ALVA, Okla. – The arena in Guymon, Okla., may have been a muddy mess this past weekend, but it was the perfect place for goat-tier Shayna Miller to close out her Central Plains Region career.
Miller won the first round and finished second in mucky conditions during the short round to share the victory with her sister, Katy, at Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s Doc Gardner Memorial Rodeo at Hitch Arena.
Shayna Miller also clinched her second regional championship and was one of the guiding forces behind the Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s second straight women’s team title.
“It’s a pretty crazy feeling to win the goat-tying title the two years I was in Alva,” said Shayna Miller, a senior from Faith, S.D. “I had big goals coming into the year, and to come out on top again was a pretty cool experience.”
So was sharing the goat-tying title in Guymon with her little sister, a sophomore at Northwestern.
“It means a lot, especially since it was the last one of the season,” Katy Miller said. “Shayna really pushed me this last year. To get that win with her meant a lot.”
Shayna Miller was one of three Rangers to claim regional titles, joining steer wrestler Jacob Edler of State Center, Iowa, and tie-down roper Bryson Seachrist of Apache, Okla. They have all earned the right to compete at the College National Finals Rodeo, which will take place June 12-18 in Casper, Wyo.
By winning the region, the Northwestern women will field a full team of four cowgirls – Shayna Miller and barrel racer Sara Bynum, the third-place finisher from Beggs, Okla. – are guaranteed to be on the team; the other two spots will be announced later by rodeo coach Stockton Graves.
In addition, steer wrestler J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., earned the right to compete by finishing second behind Edler, while bareback rider Austin Graham of Jay, Okla., finished third overall to return to Casper.
That means eight Rangers will battle for the national championship in a little more than a month, which bodes well for the rodeo program.
“There are a lot of quality girls on the team that can bump you out of your spot on the team,” Shayna Miller said. “If you’re not on top of your game, then you might not get your spot on the team. When there are more girls that are so competitive, it makes you step up your game.”
Of course, it helps Shayna Miller to have such a competitive sibling on the team.
“I was excited for her,” Shayna Miller said of Katy. “For her to go in there and pull off a good run in the short round and tie me for the average win was a pretty cool deal for us.”
It also made up for a disappointing breakaway-roping run for Katy Miller, who failed to score a time during the championship round.
“All I had to do was catch, and I would’ve done well enough to move into second in the region and go to the college finals,” she said. “When I pitched my slack, the rope came off his head. That was a downer, so I just focused really hard on my run in goats.”
It paid off in a big way. The women’s team finished third in the Oklahoma Panhandle and held on to the points lead overall. Shayna Miller used her solid performance in Guymon to move up from second place to earn the year-end championship. Edler, who had clinched the championship prior to the final rodeo, finished second anyway to close out a dominating season.
Struxness, who won the Guymon title, moved up one spot. Graham also won the bareback riding title to remain solid in the standings.
For the women, barrel racer Cassy Woodward of Dupree, S.D., utilized a solid final run to finish third overall, while breakaway roper Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., won the short round to move into second place overall.
“Our women’s team was pretty stacked this year, and I think that meant a lot to Stockton,” Katy Miller said. “When the women’s team won the region last year, he really wanted us to get the second win this year. A lot of girls contributed to this team title.”
Now it’s time for the eight Rangers to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the demanding college finale.
“My first trip out there, it was just cool to be there,” said Shayna Miller, who earned her first CNFR qualification as a freshman at Pratt (Kan.) Community College before transferring for her final two years in Alva. “I didn’t have the goals that I have now. I have goals set for the college finals.
“All the girls that are on the team do their own things to get ready. We’re a team, but we all want to win individually. I think that practicing to win individually and Stockton having a team that’s wired that way just gives us a boost.”
It showed through the 10-event Central Plains Region season.