By Frank J. Buchman
It was down to the last steer, and a heart breaker.
All indications were Kansas was going to have two world champion cowboys this year.
Rocky Patterson of Pratt won the steer roping title of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) last month at Mulvane
Jake Long, Coffeyville, topped the team roping heeling standings and led the average at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas, through the eighth go-round.
With Luke Brown, Rock Hill, South Carolina, his yearlong header, the cowboys had qualified runs on seven steers.
A seventh-round grounded heel loop was the damper. Still, there were only four teams with seven times, end of the eighth.
Many variables come into team roping success equation. There are two cowboys, two horses, two steers, considerably more, tension and pressure, most significant.
For Long-Brown, ninth-round head loop was awry, and tenth-go heel throw astray. Their time of 37.5 seconds on seven runs put them sixth in the finals average.
Big average payoff for roping and stretching nine steers in 54.2 seconds placed Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, Alberta, in spotlight as champion heeler with yearend winnings totaling $238,311.
Buhler’s header Levi Simpson, Ponoka, Alberta, also won the world in heading, $249,133.
Long ended the year third place in heeling with winnings of $225,096. It put the Kansas cowboy well above the million dollar career winnings mark.
Brown was also third in the heading yearend standings, collecting $228,435.
Runner-up to the heeling champ was the all-around champion cowboy of the world Junior Nogueira of Scottsdale, Arizona, collecting $230,728. His all-around total is $231,728.
Runner-up to the heading winner was Nogueira’s partner Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Georgia, with equal winnings. They were fourth in the average with 51.6 seconds on eight steers stretched.
This was Long’s sixth time qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo. His first qualification was in 2010, with 2013 the only year not making it to the NFR since then.
He was second in the finals heeling standings last year, with $120,212, and ended the year sixth place heeler collecting $188,555.
Brown with Kollin VonAhn as partner won the NFR last year, and was second in the world header standings with $224,987.
Long grew up on the back of a horse and with a rope in his hand, the son of a Kansas rancher.
But that doesn’t guarantee success in the rodeo arena. There has been a lot of hard work, practice and dedication along the way, qualities that come with being a rancher’s son.
It helped that Long’s dad roped for fun. All of that has served Long well as he also had the best regular season of his career.
This is the first year that Long and Brown have roped together, but Brown has nine NFR qualifications. They’ve been among the most consistent of teams with wins at nine rodeos this year.
The most sentimental one, of course, was at Long’s hometown of Coffeyville. They were also co-champions at Livingston, Montana.
Long entered the 2016 NFR in third place with $101,495 won during the regular season.
Long’s first NFR qualification came with Montana’s Brady Tryan. The next two, he qualified with Brady’s older brother Travis.
Then, Long was roping with one of his best friends Coleman Proctor at the next two. They were sixth in the world last year, and third in 2014.
Twice, Long has qualified for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, 2007 and 2009. With Colt Bradley heading, Long was the’07 champion, when it was at Pocatello, Idaho.
Long and his wife Tasha earned their bachelor’s degrees at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. They have two daughters Haven and Haizlee.
Long’s main heeling mount Zans Colonel Shine was selected as the 2016 PRCA/American Quarter Horse Association Heeling Horse of the Year.
Sired by Zans Diamond Shine and out of Foxy Angelo by Col J Jigger, “Colonel” was bred by Dennis Schroeder.
Now owned by Long, Colonel is credited for much of Long’s 2016 arena success. “Outside of the arena, Colonel is part of our family,” the cowboy insisted.
Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler made history by being the first-ever pair of Canadian team ropers to compete together at the NFR then became the first-ever Canadian world champions in their event.
“We knew there was a mathematical chance, “Simpson said. “When we won the average, I was jumping for joy.”
Simpson entered Las Vegas 14th in heading, and Buhler was 12th in heeling.
Their 4.3-seconds run in Round 10 split the win, and moved them from outside the Top 5 to the championship. Their average win set the record for team roping earnings in a season.
Additional world champions are Tim O’Connell, bareback; Tyler Waguespack, steer wrestling; Zeke Thurston, saddle bronc; Tyson Durfey, tie down roping; Sage Kimzey, bull riding; and Mary Burger, barrel racing.