Ryan Gray and Tyson Durfey won first-place money at a PRCA rodeo in Kansas City, Mo., over the weekend – a bittersweet moment as their 2012 season came to a shocking and disappointing end.
“We just finished up the year last night. It’s in the books,” Gray, a bareback rider from Cheney, said Monday. “I think I ended up 16th.”
Only the top 15 in the standings earn a spot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“I had a lot of confidence right up until the end,” said Durfey, a tie-down roper who lives in Colbert. “I never, ever thought if I roped good and went to all my rodeos I wouldn’t make it. … It’s going to be hard when I have to go sign autographs (for my sponsors).”
Gray had $48,767 in winnings, finishing 17th and $5,711 out of 15th for his eighth straight trip to the NFR. Durfey earned $53,151, which left him 18th and $13,228 from his sixth consecutive NFR.
“It was just a tough year,” said Gray, 29. “When I needed something to go my way, it didn’t go my way.”
“It was a little bit of everything,” Durfey said. “I couldn’t get the ball rolling. I was just going over my runs yesterday. I’d get to the short round, the progressive rounds, and every time I’d get a calf I couldn’t win on. He’d turn back, kick, just something.”
He also traveled with and mentored some younger ropers, which may have affected his focus. Plus he bought a little land an hour northeast of Austin, Texas, that he hopes to develop into a home base for winter rodeos.
Those things contributed to a less time for Durfey to stay sharp.
“We’re in a sport where past accomplishments mean nothing,” he said. “There’s always someone younger exercising more, practicing more, training more. If you don’t do that, they’re going to pass you by.
“I just didn’t practice as hard. I worked out more. I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in.”
Washington rodeo fans will have to be content with watch defending bull riding champion Shane Proctor. The Grand Coulee native, who got a late start to the season because of an injury at the NFR last year, is in 10th with $76,376.
On Monday, the two Spokane County cowboys vowed to be back in Las Vegas next year.
“I’ll have a little more time on my hands in December to go hunting and get some things done,” Gray said.
“I’m already excited for next year. This lit a fire under me. I’m going to go hard next year to make it.”
Durfey said he would use his unwanted free time in December to practice.
He won $9,000 for the weekend, his biggest of the season, but most of that came from two “jackpots,” unsanctioned roping competitions. The success made him feel like, “the old me.”
“It lit a fire under me,” he said. “I’m not over the hill yet, I’m just 28. My horses are healthy, working good. I’m more focused on what matters and that’s winning a world championship. From now on, that’s my No. 1 priority.”
Gray won $3,000 in K.C. and placed in two other rodeos.
“Things didn’t end up very well, but that’s all right. I made a good living,” he said. “I’m not looking back. … It is what it is. I’m disappointed, but at the same time I’m happy I’m doing what I enjoy. A lot of people would like to be in my place.”