The Ironman: What the Timed Event Championships Take

The Lazy E's Timed Event Championship needs more than talent.
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The Lazy E's Timed Event Championship needs more than talent.

The Timed Event Championship is a multi-event marathon that’s beyond grueling, and about so much more than the $50,000 champion’s check. As 2013 Timed Event Champ Daniel Green put it, “It’s a chance to compete and test yourself at the highest level against the best timed-event cowboys in the world.”

Credit: James Phifer Photo

Credit: James Phifer Photo

After roping at 10 straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos from 1994-2003, Green made a decision back in 2004 to stay closer to his home in Oakdale, Calif.—AKA the Cowboy Capital of the World—because his kids were starting school. He didn’t want to leave wife Shawnda and Grace, now 13, Kyndall, 10, and Eli, 7, home alone.

“I’m a competitor, and I’ve roped and bulldogged all my life,” Green explained. “I was 32 when I walked away from full-time rodeo. Speed Williams was 30 when he won his first world championship, so at 32 I still had a lot of life left in me.”

At 40, Green won his third Ironman championship, a title he also took in 2002 and ’08. He topped last year’s 29th annual event, held March 1-3 at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., by stopping the clock 25 times—five times each in heading, heeling, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and steer roping—in 313.6 seconds. Green’s margin of victory was a fat 30.3 seconds over the field.

“Even though I don’t travel full time, they still recognize me as one of the top 20 timed-event hands in the world,” Green said gratefully. “They ask me back based on my past history, so without having to leave my family all the time I have a chance to compete at one of the most prestigious events going.”

Due to his day job—construction work and teaching roping lessons and clinics—Green limits himself to a few “big-money events where you don’t have to be gone all the time” a year these days, including the Timed Event, George Strait and BFI. He hated missing his kids’ softball games to go to Guthrie, but made the trip pay.

“I found myself in a completely different place in my life this year,” Green said. “I’m 40, so I’m one of the older guys now. When you win it at 29 compared to 40, you appreciate it so much more at 40. I appreciate the fact that I’m still able to compete at this level. The first time I won it I wanted to win it for Daniel Green, so I could be the Timed Event Champion of the World. This time, I wanted to win it for my family and all the other people who supported me. There were a lot of other people I wanted to win it for this time.”

Ryan Lenz helped find Grant Ellingson’s tie-down horse, Sparky, and Brad Mohon’s steer roping horse, Shorty, for Green. He rode Torey Johnson’s bulldogging horse, Hollywood, and Marty Musil hazed for him. Green headed on Amber Randolph’s horse, Bud, and borrowed Will Cowden’s heel horse, Rattler. Will’s dad, Cody, has been Green’s heading and heeling helper for the last two Timed Event titles, and also helped Green win the 2006 and ’07 World’s Greatest Roper championships. Kory Koontz helped him win the first one.

Cowboys and friends in the Cowboy Capital who rallied to help Green prepare for this Timed Event title included Lance Harvey, Mark Strickland, Dave Buchanan, Trav Cadwell, Jimmy and Joseph Shawnego. “Those guys let me rope their cattle and practice on their horses,” Green said. “I wish my wife and kids could have been there to share the moment with me after they watched me work out, get ready and prepare. I wish they could have shared the blessed moment.

“All my horses worked great, and Cody’s always awesome. Winning the Timed Event takes a lot of focus and concentration. In 25 runs over three days, every run isn’t going to go perfectly. You have to overcome the little bumps and try to avoid disaster. You have to be able to forget the last run and put your focus on the next run, no matter what just happened, good or bad. It means a lot to win this thing. It says you’re talented in more than just one discipline. You can handle your rope and you’re a timed-event cowboy. You have to keep switching horses and events. You have to be able to adapt, adjust and overcome.”

Don’t be too quick to presume that Green’s weakest link would be the bulldogging just because it’s not roping. In 1990, Green won the National High School Rodeo Association national steer wrestling championship, the reserve national tie-down roping championship and the national all-around title. The only complaint of his senior year rodeo campaign was not winning the national team roping title heeling for Tammy West (now Tammy White).

“The event I’ve done the least is the steer roping, but over the last six or seven years the event that’s cost me the most has been the steer wrestling. If you miss one you have to run the length of that 440-foot arena to get back on. That’s been the most pivotal event for me. You have to catch that steer and get him on his side the first time.”

That massive Lazy E Arena is the highest hurdle, in Green’s eyes. “I think the toughest competition at this event is the course, because the course is the toughest thing to get by. The big arena, long score—you have to switch horses and events, and ride your horses better under those conditions. Even though Trevor (Brazile) has 17 gold buckles and his six (Timed Event) titles there (Brazile finished third in 2013 for $15,000, and bagged an additional $10,000 check for the fastest round of the event—44.3 seconds on five head), the course is usually what gets guys more than anything.”

So, how many encores does Green have in him? “I don’t know if I’ll go to it at 61 like Paul Tierney did this year, but I always look forward to it,” he said. “I put a lot into being healthy and working hard to get ready this year. You appreciate it more when you’re 40. I didn’t run and get in shape like this when I was in my 20s.”

Tierney’s Time

ProRodeo Hall of Famer Paul Tierney took one last victory lap around the Lazy E Arena to the roar of the cowboy crowd before the final round. At 61, the 1979 world champion tie-down roper and 1980 world champion all-around cowboy called it a Timed Event Championship day at event’s end. Tierney was the only cowboy to compete in every one of the first 29 Timed Event contests.

“I still feel good, but the last couple years I started to know it’s time,” said Tierney, who won the event in 1987, ’91, ’97 and 2000. “I don’t enjoy the bulldogging as much as I used to. I still feel competitive, and without the two 60s (no-times) in the steer wrestling I’d have gotten a check. When you look at the clock and you’re 12.5 when you felt like you were 10.5 (in the tie-down roping), time’s going by a little faster than you think. I still rope every day at home, and we’re still training horses. My passion other than roping is horses. And I teach eight calf roping schools a year. It’s just time. The Lazy E has been great to me. They treat us like kings. They do a great job of making a cowboy feel appreciated.”

Tierney took the cowboy remuda award last year, with two of his sons finishing in the top five. Paul David, 24, was the reserve champ, and Jess, 31, finished fifth overall. “Like I always tell them, the Timed Event is about being solid, getting a time every time, getting out of go-fast rodeo mode and into catch mode,” the proud patriarch said. “You get to see the champions and their weaknesses at this event. I’ve always told my boys to play on their strengths and control their weaknesses. Watching really talented guys take care of their weaknesses is good watching. If you single leg a steer in the heeling it’s not a big deal. If you can catch every steer with your first loop it’s big. Little errors don’t kill you, but you can’t have a big error.”

The big money’s been motivating, but there’s not enough money to make a guy jump a steer rolling wide-open down that arena if his heart’s not in it. “You can’t rate it with a gold buckle, but it’s the second best thing to it, especially for an all-around cowboy like me who dedicated my life to working those events,” Tierney said. “I worked every event in college (and actually won more money riding broncs on his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit than anything else). Sure, I wanted to win the calf roping. That was my forte in the individual events. But the all-around cowboy is the king of the cowboys. And we all want to be king.

“Money’s part of it, too. You have to be able to survive, and you can do a lot of stuff with an extra $50,000. But it means even more to be accomplished in all those events. That’s pretty satisfying. The Timed Event Championship was created for the all-around cowboy. It’s a King of Kings event.”

Ouch

The Timed Event Championship Injury Report featured a Who’s Who of team roping A-listers. JoJo LeMond hurt his shoulder, and Jade Corkill (who set the new 4.3-second Timed Event heeling record), Spencer Mitchell and Dustin Bird were taped and iced for ankle sprains. But the biggest heartbreak of all belonged to 2012 World Champion Header Chad Masters, who suffered a serious injury to his left knee during the second round of steer wrestling on opening night. Dr. Tandy Freeman surgically repaired Masters’ patellar tendon, MCL, and medial and lateral meniscus tears on March 5, 2013. A second surgery fixed Masters’ ACL in April.