ALVA, Okla. – Both breakaway roper Taylor Munsell and steer wrestler Bridger Anderson got a big taste of what it means to be a champion this past summer when they left the College National Finals Rodeo as national champions.
They not only want to defend their titles; they want do so in a big way. Anderson has kicked off the 2019-20 season with a second-place finish and two titles, the last of which came this past weekend at the Oklahoma State University rodeo.
He and Munsell won their respective events at the season opener in Colby, Kansas, and they repeated it again in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Both are first in the Central Plains Region standings – Anderson has 440 points already this young season and is 260 points ahead of the No. 2 cowboy, while Munsell has 260 points and is 85 points ahead of the runner-up.
“At the college rodeos, it’s nice being out there ahead of everybody,” said Munsell, a graduate assistant using her fifth year of eligibility for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team. “I don’t want to have to come in and win it in the end. My junior year was that way. All I needed to do was catch my calf in the short round in Guymon (Oklahoma) to win the region, and I didn’t catch my calf.”
That’s why it’s important to do well during the fall portion of the rodeo schedule. Northwestern will close out the four-event campaign by hosting a three-day rodeo Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
“It’s nice having a little bit of a comfortable fall, getting a lot of points at each of the college rodeos, but there’s a long way to go before we get to Casper,” Anderson said, referring to the home of the college finals in Wyoming. “We’re going to try to keep getting out on the barrier, keep getting our hands on steers and keep scoring points.”
He had a solid fall a year ago and had a strong lead in the standings heading into the spring. Things didn’t go quite as well as he had liked during the final six events of the season, but Anderson held on to win the region. He wants to make a better showing this year.
“I just need to keep out of my own head,” he said. “Whitt Crozier (of Oklahoma Panhandle State University) was really fast, and I had to talk myself out of running at the barrier to win first and possibly breaking the barrier. As long as we keep trying to make smooth runs, I think we can be pretty consistent, and that’s what it’s going to take to win the region again.”
Both the Northwestern men’s and women’s teams finished second in Stillwater, so there were plenty of Rangers providing points along the way. Anderson downed his first-round steer in 4.3 seconds to finish in a tie for first, then was 4.2 to finish third in the championship round.
Meanwhile, all-around cowboy Bo Yaussi scored points in two events for Northwestern: He placed in both rounds and finished third in the average in tie-down roping, then did the same thing as a heeler in team roping to finish second in the average with Colton Good of Western Oklahoma State College.
Another Northwestern team roper, header Camden Hoelting, made the final round, then finished tied for third in the short-go and fourth overall while roping with heeler Rio Esquibel of Northeastern A&M.
“We definitely have the potential to be a solid team,” said Anderson, a junior from Carrington, North Dakota. “We have a lot of solid people and should have a shot to do good at the regional standings. As a team, our goal is to try to win the regional championship or, at worst, finish second and get the team qualified for the college finals.”
While Munsell led the way for the Rangers women, she was one of five who earned points in Stillwater. She was 3.3 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth in the first round, then was 3.0 to win the final round and the average. Meanwhile, Lindee Carson placed in both rounds and finished third in the average and Katelyn King made the short round, where she finished fourth and slid into fourth in the breakaway roping average.
Goat-tier Megan Turek scored points in the opening round with a 7.2-second run to finish in a four-way tie for fifth place. Barrel racer Amber Scales placed in both rounds and finished third overall.
“We rebounded really good after we didn’t do so well in Durant (Oklahoma),” Munsell said of the second rodeo of the season. “We had some girls come up and compete really well. We’re starting to get some confidence under our belts. We have a bunch of talent, but it’s green, and we just need to get that experience.
“I think this team could really come together next semester and the next couple of years.”