ALVA, Okla. – It’s been a long time coming for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team.
For the first time in seven years, the Rangers have won the Central Plains Region’s women’s team title, clinching the championship this past weekend by winning the Fort Hays (Kan.) State University rodeo.
Through nine of 10 events – the final rodeo of the 2014-15 season will be this coming weekend at Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s Doc Gardner Memorial Rodeo in Guymon, Okla. – the Northwestern women have won five titles.
“I’m very proud of our women’s team this year,” said Stockton Graves, the Rangers rodeo coach. “We set our goal at the first of the year to win the region, and we’ve accomplished that. We have one more rodeo this season, and we’d like to close that one out with a win.”
That’s highly possible. Northwestern is 849 points ahead of the second-place team, rival Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and nearly 1,100 better than No. 3 Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Winning at least half the events in a 10-rodeo season is a major statement.
“Our team has really worked together, and we try to build each other up,” said Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., who won goat tying in Hays to clinch the region title. “I’m pretty sure we all had that (team title) on our mind.”
In Hays, Miller won the first round with a 7.7-second run, then finished second in the final round to win the title with a two-run cumulative time of 15.9 seconds – half a second faster than the field, which included three other Rangers: Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz.; Elli Price of Leady, Okla.; and Tearnee Nelson of Faith, S.D. Barnes finished tied for third, while Price was sixth.
For the third time this season, Miller led the way for the Rangers.
“She’s had a huge impact on our women’s team,” Graves said of Miller. “She’s scored over 1,000 points in goat-tying. She’s a real hard worker and gives those girls something to look up to. She’s had a big influence on our team.”
That makes a difference, especially on a team that has seen some success in recent years. The last two seasons, the Northwestern women also qualified as a team to the College National Finals Rodeo by finishing second in the region.
“Even though I’m leading it, Karley (Kile) and Lauren have put a lot of points in there,” Miller said. “We wouldn’t be winning the region if it wasn’t for all of us together.”
That’s a great building block for the team’s future. Any time a group sees success, it helps each individual in the group see how the work pays off.
“It gives them some sort of pride and gives us something to look forward to and proves that we can do it,” Graves said. “They take pride in being one of the top two teams in the region and hopefully one of the top two teams in the nation.”
Other short-round qualifiers for the women were breakaway roper Samantha McGuire of Backus, Minn. and barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla. The Northwestern men were led by Laine Herl of Goodland, Kan., who placed in both heading and steer wrestling.
Herl won the short round in steer wrestling with a 5.4-second run and finished second in the two-run aggregate. He and heeler Chase Lako of Hunter, N.D., finished third in team roping. Another two-event star, Tyler Batie of Black Hawk, S.D., placed fifth in bulldogging and team roping, competing with heading teammate Edgar Fierro of Kingfisher, Okla. Another steer wrestler, Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, finished sixth.
The top Ranger in team roping was header Dalton Richards of Hawkinsville, Ga., who placed second with heeler Ben Whiddon of Southeastern. They finished in a tie for second place in the first round with Herl/Lako, then posted an 11.8-second run to finish second in the short round. Richards sits second in the region heading into the final event of the season.
“I’ve been this close before, so I’m not really trying to think about it too much,” said Richards, who will, “just keep roping my game and see how it goes.”