She got her chance last week during the 2015 College National Finals Rodeo. She placed among the top 10 in each of the four go-rounds and finished tied for fifth in the final standings in Casper, Wyo.
“It was really good,” said Barnes, a senior from Buckeye, Ariz. “My plan was to be 6 (seconds) on all the first three rounds, and it was great to be able to do that. I wish I would’ve had a better run on the last one. My horse lunged when I swung my leg, and she doesn’t usually do that. I lost my balance a little and was longer than I wanted to be (on time).
“I think I still would’ve been fine, but my string came out of my belt loop, and it got stuck underneath the goat. That slowed me down a lot.”
She posted runs of 6.6, 6.7 and 6.4 seconds in the first three rounds to qualify for the championship round in the No. 2 position behind eventual national champion Loni Pearce of Southern Arkansas University. Barnes’ 7.6-second final run moved her into a two-way tie for fifth place to finish out her college career.
“I thought it was a good way to go out,” she said. “I would’ve loved to own a national title, but being fifth in the nation was pretty neat.”
Barnes was the top finisher among six Northwestern athletes who competed at the collegiate championship, which features the top two teams in the region and the top three regional individuals in each event. Barnes finished the 2014-15 Central Plains Region season No. 2 in the standings behind teammate Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D.
The Northwestern women won the Central Plains Region, so the Rangers had four women part of the CNFR lineup, including breakaway ropers Sammi Lee McGuire of Backus, Minn., and Karley Kile of Overbrook, Kan. The men’s team included team roping header Dalton Richards of Hawkinsville, Ga., and steer wrestler Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah.
Barnes was the only Ranger to qualify for the championship round. Still, the Northwestern women earned 147.5 points and finished 15th in the team standings.
“It was awesome to be part of this team this year,” Barnes said. “These girls were great. I really knew we had the team to win the region this year, and every girl had that set on their minds. Everyone was there for each other. I’ve been part of a lot of other sports teams, but this was the greatest connection I’ve ever felt.
“The funny thing was it came in a sport where you’re actually trying to beat one another, but we were more of a team than any other sports team I’ve been on.”
That made for a special way to close out a career at a college that was more than a thousand miles from home.
“My career at Northwestern was great,” she said. “I learned so much about life going away from home and having to do a lot of things on my own. I grew up a lot. I met a lot of great people. I had a great coach in Stockton; he was just awesome, and I wouldn’t want any other coach.
“I learned how to win. I learned how to prepare myself for different situations and how not to let one thing keep me down. I learned how to keep going even when there’s a barrier in front of you. You have to learn to get around the barrier.”
Now the next barrier is in front of Barnes. She changed majors from marketing to elementary education, so she will transfer to Arizona State University to obtain her bachelor’s degree.
“I have a colt that’s pretty good in barrels, so I’ll rodeo some,” she said. “I’ll finish school and go to some rodeos, then get a career.”