This year has been far from the season Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill are used to. They're still in a familiar spot in the World Standings (3rd at press time), but with two rodeo wins together, and plenty of day money in the bank, they hadn't won any major titles.
All that changed when they roped three steers in 26.4 seconds at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days to win the average title and $19,718 a man. Roping their last steer in 8.8 seconds to place third in the final round, the duo held onto their lead in one of the most competitive short rounds in recent Cheyenne memory.
"It's been weird, we haven't really done that good at all," Corkill said. "It seems like we've done really good but we really haven't won anything. I don't know why or what's been going on. He's having some trouble sometimes and I've been having some trouble, and it seems like we just haven't really developed a run or got anything going."
Their run seemed to come together in Cheyenne, though. They were 8.3 to split third in the first round on a tough steer. The steer tried a little bit, and checked off when Tryan roped him. The steer stepped right and Clay's 14-year-old bay gelding, Dew, went left, but Tryan dallied and Corkill (riding TK-year-old AQHA/PRCA Heel Horse of the Year, Caveman) roped him to be faster than either of them thought they'd be.
"Our second one was probably the best run I've ever made in Cheyenne, as far as for the steer," Tryan said. "I was kind of shocked after that we were still high man back but the steers have all been really fast this year."
Nick Rawlings and Derrick Peterson were 12 on the steer in the first round, so Tryan and Corkill knew he'd really run hard. That's where Tryan's horse came into play. He got a good start and was able to run the steer down to end up with a 9.3 farther down the arena.
They went into the short round as the high call team, and watched only two of the top twelve teams miss. Chad Masters and Randon Adams would take the lead with three teams left with an 8.4-second run, then Jake Cooper and Clint Summers took over with an 8.2. Drew Gartner and Tim Franzen would take a no time, so Tryan and Corkill needed to be 8.9 for the average title.
Tryan and Corkill knew their short-round steer would go right, but they didn't anticipate how much. But in Cheyenne, being on the right fence is a safer bet than being stuck on the left, though Corkill said he thought he could have given Tryan a better haze.
"You can every once in a while get a steer over here that it's hard to be 9.0 on, and our steer wasn't that," Tryan said. "Most of the steers were good today, everybody had a good shot. There was one that went left, but other than that everybody had a good shot. It was a good roping."
"We were running out of time, I thought we weren't going to win it anyway," Corkill admitted. "I felt like we chased him pretty far, which is kind of weird that we did, because when Clay turned I thought about throwing it, but I thought we weren't going to win so I took another swing to make sure I caught, just trying to win second. It usually kind of goes like that. If you try to win, you don't, but if you just make sure you do your job, you usually do good."
They stopped the clock in 8.8 and
This was the first rodeo win for Tryan and Corkill since Eugene, Ore., over the 4th of July. That was a one-header, as was their only other rodeo win together, the Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Hayward, Calif., in mid-May.
"I've roped terrible since about Reno on. I just haven't roped very good, probably the worst I've ever roped in my career," Tryan said. "It's bothered me, but the only thing you can do is just keep after it and don't quit, and hopefully you can turn it around, and we did right here, a little bit. We still have a lot to do."
They haven't had a chance to practice to get a run together since they've been on the road, but the circumstances at Cheyenne seemed to suit Corkill's under-the-gun style.
"I've been this way my whole life, and luckily it is this way," Corkill said. "For some reason, at these bigger places, I just get in some different mode. If I am having trouble, it kind of just fixes it for me. My concentration level or something gets better at these, and I'm calmer. If I am making mistakes, I usually don't make them at these kind of things. So, it was kind of just good timing for this to come into play, at a bigger rodeo where I usually just do better."
When Tryan and Corkill have been struggling, their sons have been on the road with them to lighten the mood and offer the occasional coaching.
"Lately they've been like, ?Dad you miss all the time.' And I tell them, ?I know, I never used to, believe me I know.' My 7-year-old, Tyler, he knows roping and he knows everyone, and this ?high man back deal' he's been talking to his mom about it for three days. It was a big day for him, he was excited about it."
Corkill's 2-year-old son Colby was in Cheyenne to watch his dad all week, and this is the first big win he's seemed to really understand. Colby spends most of his time with Tyler and Braylon Tryan, so he's really getting hooked on team roping.
"This morning, I was getting ready, and he said, ?Did you draw a good one?' Stuff he didn't understand even a couple months ago. He'll tell me good shot, or he'll say, ?Did you place in the day money?' I don't like to be away from my little boy very much, especially when you're doing bad. I don't like to be doing bad and not seem him."
Tryan and Corkill can relax and enjoy the rest of the regular season after cashing their big checks in Cheyenne. They're about $14,000 out of first place (behind Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves and Erich Rogers and Cory Petska), but the win put them back up in the tour standings so they can potentially get a tour bonus at the end of the season.
"It's amazing how two weeks can make you start doubting yourself," Tryan said. "I don't mind messing up, and I'm not one of those guys who thinks you're going to win all the time. I mean, you want to win every time, and you try to win every time, but no one is going to be 100-percent. But I've done stuff that I usually don't do, like break barriers on good steers, or miss lopers, just stuff that I haven't done in 10 years. I'm going to just stay at it, practice a little bit. I wish I had a week off or I'd just run I don't know how many steers. But you don't get that chance in the summer time. I don't rope year to year, I rope rodeo to rodeo. It's a year-long contest. When I show up here, I think I'm the best header in the world. I think you've got to think that to give yourself some confidence. When I go to Dodge City I'm going to think the same thing, and the Spicer Gripp, the same thing. Whether I get it done or not, I still want to go in there with that mindset."