ALVA, Okla. – The little indoor arena in Garden City, Kan., was the perfect fit for some members of the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team.
The Rangers won the women’s team title with 420 points, 120 better than the runner-up, Southeastern Oklahoma State University. For the men, Mason Bowen of Bullard, Texas, raced to the tie-down roping championship, winning the first round, placing second in the short round and tying two calves in a cumulative time of 19.1 seconds to claim the average.
He also leads the Central Plains Region standings in his event. The same can be said for Colten Madison of Whiting, Iowa, who capitalized on his third-place finish in southwest Kansas to take the top spot in steer wrestling. He had a simple plan of attack as he approached the seventh event of the 10-rodeo season.
“Just make two runs and just place, if anything, and move in the standings,” said Madison, a freshman majoring in agriculture business.
He did that by gathering 90 points in Garden City to push his season total to 480 points. He is 70 points ahead of teammate Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas. That’s important, because only the top three individuals in each discipline advance to the College National Finals Rodeo.
“I’ve been lifting and practicing every day,” said Madison, who began using weights a year ago after suffering an injured rotator cuff in his right shoulder while competing in his home state of Iowa. “I made a friend in town who was a body builder, and he told me he could get me stronger than I was.”
It’s working. He is taking his approach to the final three rodeos of the season with hopes it continues to pay off. They key is to continue grappling the steers to the ground and make as many final rounds as possible. Of course, it helps to have support from his rodeo coach, Stockton Graves, and teammate J.D. Struxness – Graves is a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier, and Struxness is the reigning college champ who qualified for the NFR for the first time last year.
“Stockton and J.D. help a lot,” Madison said. “Back home I don’t have anybody to practice with. Having guys like Stockton and J.D. helping out has made a huge difference.”
The women’s title marked just the second time this season the Rangers have claimed a championship. The women won their home rodeo in October, and this past weekend. Goat tier Katy Miller of Faith, S.D., and barrel racer Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., utilized strong second-place finishes to guide Northwestern to the crown.
Miller finished second in the first round, short round and average to earn 145 points. She also made the final round in breakaway roping but didn’t garner any points in that discipline.
“I knew going in it was a little indoor barn,” said Miller, who is third in the goat-tying standings. “For goat tying, they’re short runs, so you really have to think about that. If you get off (the horse) late, it could really mess up your run.
“I try to rope on one or two horses every day. I tie goats with a couple of other girls; I try to tie goats every day.”
That hard work is paying off. Miller was one of four Northwestern goat tiers who earned points in Garden City. She was joined by Tearnee Nelson, also of Faith, who placed in both rounds and finished fourth in the average; Jennifer Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, who was fourth in the opening round; and Melissa Courture of Springdale, Ark., who placed third in the first round.
Moeder won the first round and finished in a tie for third in the short round in barrel racing. Her two-run cumulative time of 26.30 seconds propelled her to second overall. She sits second in the region standings. Brandi Hollenbeck of Hutchinson, Kan., roped in heading points while competing with men’s team member Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah. They finished fourth in the short round and fifth in the team roping average.
Another Northwestern tandem – Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, and Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla. – finished fifth in the long round to gather points.
While Bowen won the tie-down roping title, Cole Patterson of Patterson of Pratt, Kan., finished third. His 10.7-second first-round run was good enough for second, then he finished with a two-run cumulative time of 22.5 seconds. Devers earned a spot in the steer wrestling short round, then placed sixth overall.
The women’s team sits second in the standings and will need a strong finish over the final month of the season if it hopes to return to the college finals in June. The Rangers next stop is this coming weekend in Weatherford, Okla.