GUNNISON, Colo. – Patrick Smith first qualified to the National Finals Rodeo in 2003. He was 23 years old.
Tanner Tomlinson 2.
Now, the two cowboys are roping together with hopes of advancing to ProRodeo’s grand finale at Las Vegas in December. They took another step toward it Friday night with a 4.0-second run to take the team roping lead at Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo.
“I love it here,” said Tomlinson, 21, a third-year pro from Angleton, Texas. “I placed here my rookie, and last year we were long, but I still love it. The fans are great, and the committee is, too.”
Tomlinson is the 15th-ranked header in the world standings after finishing 25th in 2020 and 20th last year. Smith is the veteran in the tandem and owns two Montana Silversmiths gold buckles, one in 2005 and another five years later.
“I haven’t been here a whole lot, but it’s beautiful,” said Smith, 42, of Lipan, Texas. “They’ve done a great job of adding money to the rodeo, taking care of all the contestants. You can work it in. It’s a bit of a drive over here, but it’s a good enough rodeo right here before (Wyoming rodeos) Cheyenne, Casper and Sheridan.
“Guys are starting to recognize Gunnison and make sure we’re entered, because it’s that good of a rodeo.”
It also got fast in team roping on Friday night. Tomlinson and Smith are a half-second faster than the field with one night remaining in this year’s rodeo. They should snag some good money, which will help them in their bids to advance to the NFR together – only the top 15 contestants on the money list in each event at the end of the regular season make the finale.
It’s one thing for a good header to rope with a good heeler; that’s what makes teams so special. It’s quite another thing when one of them is twice as old as the other.
Smith was the Resistol Rookie of the Year in 2003 while roping with Matt Tyler. He has qualified for the NFR roping with Clay Tryan, Trevor Brazile and Kaleb Driggers – all three are world champions.
Tomlinson is now getting that type of experience with his heeler.
“It’s a true blessing,” he said, realizing he’s half Smith’s age. “I believe the good Lord put us together for a reason, and I think it’s showing. I’ve learned so much from this guy, and I’m blessed to be around him and be part of it.”
The teaming of their talents works.
“There’s no doubt in my mind if I do my job that we’ll be (at the NFR) this year,” said Smith, the No. 18 heeler in the world standings. “This guy (Tomlinson) is on fire; he heads as good as anybody on the planet. I’m just so blessed to have a good partner, great heel horses and (have) my family with me.
“I don’t have a whole lot of years left in me, so I’m going to enjoy it and hope to finish with a bang.”
Rodeo’s unique in that contestants must earn their money through competition, and that means extensive travel. With other big-money rodeos on the horizon, they are busy trying to put the finishing touches together with two and a half months left in the regular season. It’s not an easy road, and they don’t have an NFL or NBA team to foot the bill for all the expenses that come with it. They do it because they love it.
“Without the sponsors and them being here for us as a team, we wouldn’t be here with the fuel prices and the prices of horses and hay and everything else,” Smith said. “We also want to thank the rodeos and the fans. We’re looking forward to a great year.”
Cattlemen’s Days has already seen record crowds with a Saturday night show left on the calendar. The contestants have taken note, and Gunnison isn’t the only community hosting big numbers of fans at their rodeos.
“I think 2020 got everybody wanting to get out an do more, and I think rodeo is making a major push worldwide,” said Smith, who last qualified for the NFR in 2015. “I think people are looking for the organic side of the other sporting events and the mess of other sporting events and all the political-ness of it.
“America is rodeo, and rodeo is America. That’s what we stand for: God first and country next. I’m proud to be part of it.”
Bareback riding: 1. Dean Thompson, 81.5 points on Rafter G Rodeo’s Hot Flash; 2. Jayco Roper, 79.5; 3. (tie) Kade Berry and Colton Crawford, 77; 5. Matt Tuni, 76.5; 6. Quentin Holcomb, 75; 7. Will Lowe, 74.5; 8. Donny Proffit, 74.
Steer wrestling: 1. Justin Shaffer, 3.8 seconds; 2. (tie) Ty Everson and Justin Kipp, 4.0; 4. Cole Trainor, 4.1; 5. Rooster Yazzie, 4.2; 6. Jace Logan, 4.3; 7. (tie) Cash Robb and Tucker Allen, 4.5.
Team roping: 1. Tanner Tomlinson/Patrick Smith, 4.0 seconds; 2. Kyon Kreutzer/Clancey Kreutzer, 4.5; 3. Kolby Krieger/Cutter Thomison, 4.7; 4. Chad Masters/Paul Eaves, 4.8; 5. Clayton Van Aken/Jayden Johnson, 4.9; 6. Chance Hine/Bodie Hine, 5.0; 7. Marcus Battaglia/Jason Johe, 5.1; 8. Braden Pirrung/Coley Nicholls, 5.3.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jake Clark, 85.5 points on New Star Pro Rodeo’s Southpoint Buckle; 2. Cree Minkoff, 82.5; 3. Tyler Beebe, 81.5; 4. Statler Wright, 91; 5. Jake Watson, 80; 6. (tie) Dean Wadsworth and Keene Justesen, 79; 8. Chris Williams.
Tie-down roping: 1. Justin Brinkerhoff, 8.7 seconds; 2. Chase Webster, 9.2; 3. Cody Darnell, 9.6; 4. Cole Ford, 9.7; 5. Chet Boren, 10.0; 6. Westyn Hughes, 10.1; 7. James Kolacek, 10.2; 8. Wade Hatch, 10.4.
Barrel racing: 1. Jimmie Smith, 18.02; 2. Kelly Yates, 18.31; 3. Brooke McGehee, 18.32; 4. Carly Longo, 18.45; 5. Jenna Pruitt, 18.47; 6. Wendy McKee, 18.48; 7. Shali Lord, 18.55; 8. Kelcey McNamee, 18.52; 9. Sarah Rose Waguespack, 18.66; 10. Kristin Carlson, 18.70.
Bull riding: 1. Jeff Askey, 88.5 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ Big Country; no other qualified rides.