ALVA, Okla. – It takes talent, perseverance and a lot of support to be successful in rodeo, and the members of the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team know that as well as anyone.
Steer wrestler Stephen Culling of Fort St. John, British Columbia, used it all to a third-place finish this past weekend at the Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College Rodeo. Riding a horse he is borrowing from fellow Canadian ProRodeo cowboy Clayton Moore, Culling won the first round and finished third in the two-run average in Fort Scott.
But it didn’t come without the help he gets from other Rangers, including coach Stockton Graves, a Northwestern alumnus who has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo seven times.
“He’s just proves himself, and he spends a lot of time helping us out and getting us to that stage,” he said, noting that he also receives a lot of support from roommate Laine Herl of Goodland, Kan., and traveling partner Mike McGinn of Haines, Ore.; all three are in the top eight in the Central Plains Region standings, joining Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, and Tyler Batie of Rapid City, S.D.
“Good competition makes you step up and try to make you do better,” said Culling, who credits much of his success to Moore’s horse, Santos, a 13-year-old that has been used quite a bit in ProRodeo. “It’s hard because you know all of you aren’t going to get to go, but it’s good to see your friends and traveling partners also do good.”
Culling led the way for Northwestern with his No. 3 finish, but he was joined in the championship round by two other bulldoggers, Batie, who placed third overall, and Chase Lako of Arthur, Neb., who placed fourth. They were joined in the short round by heeler William Whayne of Tulsa, Okla., who qualified with header Connor Osborne of Connors (Okla.) State College.
“Our (men’s) team is strong,” Culling said.
The Northwestern women definitely are good. They lead the region standings and finished runner-up in Fort Scott. Rangers Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., and Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz., tied for third in the average in goat-tying; they are the top two in the goat-tying standings, with Miller owning a 60-point lead.
“If I don’t win the region, I want another girl from our team to win it,” Miller said.
Barnes won the first round, posting a 7.2-second run. Miller then finished fourth in the short round with a 7.9; both finished with a 15.9-second two-run cumulative time. They were joined in the short round by barrel racer Paige Winnett of Elmore City, Okla., and breakaway roper Cassy Woodward of Dupree, S.D.
The teams will have four weeks off until the next event, scheduled for April 9-11 in Weatherford, Okla., and will close out the season with three events over those three weekends in April.
“I just look at it like I have six runs to make,” Miller said, referring to her game plan on trying to secure the region title. “I’m counting on making the short round at the next three and putting six more runs together.
“I can’t relax. There are (several) weeks between rodeos. It would be easy to settle and chill for a while, but I’ve got to keep right at it.”
That work is a good reason why she and the women’s team lead the Central Plains standings.
“I’m just going to keep my horse in shape and keep myself in shape,” she said. “I’ll just try to keep my head right and stay positive heading to the next three and try to kick butt.”