ALVA, Okla. – Sara Bynum and Amber Miller took very different paths to the top of the barrel racing leaderboard this past weekend at the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo.
Bynum rode a young mare to the two-run aggregate title, moving up to a tie for second place in the Central Plains Region standings. Meanwhile, Miller leaned on a trusty veteran mare to finish second overall behind her Rangers teammate.
“It’s amazing, because the filly I’m riding is only 5 years old,” said Bynum of Beggs, Okla. “She was a longshot to begin with. To be among the top three to finish the first semester of rodeos is really awesome.”
Bynum has been in the winner’s circle before, winning the final event of last season in April. She has been a fixture in short go-rounds already this season, but it was a new feeling for Miller, a freshman from Laverne, Okla.
“It was a little nerve-wracking competing against all those kids that have rodeoed in the region all the time,” said Miller, who rode a 13-year-old mare to place second in the short round and finish just three-tenths of a second behind her teammate. “The fact that it’s the hometown rodeo was big, too. My parents were there, my friends were there, and it was great that I could do well.
“It made my confidence boost a little bit.”
They were just a pair of Rangers that did well in Alva over the weekend. Laremi Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, won goat-tying; J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., won both rounds and the average in steer wrestling; Austin Graham of Jay, Okla., won both rounds and the aggregate in bareback riding; and tie-down roper Bryson Seachrist of Apache, Okla., won the short round and finished second overall.
Both the Northwestern men and women placed second in the team standings. In all, five men and six women scored valuable points, including tie-down roper Wylee Nelson, steer wrestler Tyrel Cline, goat-tier Shayna Miller and breakaway ropers Katy Miller and Taylor Munsell.
“We all want each other to do really good,” Bynum said. “I would rather see all the girls and guys on my team do well.”
Of course, part of that is each team member doing his or her part. Bynum was the most consistent barrel racer in the field, posting a 12.89-second run to finish second in the opening round. She then won the short round with a blistering 12.58.
“My senior year in high school, I didn’t have anything very good coming to the college deal, and my dad found this filly on Craigslist for $600,” she said of Loretta, a palomino paint. “It turned out to be the best barrel horse I’ve ever swung my leg over.
“She has a really like stride, which makes her pretty fast, and she’s really smooth. She doesn’t waste a lot of time when she’s turning.”
While Bynum has gained faith in her young horse, Amber Miller has found great success in Birdie, a 13-year-old sorrel mare that was bred and trained to be a cutting horse.
“We started her as a family in barrels,” Miller said. “We trained her on our own. My sister and I both have ridden her. She’s a great horse to have.
“We didn’t spend thousands of dollars on her. She’s special to us, because we started her and have had her for a long time. She’s one of a kind.”
The 100 points she earned this past weekend moved Miller into 10th place in the Central Plains standings. She’s joined by a host of Rangers that are among the leaders in their respective events. Of course, that’s a big reason why both the men and women sit second in the team standings after four events. The final six rodeos of the 2015-16 season will take place during the spring semester.
“I think one of the things that helps make us successful is that everybody supports each other,” Miller said. “We’re really a close-bonded team, and I think that helps us out a lot.”