In the middle of July, a significant partner shuffle left two ropers without a team. When Chad Masters and Michael Jones reunited, a domino effect resulted in Travis Tryan roping with Walt Woodard, Clay Tryan roping with Kory Koontz and David Key roping with Marty Becker.
That left Jade Corkill-who had been roping with Masters-and Jake Stanley-who was heading for Becker. Corkill hooked up with Brandon Beers at most rodeos, but Beers hadn't qualified for the Ariat Playoffs. Stanley, meanwhile, decided to rope with Caleb Twisselman at the rodeos, but again, Twisselman wasn't in the playoffs.
It only made sense for the team of Stanley and Corkill to rope at the first stop of the Ariat Playoffs in Caldwell, Idaho. It was the first rodeo they'd ever entered together.
In the elimination-style format, Stanley and Corkill made the first cut to the semifinal round as the eighth (and last) place team with a 16.2-time on two head.
As the last call back, they were first to rope in the semifinal round of eight. With the likes of Travis Tryan and Walt Woodard, Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith and Speed Williams and Allen Bach after them, the strategy of putting the pressure on versus staying safe is a fine line.
Stanley and Corkill took what the steer gave them and were a solid 6.4. With the arena record as a 3.8, at first glance it looked like that time might not hold up to make the cut for the top four back into the final round.
Two teams turned in no times and two more were 15 seconds or longer due to penalties or missed loops. Williams and Bach and Tryan and Woodard tied for the fastest runs with 5.7s.
Stanley and Corkill were in.
Coming in to the Playoffs, Stanley led the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour standings. As a result of his point total, he was virtually guaranteed safe passage all the way through the playoff rodeos in Caldwell, Puyallup, Wash., Omaha, Neb., and Dallas. Corkill, however, came in 21st. Thirty-six teams begin in Caldwell and are then whittled to 22 for Puyallup, 11 for Omaha and 10 in Dallas. Corkill had to pick up some points in Caldwell just for a chance to advance to the more lucrative playoff stops.
In the final round at Caldwell, the round of four with the slate wiped clean, the question of strategy once again came in to play. Travis Tryan, riding his great horse, Walt, and, interestingly enough, roping with Walt Woodard, had qualified. Williams and Bach were in as was the nothing-to-lose pair of Spencer Mitchell and Joseph Shawnego.