ALVA, Okla. – Ethan McDowell and Dakota Koehn know each other pretty well.
They grew up competing in rodeos together and have roped together off and on for much of their young lives. Now seniors at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, the team ropers are hoping to clinch their first qualifications to the College National Finals Rodeo next June.
They took a big step forward last weekend by winning the team roping title at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Rodeo in Durant. McDowell and Koehn Texas, roped two steers in a cumulative time of 12.9 seconds to win the title and, most importantly, gain points in the standings race to finish among the top three in the Central Plains Region in order to qualify for the college finals.
“We want to finish as high as we can, because the higher you finish, the more points you get in order to qualify,” said McDowell, 21, of Mooreland, Okla. “Every win will help toward that.”
Through two rodeos this season, the Northwestern tandem sits in third place in the regional standings with 165 points.
“It’s a pretty tough region,” said Koehn, 22, of Follett, Texas. “I was going to go to the Southwest Region, but it seemed like this was a tougher region, so I came here.”
That’s true. Koehn holds true to the sentiment that iron sharpens iron; if he hopes to do well competing at the professional level, he knows he’ll need to rope with the best in order to be the best.
“There are a lot of rodeos left on the schedule, so you just have to rope well,” he said. “We mainly have to just catch from here on out and keep getting points. You can’t place if you don’t catch.”
True. The pair failed to place in the season opener in Colby, Kan., but they can continue to make solid moves if they maintain a high level of consistency. They’ll test that again this coming weekend at the Pratt (Kan.) Community College Rodeo, which takes place Friday-Sunday an hour north of Alva.
“We roped a little bit in high school together, but we just started roping together at college rodeos this year,” McDowell said of his partnership with Koehn. “You’ve just got to knock all the cattle down you can at the rodeos, and then let the rest of it take care of itself.”
The two chose Northwestern to attend college because of the rodeo team and the educational opportunities that presented themselves. Koehn is an agriculture business major, while McDowell is planning to be an ag teacher.
“This is going to be one of the best places to go to school for that,” McDowell said. “But it’s a good rodeo program and it’s centrally located, which helps when you’re traveling.”
It’s also nice when you get to compete with a longtime friend.
“We’ve roped together since we were real little,” Koehn said. “It’s a pretty good feeling to know that you’ve got someone that’s going to catch, and all you have to do is clean it up.”
McDowell and Koehn weren’t the only Rangers who fared well in Durant. Tie-down ropers Ryan Domer, of Topeka, Kan., and Travis Cowan of Highmore, S.D. tied for second place, while steer wrestlers James Collins (tied for third) and Collin Domer (sixth) each earned points. Barrel racers Kelsey Pontius (fourth) and Clara Morris (sixth) were featured in the short go-round; so were breakaway roper Micah Samples and goat-tier Kodi Hansen.