ALVA, Okla. – Over the course of the last few months, the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team has focused on one major objective.
“We’ve been working on finishing,” said Stockton Graves, the program’s coach and a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “We’ve been working on finishing everything in the short rounds, because sometimes the short rounds bring out more nervousness. If you can handle the nerves, then you can finish better.”
The lessons are being learned, and the proof came last weekend during the Kansas State University rodeo in Manhattan, Kan.
“We’ve had a bunch of four-head matches, and we’d match roping against each other,” said Trey Young, a senior from Dupree, S.D., who won the tie-down roping title at K-State. “You focus on making your run and don’t worry about anyone else. When you come to that spot in the short round, then you can just worry about what you’ve got to do and not worry about anything else.
“I think I’ve done a better job finishing, and I think those matches really helped with that.”
Young won the first round with a 9.0-second run and led the contingent of five Northwestern tie-down ropers in the championship round. In fact, the Rangers finished as the top 4, with Young followed by Ryan Domer, a senior from Topeka, Kan.; Dalton Richards, a junior from Hawkinsville, Ga.; and Berk Long, a sophomore from Mutual, Okla. Junior Tee Hale of White Owl, S.D., finished eighth.
“I was very pleased and very proud of how well we did in Manhattan,” Graves said, noting that the Northwestern men finished second with 610 points, just 30 points behind the winner, Southwestern Oklahoma State University. “We had a lot of kids do very good.”
It’s true. In fact, the tandem of header Parker Warner and heeler Dustin Searcy won the team roping title; Warner is a junior from Jay, Okla., and Searcy is a Mooreland, Okla., sophomore. They were joined in the short round by Richards, who finished second in heading, and heeler Chase Boekhaus of Rolla, Kan., placed third.
Domer and Hale joined Mitchell Gardner, a senior from Dover, Okla., in the 10-man steer wrestling field for the short go-round. Domer placed fifth, followed directly by Gardner and Hale.
Micah Samples, one of the top women’s all-around cowgirls in the Central Plains Region, finished eighth in team roping, where she was a header. Two other Northwestern women, breakaway ropers Kelsey Pontius and Erika Leveille, finished among the top 10 and earned points. Pontius is a junior from Watsontown, Pa., and Leveille is a freshman from Innisfail, Alberta.
The good weekend has served as strong motivation for the team members to have a successful spring campaign, which consists of seven rodeos. Next on the list is a trip to the Garden City (Kan.) Community College rodeo, set for Feb. 28-March 2.
“This is a great deal for us,” Young said of the solid run at K-State. “It always helps to get those points. It’s good to do well individually, but it’s even better to have the team go with you.
“We went from not evening thinking about the region title to putting ourselves right into the hung. There is no doubt we have a lot of talented guys. There are a lot of points to be had this spring, and there is no question in my mind that we can come out on top in the end.”