BUTTE — The steer got a good jump, quickly pulling away from header Jack Graham and moving closer to heeler Sam Levine Friday night at the Northern Rodeo Association Finals.
But Graham made the snap decision to throw a long rope across the Butte Civic Center floor. Instead of waiting to gain ground, he took the horns cleanly, and moments later Levine got both heels tightly for a 5.1 time in Go 2.
It was the second fastest team roping time of the day, and it puts the duo at 16.5 on two and second in the aggregate standings. Jason Carlson of Two Dot and Zachary Schweigert of Livingston took Go 2 in 4.8 after a no time in the first go.
Some thirty minutes before team roping started, Graham won the second go of tie-down roping in 9.3. He took the first on Thursday night in 9.1.
Between the calf roping and his partnership with Wolf Creek's Levine, the Montana State University cowboy is inching closer to an all-around championship and the first Triple Crown since 2009.
And this is his first year at the NRA Finals.
When describing these first two days inside the Civic Center, Graham shrugs and smiles.
“I’m not too nervous I guess, got a little last night,” he said between his two events Friday night. “First time I’ve ever been here and didn’t really know what to expect. Wouldn’t say I’m nervous, just excited.”
The race for the all-around crown had Graham atop the leaderboard heading into the weekend, with just over $1,000 between him and second-place Hank Hollenbeck of Molt.
But Hollenbeck has had a rough first two days at the NRA Finals.
He’s 26.1 on two in tie-down roping, and after getting his calf around the neck quickly Thursday night, he had a tough time bringing it to the dirt. In his other event, steer wrestling, Hollenbeck notched a quick 4.7 Friday night, but a broken barrier set him back another 10 seconds.
Meanwhile, just off in third is Levine, Graham’s friend and first-year roping partner.
But none of that seems to sink in too much for the Oregon native. For him, it’s about making his own runs. One run at a time.
“Not gonna try to do something you can’t, with the calf roping especially, it’s just going out there and make clean, solid runs on three head,” he said. “A couple guys made good runs, I had a good run on the first one, so it was pretty much who was going to catch all three of them clean and make good runs.”
And on that note, Graham is one clean calf roping run on Saturday night from locking down his first NRA year-end title.
Other winners: Kalispell’s Tammy Jo Carpenter continued to pull away from the field in barrel racing. The all-around contender went 14.78 Friday night to edge Bozeman’s Shelby Rasmussen in Go 2. Rasmussen entered the weekend atop the all-around standings … Glendive’s Tucker Zingg had the top bareback ride in Go 2 at 74, but three rerides had yet to be taken late Friday night … Billings’ Kyle Callaway took Go 2 of steer wrestling in 4.5, a much needed time after a 17.0 in Go 1 … Cierra Kunesh zipped a 2.5 to win Go 2 of breakaway roping after a no time in Go 1 … Four cowboys put down scores in bull riding for the second straight night, and Friday had Kalispell’s Tyrell Toren go 76.5 on Jacobs Rodeo’s Fire Water for the win. Gerald Eash is the lone bull rider with scores on two.