By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 27, 2015) — Luke Brown is calling it the best week of his career, and with good reason.
Brown, a header residing in Morgan Mill, and Kollin VonAhn, a heeler living in Huckabay, won their first ream roping aggregate championship at legendary Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming on Sunday, a day and 440 miles of roadway after a using a stunning 3.4-second ride to win the one-go, winner take all Days of 47 Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Their total take from the two marquee rodeos – $18,915.
That’s just what the doctor ordered for two cowboys on the bubble as far as qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo.
“I think it’s the best week in my career,” said Brown in a phone interview while driving home to Erath County Monday. “A couple years ago me and Martin (Lucero) won about $12,000 in Cheyenne because we did good in a round and placed in the average. I don’t remember what we did the rest of the week, but I think this is the best week I’ve ever had.”
Brown and VonAhn were the last team to rope in Salt Lake City, and those who hung around to the end certainly got a show worth the wait. Unless they blinked, in which case they may have missed it.
“It was the best run I’ve made in my life. We were the last ten out of the whole rodeo, and the rodeo was crazy tough,” Brown said. “I don’t know how we were 3.4, we just had a great steer and a great run.”
It had to be great. Stephenville header Jake Cooper had already been part of a blistering 3.6, and there was a 3.8 and some 4.1s on the board, as well.
“I watched the 3.6 and thought that was one of the best runs I had seen in my life,” Brown said. “I still can’t believe we ran 3.4.”
Then, it was on to Cheyenne. A 440-mile drive with the “Daddy of ‘em all.” as the final destination.
“We were pretty excited when we left, then me and my wife got tired so we stopped for a couple hours and got revamped,” Brown said. “By the time we pulled into Cheyenne we were all excited again.”
Of course they were. It’s the finals at Cheyenne, one of the short rounds every rodeo cowboy dreams of reaching.
“I’ve made the short round a couple times. I’ve seen almost all of them miss, and I’ve seen every team catch. You never know what’s going to happen there,” Brown explained. “It depends on how the steers draw and who draws what and how everyone feels that day. It’s like that in every timed event competition, but especially at Cheyenne. You never really know what to expect.”
Like seeing Brown and VonAhn soar from fourth to first, for example. Not many people could have expected that.
But sometimes all you have to do is catch the steer.
“You just have to catch him,” said Brown. “That was our goal, just catch him and whatever happens, happens.”
They caught their steer in 10.1, good for fourth in the finals. Then, as it so often does in a marquee short-go, the unthinkable happened.
Third-place Chris Francis and Cade Passig were no time, second-place Jay Tittel and TJ Watts were 13.6 and leaders Trevor and Tyler Schnaufer posted no time.
Just like that, with 28.7 seconds on three head, Brown and VonAhn were the champs, despite not placing in either of the opening rounds. They won $973 for fourth in the finals, and pocketed $9,329 in the average.
The big wins sent the tandem skyrocketing northward in the world standings – Brown from 20th to 11th in heading and VonAhn from 19th to ninth in heeling.
“That’s a huge sigh of relief, I’m not even going to kid about that,” said Brown. We needed it, too. We were placing enough to stay close, but we just weren’t getting any big hits and it seemed like we were always five or six thousand bucks behind 15th.”
Now safely on the inside of the bubble, Brown and VonAhn know there is no time to look back.
Anyone who makes it to Vegas, Brown says, has a shot to win the world title. That’s something his partner, VonAhn has done once, back in 2009 with Nick Sartain. Brown has been to seven NFRs, each in the last seven years, while VonAhn has qualified four times including each of the last two.
After winning Cheyenne, perhaps Brown is one step closer to his first world title.
“If you make it (to the NFR) you’ve got a chance,” Brown explained. “With the rounds paying $26,000 and average paying so much more, everybody who’s able to nod their head there has got a chance to win the world.”