast, and it’s getting to where it happens more and more. STW

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