Kory Koontz is on a mission to lasso his 20th team roping berth to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
The West Texas cowboy took a step in the right direction when he and his partner, Brock Hanson, turned in a speedy time of 4.8 seconds Thursday night as the Fort Worth Stock Show's traditional PRCA show began its 17-day run at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
Their 4.8 is the second-fastest time in the first round. Clay Tryan and Travis Graves are ranked No. 1 after posting a 4.5.
Koontz, who lives in Sudan, earned his first NFR berth in 1992.
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While competing in the NFR last month, Koontz pocketed $91,875 in 10 days and finished fifth in the heeling world title race with 2012 earnings of $161,128.
After qualifying for the NFR almost every year for the past two decades, Koontz said he has thrived on maintaining control of his emotions.
"The main thing is don't let your lows be to low and your highs be too high," Koontz said.
Koontz said qualifying for the NFR requires lots of consistency.
"It is an endurance deal," Koontz said. "It's like a marathon. So, you can't get to down when you have a little bit of bad time. And you can't think too much of yourself when you are having a little bit of good time. You have to sustain some consistency all through out the year, and you keep plucking away at it."
Throughout 2012, Koontz partnered with header Erich Rogers. But this year, he is hauling with Hanson, who qualified for his first NFR last year. In 2012, Hanson partnered with veteran heeler Ryan Motes of Weatherford.
And while those two roped together last year, Hanson and Motes tied the PRCA world record after turning in a 3.3 at the Nacogdoches ProRodeo in May.
At the NFR, Hanson and Motes earned $70,084 and Hanson finished seven in the heading world title race with 2012 earnings of $141,582.
After all that, Koontz, 41, said he is excited about pairing up with the 27-year-old Hanson.
"He has a ton of talent," Koontz said. "He ropes a steer's horns really, really good. I'm excited about this year and seeing what we can do."
Another veteran cowboy who got off to a fast start at the Stock Show was former National Finals Rodeo tie-down roping qualifier Josh Peek of Pueblo, Colo.
After turning in 7.9, Peek is ranked second in the first round behind leader Clint Robinson, another former NFR contestant, who turned in a 7.6 in the Wednesday slack performance.
Peek said he was elated to post a fast time at the large, early-season Fort Worth rodeo.
"I needed a good run to get my feet on the ground and running," Peek said. "If a guy can get a good start at these winter rodeos, then the rest of the season goes a whole lot better."
In saddle bronc riding, Jesse Wright, the defending world champion, took the lead in the first round with a score of 81 aboard a bronc named Sundance, owned by the Rafter G Rodeo Co.
In bull riding, Friday Wright II, of Moss Point, Miss., took the lead with an 80 on Rafter G Rodeo's Scud Missile. Three-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris was bucked off.