ALVA, Okla. – Like any individual competitor, senior Riley Wakefield was quite pleased with his wins in the all-around and tie-down roping this past weekend at the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Rodeo.
But his greatest accomplishment was being part of the men’s team title, which pushed the Rangers into the lead in the Central Plains Region race at the conclusion of the fall season.
“I came to Northwestern to win as a team,” said Wakefield of O’Neill, Neb. “I knew that we were going to have a great team. We did last year. I was a little nervous coming into this fall, because we lost some great competitors.
“But this means a lot that we can step up and fill their shoes.”
Northwestern dominated the men’s race in Alva over the weekend, and the Nebraskan was quite dominant himself. Besides the victories, he also finished in a tie for second place in steer wrestling. He accounted for half of the Rangers’ 530 points.
Plus, it was important for the team to win the title at home.
“It’s an important rodeo for us,” Wakefield said. “We worked all week setting everything up for the rodeo, and we made it our focus to win this weekend. (Coach) Stockton (Graves) took us into the stands after we were done setting up and thanked us for all the work we’d done and for staying focused and doing our jobs.
“We have our fun, and we’re college students, but we’re competitors. When it’s time to compete, we can do that.”
It showed in the results. Wakefield was one of four Rangers who made the championship round in tie-down roping: Bo Yaussi of Udall, Kan., placed fifth in both rounds and the average, while Kelton Hill of Canadian, Texas, finished sixth in the short round and average. Jeremy Carney of Blanchard, Okla., was third in the first round with a 9.7-second run.
Wakefield was joined in the short round of steer wrestling by Jace Rutledge of Harrisonville, Mo., who placed sixth in the long round. Riley Westhaver of High River, Alberta, placed sixth in the final round. After finishing just out of the top six in the first round, Wakefield stopped the clock in 3.9 seconds to finish second in the short round to tie for second in the average.
Meanwhile, Carney and his header, Laramie Warren of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, finished in a tie for third place in the first round of team roping, then won the short round to finish second overall.
With their first-place finish at home, Northwestern’s men moved into the lead in the region, scooting past defending national champion Panhandle State University for the first time this season.
“It feels really good,” Wakefield said. “I knew we had a pretty good weekend, but I had no idea we jumped to No. 1. It always feels good to be first going into the break. We’ve got our work cut out for us, because Panhandle is one of the best teams in college rodeo history.
“I never expected us to be leading it after four rodeos. We came out of our first couple rodeos in third place, and that wasn’t where we wanted to be. It’s special that we’re going out No. 1 in the region heading into the spring season.”
The Northwestern women were led by barrel racer Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., who finished third in the first round, then won both the short round and the average. Baillie Wiseman of Aztec, N.M., was second in the short round and third in the average, while Natalie Berryhill of Remus, Mich., placed second in the long round and fifth in both the final round and average. Kayla Copenhaver of St. James, Mo., placed in a tie for fifth place in the first round.
Goat-tier Megan Turek of St. Paul, Neb., placed in both rounds and finished fourth overall, while breakaway roper Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., won the final round and finished second in the average. Morgan Kessler of Callaway, Neb., finished the first round in a seven-way tie for sixth place, while Cedar Anderson of Carrington, N.D., was fourth in the first round.
The teams will have three and a half months off before returning to action in mid-February. For now, though, the men’s team will relish in their top spot in the standings while also working on ways to keep moving forward over the final three months of the campaign.
“I would really like to win the region,” Wakefield said. “Going to Gillette College (in Wyoming) for two years, I never got to win the team title. We finished second in the Central Plains last year. To win the mean’s team title would mean a lot. I think it would be great for all of us.
“There’s just so much talent here. I think each and every person on our team wants to win and wants to work at it. That’s a big deal, and I think we’ve got a great opportunity this year. We’ve had a great fall, but I think we can do even better.”