Smith, Corkill rope Dodge lead

Jade Corkill and Clay Smith each own multiple gold buckles, but they’ve never won them together.

They have a fighting chance this year, and they’re in position to snatch their first Dodge City Roundup Rodeo buckles, too. The tandem roped two steers Aug. 5 in a cumulative time of 10.3 seconds to take the overall team roping lead. They will return to Sunday’s championship round with hopes of claiming those elusive Roundup trophies.

“Any time you can do good, it’s good,” said Corkill, an 11-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier in heeling who won his world championships in 2012-’14. “This is pretty important. Other than Cheyenne (Wyoming) the other day, we haven’t done as good as we’ve wanted to. Any time these rodeos have three head like this are the kind we like.”

Roundup features a back-to-back format. All contestants in the timed events will make their first runs each morning, Wednesday-Saturday. The top 10 times from the first round will advance to the nightly performances. Smith and Corkill have the second fastest first-round run through two days of competition. They were 5.2 seconds Thursday night to secure the top spot in the two-run aggregate by half a second over the field.

They will await the outcome of the final two nights of preliminary rounds to see where they fit into Sunday’s short round.

“Every bit of it helps before the NFR,” said Smith, a six-time NFR qualifying header who won his world titles in 2018-19. “It seems like every year it’s going to come down to the 10th steer (at the NFR) and a few thousand dollars. This rodeo pays really good with two head and a short round. We love this kind of format with more chances to win money.

“In the short round, you do your job, and you’re going to win something pretty good. This is a special rodeo with cool buckles. We love this rodeo.”

Their success comes with a common bond: They both love to win, and they approach the game in a similar manner. It takes a good header to control a steer to help the heeler secure two legs in the loop, and some heelers can do magical things with just about any steer.

“We’re pretty much on the same page most of the time,” Corkill said, referring to the team’s approach to their second-round run. “There are two days left after today, so you know it’s probably going to get tough. We don’t want to take a no-time, but we don’t want to take extra time either. We jus try to be pretty aggressive and catch as fast as you can without missing.”

It definitely helps to do at a rodeo like Roundup, which offers the largest purse of any rodeos in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region known as the Prairie Circuit.

“It’s the biggest of the circuit rodeos for me when I was in the Prairie Circuit,” said Smith, originally from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, but now living near Stephenville, Texas; that’s where Corkill lives, too, though he still claims his hometown of Fallon, Nevada. “It was always an important rodeo, and I don’t know if I ever did very good when I was in the circuit. Now that I’m not, it’s been pretty good to me.”

Yes, it has.