LAS VEGAS – Even for the greatest cowboys in the game, the setting for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo can be somewhat intimidating.
Each night for 10 go-rounds, more than 17,000 fans pack the Thomas & Mack Center, which boasts of an arena about the same size as a hockey rink. For tie-down ropers, it’s imperative they go fast.
How fast? Imagine riding a horse that’s chasing a calf, then roping the calf and tying it down in less than 8 seconds or less. That’s what it took to earn a paycheck Thursday during the opening round of the 2013 ProRodeo finale. Fortunately for Ryan Jarrett, he was one of those.
Jarrett blazed through a 7.7-second run to finish in a tie for second place in the round with Texan Stetson Vest – they were just one-tenth of a second off the winning run by Louisiana cowboy Shane Hanchey. Still, Jarrett and Vest pocketed checks worth $12,921 for their runs in the tiny arena.
That’s a great start for the cowboy from Comanche, Okla., who grew up in Summerville, Ga. This marks his eighth qualification to the NFR, and he’s done well inside the Thomas & Mack before. In fact, Jarrett’s first trip to Las Vegas came in 2005 when he qualified in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling.
That December, he won the NFR average championship in tie-down roping and finished the season with $263,665, earning him the coveted all-around world championship – at just less than 22 years of age, he was the third youngest all-around title in rodeo history; only Ty Murray in 1989 and Jim Shoulders in 1949 were younger.
In the six trips to Vegas since that magical season, Jarrett has focused his qualifications on tie-down roping. A start like this one is critical if he wants to make a significant move in the world standings – in rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants with the most money won in each event at the conclusion of the NFR will be crowned world champions.
Jarrett already owns one gold buckle. He’s riding for another.