SAN ANGELO, Texas – Clint Summers is coming off the best season of his young career, yet 2016 still left a bad taste in his mouth.
The team roper earned more than $48,000 last year while roping with fellow Floridian Dustin Egusquiza and finished 20th in final heeling world standings. That’s five spots shy of qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale that features only the top 15 contestants in each event.
“When you get that close, it makes your mouth water,” said Summers, a fifth-year professional from Lake City, Fla. “Last year was the first time I had rodeoed full time in a while. We started in May, and it worked out pretty good. Both of us were close to making the finals.”
A new season means a fresh start, and it all began Friday night during the opening performance of the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo. Summers and his heading partner, Cory Clark, stopped the clock in 5.5 seconds and share the first-round lead with Jake Cooper and Brady Norman.
“This is actually our first rodeo together,” Summers said of Clark. “We’ve known each other forever. He’s a little younger than me, but I think it started out alright.”
It did, and the tandem will make their second-round run during Saturday’s matinee, which begins at 1 p.m. at San Angelo Coliseum.
“We were the first team out, and it’s always a little nerve-racking to be the first ones out in the whole rodeo because you don’t know what the steers are going to do or how the start is going to be for your header,” she said. “We didn’t try to do anything big; we just tried to catch him.
“Now we have to rope our second one tomorrow. We probably need to be a little faster.”
The ultimate goal is to win the championship, but it takes little steps to get there. The first is complete, and the next is to be solid on Saturday. If it all works OK, they will return on Friday, Feb. 17, for the championship round, which will feature the top 12 contestants in each discipline. That’s when champions will be crowned.
“San Angelo has always been pretty decent to me,” said Summers, who has qualified for the short go-round two of the three previous times he’s competed in this Texas community. “The first time I headed for Brad Culpepper and missed in the short round. In my rookie year, I heeled for Arky Rogers, and we finished third.
“You have different rodeos that you find you like because you have some success, and this is one of those for me. I’ve got a lot of confidence here. Every year I’ve been here, the crowd is always packed, and that makes it great. I also like the setup. Back where I’m from on the East Coast, most of the setups are short like this one. I grew up roping on something like this.”
That confidence is important in any competition, but it’s vital for cowboys who make their living in rodeo. There are no guarantees, so catching steers is like catching paychecks for ropers like Summers. He has a whole season to keep catching, and that money not only pays bills and expenses that come with the game; it leads the way to world championships.
In rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestant in each event who finishes the season with the most money will win the crown.
“When you just miss the NFR, it sure makes you practice harder to get there,” he said.
San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo
Feb. 3-5, Feb. 10-12, Feb. 15-17
Bareback riding leaders: No qualified rides.
Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Tyler Waguespack, 3.3 seconds; 2. Ty Erickson, 3.5; 3. (tie) Kyle Whitaker and Jacob Talley, 3.8; 5. Wade Sumpter, 4.2; 6. Nick Guy, 4.4; 7. Timmy Sparing, 4.7; 8. Clayton Hass, 5.5.
Team roping: First round leaders: 1. (tie) Cory Clark/Clint Summers and Jake Cooper/Brady Norman, 5.5 seconds; 3. Aaron Macy/Evan Arnold, 6.1; 4. Billy Bob Brown/Logan Medlin, 9.2; 5. Caleb Smidt/B.J. Dugger, 9.3; no other qualified times.
Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Audy Reed, 74 points on Lancaster & Jones’ Badlands; 2. Clay Elliott, 73; 3. Hardy Braden, 72; 4. (tie) Will Smith and Clay Stremler, 70 each; 6. Justin Lawrence, 68; no other qualified rides.
Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Ryle Smith, 7.9 seconds; 2. Cory Solomon, 8.6; 3. Sterling Smith, 9.5; 4. (tie) Randall Carlisle and Matt Shiozawa, 10.9 each; 6. Blane Cox, 11.1; 7. Caleb Smidt, 14.2; no other qualified times.
Barrel racing: Second round leaders: 1. Laura Kennedy, 14.24 seconds; 2. Brooke Jeter, 14.42; 3. Margo Crowther, 14.60; 4. J.J. Baldwin, 14.70; 5. Kirstin Carlson, 14.73; 6. Molly Childers, 14.86; 7. Sarah Rose McDonald, 16.26; 8. Julie Burnett, 19.95; 9. Cambra Smith, 20.10; 10. Michelle Lummus, 25.19; no other qualified times. Average leaders: 1. Laura Kennedy, 30.80 seconds on two runs; 2. Brooke Jeter, 31.00; 3. Margo Crowther, 31.15; 4. J.J. Baldwin, 31.29; 5. Kirstin Carlson, 31.33; 6. Molly Childers, 31.40; 7. Sarah Rose McDonald, 32.82; 8. Julie Burnett, 36.52; 9. Cambra Smith, 36.68; 10. Michelle Lummus, 41.76; 11. Tiany Schuster, 15.79 seconds on one run; 12. Carmel Wright, 15.84.
Bull riding leaders: 1. Brennon Eldred, 87.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Shellac; 2. Luke Gee, 82; no other qualified rides.