Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum was filled to the brim Friday night as the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo concluded its second of 30 performances.
Though the 17-day Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show barely has gotten started, fans may have seen at least three high-profile competitors earn berths to the Feb. 9 finals.
They are 19-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo team roping heeling qualifier Kory Koontz; Brock Hanson, who qualified for his first National Finals last year in team roping heading; and two-time world saddle bronc riding champion Cody Wright.
Hanson and Koontz are No. 1 in the team roping average after turning in a second-round time of 4.8. Wright is in first place in saddle bronc riding after a second-round marking of 80.
The Feb. 9 finals will feature the top 12 in each event, based on their aggregate times. In team roping and saddle bronc riding, finals qualification will be based on a two-ride time or score.
Hanson and Koontz turned in speedy times of 4.8 seconds each of the first two nights. After all that, they are finished with their preliminary runs. Their 10.6 aggregate time should bring them back on Feb. 9 to rope a third steer during the final round.
Koontz, who is from the West Texas town of Sudan, said he and Hanson made the same type of run both Thursday and Friday. Each night, they drew a faster, harder running steer but Hanson made a long throw each time to make the head catch, which shaved off precious time.
"He got a good start and reached a long way," Koontz said of Hanson. "His ability to ride his horse and handle the steer good is what makes him one of those special headers. He did that two nights in a row."
Koontz and Hanson became team roping partners this season, but they are roping at the Stock Show as if they have been together for many years.
"We had 4.8s on steers that were strong and ran really hard," Koontz said. "They probably were the two strongest steers in our whole pen. But Brock did such a good job catching them and it made my [heeling] job so much easier."
In saddle bronc riding, Wright took the lead in the title race after turning the 80 aboard a bronc named Just Bugs, owned by J Bar J Rodeo Co. The Utah native is ranked No. 1 in the average/aggregate race with a two-ride tally of 156, and he also stands an excellent chance of advancing to the finals.
In barrel racing, Bennett Little of Ardmore, Okla., took the first-round lead after turning in a 16.74. In bareback riding, Clint Laye of Cadogan, Alberta, and Zachariah Phillips of Casper, Wyo., each posted an 82 to tie for the second-round lead.