ALVA, Okla. – Team roping is the Johnson family business, and Jayden Johnson is doing his part.
The junior header at Northwestern Oklahoma State University teamed with his heeling partner, Riley Wakefield of O’Neill, Neb., to win the team roping championship this past weekend at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Durant.
“It means a lot to get that win,” said Johnson, a seventh-generation rancher near Casper, Wyo., whose father, Justin, is a Northwestern graduate. “This is what we do, and we work at it every day. Whether we’re roping the dummy or watching film, we’re working at it. We don’t have to run steers to work at it.
“We do rodeo every day, so it’s nice to see our hard work pay off so early. I’d like to keep that momentum going as we move forward.”
Both the Northwestern men and women placed second in Durant.
Johnson and Wakefield were two of five Rangers who scored points in team roping. They were joined by the tandem of Kass Bittle of Kremlin, Okla., and Jaydon Laubhan of Follett, Texas, and header Dylan Schulenberg of Coal Valley, Ill.
Northwestern had five steer wrestlers who garnered points, led by Jace Rutledge of Harrisonville, Mo., who won the final round and the average. Colten Madison finished in a three-way tie for third place in the first round but was unable to secure a time in the finale, while Brent Woodward placed in a tie for second overall, and Bridger Anderson placed fifth.
Wakefield made a push for the all-around crown by finishing third in tie-down roping. Tanner Nall placed fifth, and Ethan Price finished sixth. In all, the Rangers scored 560 points – even though it was better than their winning score two weeks ago in Colby, Kan., the team settled for second place.
“I chose both schools I went to because of how good I think the teams are going to be,” said Wakefield, who transferred from Gillette (Wyo.) College. “I knew a few guys on this team, and I knew they were really handy.”
Similar to his partner, Johnson transferred from Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., so this was his first big win in the Central Plains Region. Wakefield won the tie-down roping title in Colby, so this was a fresh start for the team ropers.
“It’s been really nice to have Riley,” Johnson said. “If I turn the steers, he’s going to catch them. He’s that type of guy. I’m glad to have him as a partner.”
The women’s team was led by a quartet of barrel racers, who all gathered points. Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., paved the way; she won the first round, finished fifth in the short round and earned the average championship with a two-run cumulative time of 33.59 seconds – she was four-tenths faster than the runner-up.
Ashlyn Moeder finished third in the opening round but fell off pace in the final round. Alyssa Gabrielson placed sixth in the first round, fourth in the short round and sixth in the average. Jennifer Massing was fourth in the opener, sixth in the short and fifth overall.
Breakaway roper Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., finished second overall, helped in large part to her 3.4-second, second-place run in the championship round. She was joined in the finale by Gabrielson, who finished in a tie for third place in the first round.
Overall it was a solid team effort by both the Rangers men and women.
“This is the best team I’ve been on in college rodeo,” said Johnson, whose uncle, Jhett, was the 2011 heeling world champion and attended school at Northwestern in the early 1990s. “Everybody is here to compete, and they do a good job of staying focused. They all want to work hard and try to get better every day.”