COLORADO SPRINGS - Jake Long seems poised to join one of the most elite fraternities in team roping -his presence will swell the ranks to two - of guys who have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in back-to-back years with a pair of brothers.
After two trips to Las Vegas with Brady Tryan, the youngest of the three Billings, Mont., headers, Long is now on the road with middle brother Travis Tryan, and looking very good for a return to Vegas after a long weekend swing through Alberta yielded two wins and another big check at a co-sanctioned PRCA Canadian rodeo.
They set an arena record with a 3.5-second run in winning the Sundre ProRodeo, won the Guy Weadick Days in High River and won checks in two rounds and the average at the Wainwright Stampede for total earnings of $5,709.
"We would have won at Wainwright, too, if I hadn't missed in the finals," said Long, of Coffeyville, Kan. "It's been smooth from Day 1 in the practice pen, a very easy transition. I started the year with Chad Masters, entered a couple of rodeos with Charly Crawford and got together with Travis in early April at Pocatello, Idaho.
"Travis even uses a horse (Zena) that Brady used to rope on. It's nice to know the horses (and how they perform)."
It was Brady Tryan who got things rolling after Travis Tryan parted ways with Joel Bach in the spring. He just pointed out the obvious, that both his brother and his former partner were in a position where they needed to find somebody who could keep them on track for the Wrangler NFR.
Since joining forces, Travis Tryan and Long have won at least a share of four titles - Clovis, Calif., and Hayward, Calif., along with the two in Canada. The weekend road trip through Alberta moved Tryan from 11th to ninth in the world standings and Long from 13th to 10th.
"Our styles fit together well, that has a lot to do with it," Travis Tryan told the Billings Gazette. "And I've finally got my horse situation lined out."
He'd been through a rough stretch the past couple of years with some of his best horses dying or suffering injuries. Zena is a 12-year-old mare raised by his father Dennis.
If Long does qualify for Las Vegas with Travis Tryan, he will join H.P. Evetts as the only roper to make it to the NFR in back-to-back years with a pair of brothers. Evetts won his only world championship in 1974, while paired with Jerold Camarillo, and came back to Oklahoma City the next year with Jerold's brother, Leo Camarillo. (Evetts finished second to Leo Camarillo that year in the world standings; there were no separate titles for headers and heelers in those days).
• Although Sundre (with $90,851) had the smallest payout of the three big rodeos in Alberta over the weekend, it had eye-catching numbers of another sort. In addition to that 3.5-second run from Tryan and Long, there was also an arena record of 6.6 seconds in the tie-down roping by Hunter Herrin. Shane Hanchey was second in 6.9 and the cutoff for a check (with a tie for 10th place) was 7.7 seconds. (One of the 7.6s was by Canadian Kirk Robinson, the son of seven-time NFR qualifier Larry Robinson, and earned him enough to be able to buy his card.) Things weren't much easier in the team roping. Anything slower than 4.4 didn't earn a paycheck. "It seemed like everybody got into a good rhythm," Long said. "The headers all seemed to be doing a good job of turning the steers quickly and everything was really fast."
• When you think Great Falls, Mont., and saddle bronc riding, you think 2009 World Champion Jesse Kruse. An hour away, over in Augusta, Mont., that territory belongs to his cousin, Clay Gruel (pronounced GREW-el). He's won the last two Augusta American Legion Rodeos, including the June 24 edition with an 81-point ride on Kesler Championship Rodeo's Smoke Signal. "Jesse started in high school," Gruel told the Great Falls Tribune. "Ever since he started, I got started. He helped me along."
• Well, that went better than planned: Kelly Timberman, the 2004 world champion bareback rider, brought prized student Zachariah Phillips, 19, up from Casper, Wyo., with him so he could get his feet wet at some of the big Canadian rodeos. Timberman finished second at High River, Alberta, for $2,084, while Phillips won at Sundre, Alberta, for $2,069, more than enough to qualify to buy his PRCA card.
• Kyle Whitaker has a record six Linderman Awards for excellence at both ends of the arena, but has never contended for a berth in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this late in the season until now. With his win in the two-head average at Rodeo de Santa Fe (N.M.) and another check in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Whitaker has total earnings of $21,652, good for 15th place in the steer wrestling world standings heading into Cowboy Christmas, up from 20th a week ago.
• Oh brother! Three of the top four finishers in the team roping at the Mesquite (Texas) Pro Rodeo were all-brother pairings. Permit holders Clay Smith and Jake Smith from Broken Bow, Okla. - and, yes they are named for Clay O'Brien Cooper and Jake Barnes - were first with identical twins A.J. Horton/Kyle Horton in third and Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward in fourth. The only "interlopers" were Trey Harmon and Braden Harmon in second place. They're only cousins.
• Is there nothing this guy can't do? Looking for something to do between his duties as specialty act performer and barrelman at the Big Spring (Texas) Cowboy Reunion & Rodeo, Keith Isley teamed up with former Wrangler NFR pickup man Paul Peterson to finish third in the team roping in 8.7 seconds. They each got checks for $587.
Information courtesy PRCA