ALVA, Okla. – The Fort Hays State University rodeo has been somewhat of a sore spot for Northwestern Oklahoma State University junior Karly Benzie.
“My freshman year was my glory year until I broke my leg in Hays,” said Benzie, who suffered the injury while competing in goat-tying two springs ago. “I haven’t tied goats since then.”
But she has been competing, and she won the breakaway roping title in the western Kansas community this past weekend when she roped two calves in 6.2 seconds. It was the first time this spring that she was able to take advantage of her final-round calf.
“I haven’t gotten anything done at any of these rodeos,” said Benzie, from Bayfield, Colo., who also qualified for the short go-rounds in Garden City, Kan., and Weatherford, Okla. “I’ve just been having trouble in the short rounds. I can make it in there and just can’t make it work in the average.
“Finally I’ve got a little bit of confidence from winning Hays.”
Benzie was one of five Northwestern women to qualify for the final round, joining Lauren Barnes, Alexis Allen, Jenna Hampton and Jacey Jandreau. Barnes (15.7 seconds) finished second in goat tying and ninth in breakaway roping, failing to rope her second-round calf Sunday afternoon. Jandreau also qualified for the short round but failed to score in the finale, finishing in eighth place. Barnes also finished third in the all-around race with 115 points. In barrel racing, Allen (33.32 seconds on two runs) finished fifth, and Hampton (34.21) placed sixth.
Still, the four cowgirls that counted toward the Rangers’ team posted 300 points to share the women’s title with Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
“Obviously with one rodeo left, I can’t make the college finals, but I’m still going to fight to try to get better and practice hard,” said Benzie, whose points didn’t count toward the team standings. “The girls that are part of the team are regularly in the short round or compete in multiple events, so I have not been part of that.”
She’d like to be. Benzie would like to compete in barrel racing, but her good horse has been injured. So she’s focused on her roping – in addition to breakaway, she also competes in team roping.
“I’m glad I did well this weekend,” she said. “I broke my leg the first year, then last year we were there and it was freezing and blizzarding, and they even had to cancel one of the nights of the rodeo because of the weather. This year I was just hoping something stupid didn’t happen.”
In fact, Benzie wasn’t the only Northwestern contestant to leave Hays with the title: Header Travis Cowan of Highmore, S.D., won team roping while competing with Rhyder Nelson of Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Other Rangers who placed were saddle bronc rider Cody Burkholder, fourth; tie-down ropers Trey Young, fourth, and Clint Kindred, sixth; steer wrestler Kyle Irwin, third; and heelers Kyle Searcy, second, and Irwin, sixth. Irwin placed fourth in the all-around with 110 points.
Growing up near Durango in southwestern Colorado, Benzie was raised around horses. She began going to play days when she was 5 years old, then began competing in barrel racing. She started roping when she got into her early teens
“My dad college rodeoed, competing in the roughstock events,” she said. “My mom showed horses. I was always around horses, and I always lived on a ranch. It’s just something I’ve been around.”
And now rodeo is helping her get an education.
“I knew a couple kids that went to school up here,” Benzie said. “I like the one-on-one you can get in the classroom. I really like it.”
So what does the future hold for the young cowgirl?
“Eventually I’d love to be able to get some nice colts up and working and really start barrel racing,” she said. “I’ve been so fortunate to have people along the way that have helped me with words of advice. My parents have really helped me, buying horses when I needed them and being there for me. It’s really hard when you don’t have anybody backing you along the way.
“I’m very blessed to have that.”