ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team has spent weeks preparing for the upcoming season.
The practice is about to be put to the test with the first event of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Central Plains Region, which takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Cherokee, Okla., just a stone’s throw from the Alva campus.
“One of the rodeo programs dropped its program this year, and no other program wanted to pick it up,” said Stockton Graves, Northwestern’s rodeo coach. “We are doing this as a favor to the region so that we can have 10 region rodeos.
“We are still going to have our own rodeo later this fall in Alva. We knew it was going to be tough on our great sponsors to have two of them in Alva in the fall, so we opted to put one in Cherokee. I think it’s very doable.”
The Central Plains Region features four fall rodeos and six in the spring. That’s why Graves and his team agreed to have the Cherokee Rodeo hosted by NWOSU.
“I think we could’ve very easily put on a rodeo in Alva in both the fall and spring, but since the region wanted to keep the number of rodeos the same in each semester, we’re basically going to have two rodeos around here in the fall,” Graves said. “I got as close as I could to where both Alva and Cherokee could both benefit. It’s a great facility. This is really for the kids so they could have 10 rodeos instead of nine, and we’ve had a good response from both Alva and Cherokee.”
Northwestern’s traditional rodeo will take place Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in Alva. Because the rodeo team hosts both events, that means a lot of work by the by team members to get everything ready for the other programs that will be part of the competition.
“We’re excited to get things started, and I’m sure the kids are ready,” Graves said. “I’m really excited about the upcoming season. We got a really good recruiting class and a lot of talented kids coming in. I think combined with our returning cowboys and cowgirls, we’re going to have a good mix.”
The list of returners includes three qualifiers from the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo: steer wrestler Steven Culling of Fort St. John, British Columbia, and goat-tiers Karly Kile of Topeka, Kan., and Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz. Culling finished third at the national championship, while Barnes placed third in the CNFR’s final go-round to end her season on a high note.
“From what I’ve seen so far, I think we have a very solid team, and I have expectations for us to be in the hunt for the regional titles at the end of the season,” Graves said.