ALVA, Okla. – It all started with an email during Mckayla Alliston’s senior year of high school in Buckhead, Georgia.
“It came from a guy named Stockton Graves, and I’d never heard of him before that,” said Alliston, a senior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University who won the championship round in breakaway roping at the Colby (Kansas) Community College this past weekend and finished third overall. “He invited me to come out and check out the school.”
Graves is Northwestern’s rodeo coach, and he brought the Georgia cowgirl to town in time for the Rangers’ home rodeo. It was then that she realized moving 1,000 from home to attend college might be the perfect thing to do. That was four years ago, and she still likes the way it’s worked out.
“While I was here, Stockton found me a horse to jump-ride to enter the jackpot they had after the rodeo,” she said. “The town was really small and welcoming. It reminded me of the town I grew up in back home. I decided the school would be a good fit.
“Alva has a way of pulling people in. In my four years here, I’ve met so many amazing people. I’ve made so many relationships and connections here with people that are awesome.”
Alliston led the way for the Rangers women in northwest Kansas. She was 2.5 in a fast first round and didn’t place. She made a 2.4-second run to win the short round, the first short-go victory of her college career.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” she said. “It seems like I hadn’t been drawing very good calves most of the season. I try not to blame issues on the calves, because I want to take responsibility for myself. That first round got salty for sure. The calves at this rodeo were the most even set we’ve had since our rodeo (earlier in the spring).”
She also got a bit of assistance from Rolex, an 11-year-old bay mare she’s had three years.
“I bought her back in Georgia the summer after my freshman year,” Alliston said. “When I bought her, she was a fire-breathing dragon. For some reason, I really liked her. She’s come along way since then. I’m happy I decided to get the wild-eyed horse that people told me I was insane for buying.
“She is, by far, the fastest horse I’ve ever ridden. She leaves hard and runs to the calf. One cool thing about her is you don’t have to pull on her to get her to stop; you just tell her ‘whoa,’ and she sits down. She’s gotten pretty consistent.”
While Alliston led the way for the women’s team, fellow breakaway roper Katy Barger of Pawnee, Oklahoma, scored a fourth-place finish in the short round and placed fourth overall. Barrel racer Kayla Wilson of Quincy, Illinois, also placed in the short round but just missed out on points for the aggregate.
For the Rangers men, steer wrestler Jace Rutledge of Harrisonville, Missouri, led the way by sharing the first-round victory with a 3.7-second run. His 5.7 was good enough for fifth in the short round, and he placed fourth overall.
Healer Bo Yaussi of Udall, Kansas, won the opening round while roping with Garrett Elmore of Western Oklahoma State College. They stopped the clock in 4.1 seconds. A no-time in the final round stalled them at fifth place overall. The Northwestern team of Taylor Carson and Cale Koppitz, both from Alva, placed third in the opening round.
For Alliston, her short-round win at the last college rodeo of the season may be the perfect way to wrap up four years in Alva. She’s still weighing options for her future, and there’s a chance she’ll stay for another season of intercollegiate rodeo.
Whatever happens, though, she’s pretty confident she’s ready for that step.
“One thing I’ve learned from being out here that I didn’t pay attention to before was that you’ve got to do what’s best for you,” Alliston said. “You’ve got to make decisions that better your life, even if it means making sacrifices you may not want to make.”