ALVA, Okla. – Parker Warner and Dustin Searcy have found their comfort zone.
The team ropers from Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s rodeo team have won each of the past two National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association events in which they have competed, the most recent this past weekend at the Garden City (Kan.) Community College rodeo.
“We took a little bit to get going this season,” said Searcy, a junior heeler from Mooreland, Okla. “We practiced really hard this winter and just tried to bear down this spring. With seven rodeos left in the season, we knew it was still anybody’s ballgame.”
In just two weeks into the spring semester portion of the 2013-14 Central Plains Region season, Searcy and Warner have moved from zero points to 240 and sit fourth in the region standings in their respective divisions. Now with five events remaining on the schedule – the schools will compete at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College this coming weekend – the Rangers are on a roll at the right time.
Warner and Searcy won the Kansas State University rodeo to open the season, then followed it up a week later in western Kansas with a second straight victory.
“We knew we were behind, and we knew we had to get points,” said Warner, a senior header from Jay, Okla. “Garden City is always a good rodeo and always has good steers, usually on the fresher side. We knew we needed to just go knock one down in the long round.”
They did, but their time was a little on the slow end at 6.9 seconds; they qualified for the championship round ninth out of 10 teams.
“I told Searcy that this setup was pretty fun and that we should just go for it,” Warner said, noting that the team won the final round with a 4.7-second run and won the average title with a cumulative time of 11.6 seconds on two runs. “It was a good two weeks for sure.”
It was a pretty good couple of weeks for the Northwestern men and women. The Rangers men placed third in Garden City with 395 points, while the women placed second with 245. In all, Northwestern held 11 spots in the short round, which was valuable to team points.
Warner and Searcy led the way with their victory, but another Ranger heeler, Chase Boekhaus of Rolla, Kan., scored a second-place finish roping with Ethan Fox of Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Northwestern header Dalton Richards finished sixth.
“For us, it’s a mental game,” Searcy said. “We know we have a run we think we can win on. When we go to the practice pen, we’re focused. We’re trying to get better on one thing every day, whether it’s being consistent and knocking them down or trying to go fast and max out on a steer. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves in the practice pen, and I think it helps.”
Other short-round qualifiers were steer wrestler Ryan Domer of Topeka, Kan., who placed third; tie-down roper Wade Perry of Lamont, Okla., who finished sixth; bull rider Garrett German of Arnett, Okla., who placed fourth; breakaway ropers Kelsey Pontius of Watsontown, Pa., (third) and Micah Samples of Abilene, Kan., (fourth); and goat-tiers Karley Kile of Topeka, Kan., (third) and Kodi Hansen of Everly, Iowa, (fourth).
For Warner and Searcy, it comes down to having a solid partnership.
“One thing about Parker is that he’s definitely going to catch, and he’s going to give us a chance to win,” Searcy said. “He’s going to set the steer up where I can heel him as fast as possible.”
That’s a strong combination. It also is a winning combination.
“It’s good to have someone like Searcy because it takes a little pressure off me,” said Warner, who transferred to Northwestern from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. “I know he’s going to do his job. It’s easier to have a partner behind you that’s very consistent, rides good horses and doesn’t do anything too off the wall; he uses his head, and he’s always mentally prepared.
“We try to have a game plan when we back into the box, and we try very hard to execute our game plan.”
Their game plan is working so far.