ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team is already preparing to host the next Central Plains Region rodeo, set for Nov. 1-3 in Alva.
The women’s team is preparing to win it for the second straight year. They got a good jump start last weekend by winning the title at the Pratt (Kan.) Community College rodeo.
“That’s big for us, and it’s a big confidence-booster for the girls,” coach Stockton Graves said. “I was very proud of them. They won second at Colby (Kan.) but didn’t fair well at Durant (Okla.), but they came back strong at Pratt.
“We’ve got our goals set, and we’re going to try to meet them.”
The Rangers women earned 350 points to claim the championship, led by barrel racer Alexis Allen of Alva and breakaway roper Micah Samples of Abilene, Kan., who won their respective events. Allen rounded the cloverleaf pattern twice in 35.97 seconds to win the title by just 3/100ths of a second.
“It feels really good,” said Allen, a sophomore who graduated from Alva High School just a year and a half ago. “I’ve worked my butt off, and I’ve always been right there close; I’d just never won it, so it’s pretty special.”
She began competing at age 6, and at Northwestern, Allen runs barrels and competes in breakaway roping. What’s her favorite?
“Last weekend, it was barrels because I did good in barrels,” she said. “When I do better in breakaway, then I like breakaway better that week.”
Samples scored her first win as a Ranger, posting a cumulative time of 6.9 seconds. She was 4 seconds faster than her teammate, runner-up Jessica Koppitz. Those points became an important factor in the women’s team title – Northwestern edged Southwestern Oklahoma State University by just 40 team points.
“Just all around it was very good,” Graves said. “We had some girls whose points didn’t count for the team total that did good. I was really proud of the breakaway ropers. The start was real tricky there in Pratt and the calves were pretty uneven, and the girls persevered through that pretty dang good.”
To win any rodeo is important because the region is filled with outstanding competition.
“Winning is something we usually don’t get a sniff of, so it was pretty important last week,” Allen said.
While Allen was named champion, she knows there was a big helping hand in the form of a young bay gelding she calls Superman.
“He came from Carlee Pierce,” Allen said of the two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier who grew up in nearby Freedom, Okla. “I got him when he was 4, and he wasn’t real seasoned yet. He’s racehorse bred, and he’s fast.”
That helps, but it’s just part of the equation. It takes an animal that makes precise turns to be solid in barrel racing.
But there are a lot of equations in college rodeo. In addition to the top players in Pratt, the Rangers women also had barrel racer Kelsey Pontius qualify for the championship round. She finished eighth overall.
The men’s team had two cowboys qualify for the short round in Pratt: tie-down roper Chase Lako and steer wrestler Jared Thompson. Now the men’s and women’s teams will do all the logistical work and practice it takes to prepare for the Northwestern rodeo.
“Hopefully we’ve got an advantage in our arena and our territory, so hopefully we can dominate again,” Allen said.