ALTUS, Okla. – Shane Smith knew he had to have something special if he were to win in the Central Plains Region of college rodeo.
He has it with Duck, a 12-year-old gelding he brought with him from his home in Wimborne, Alberta, to Western Oklahoma State College. The two came together strong this past weekend to win the tie-down roping title the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Alva.
“I drew a couple of good calves, and that really helps,” said Smith, a sophomore. “My horse worked really good.”
He acquired Duck half a dozen years ago and began training the little sorrel. His work is paying off, and it’s proof that good ropers need to be good horsemen if they are going to find success in rodeo. It also helps that Smith trusts his mount.
“I feel like I can score a lot better on him than most other horses,” he said. “It gives me a good start and a good advantage.”
He won both rounds, stopping the clock in 9.5 seconds to claim the opener. He then blistered an 8.4-second run in the championship round to win the two-run aggregate by more than a second – that’s a big victory in events timed to the 10th of a second.
Just as important, Smith was joined in the short round by teammate Colton Kofoed of Evanston, Wyo., who finished in a three-way tie for fifth place in the opening round.
“I think we’ve got a really good men’s team,” he said, noting that they face some of the toughest competition in college rodeo while competing in the Central Plains Region. “The competition is good every weekend, so it’s going to be a challenge every time.”
Shayna VanDerLeest knew that before she arrived in Altus. The freshman from Morrison, Ill., opted to compete at WOSC when she saw the facilities the school had for its rodeo program. She put them to use in Alva by placing in both rounds of goat tying and finishing fourth in the average.
“On my long-round run, I knew it was a good one because it felt really smooth,” said VanDerLeest, who stopped the clock in 6.1 seconds to finish in a tie for third place in the round. “I didn’t expect it to be that good.
“I’ve been looking forward to making it to a couple of short goes, and now I got my first one down.”
She found success again in the final round, tying down her goat in 7.9 seconds to finish sixth in the round. It was a strong note to end the four-rodeo, fall portion of the 2017-18 season. Like Smith, VanDerLeest knew she would get the opportunity to mature as a cowgirl because of the school’s commitment to the program.
“I decided to come to school here because they had a lot of the programs I wanted in an ag school, but their rodeo facilities and practice schedule are amazing,” she said. “Comparing it to the other schools I was considering, this was the best.”
Now she and the others are getting their tutelage from a couple of professional cowboys in head coach Jess Tierney, a six-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier and the reigning Timed Event Championship winner, and Jace Crabb, who has had outstanding success in team roping.
“Jess is doing a fantastic job for us, and that makes me happy that I chose this place,” VanDerLeest said. “In practice, he is very encouraging. He knows all of us have the potential to make the short goes. He also helps us in practice. If we’re not at our full potential, he can help make the change.”
That comes from experience, and the WOSC contestants are getting a big dose of it. Whether it’s practice or just taking other steps necessary, Tierney and Crabb are providing the team with an advantage.
“I think Jess is really good on the mental aspect and helps you learn how to win,” Smith said. “You have to have a good mindset when you go to a rodeo. You can’t win if you’re second-guessing yourself.”
Smith proved that in Alva.