ALVA, Okla. – Truth be told, Jacob Haren wasn’t satisfied with his performance this past weekend at the Colby (Kansas) Community College rodeo.
Sure, he won the all-around title and led the way for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team by earning points in two events, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. He advanced to the championship round in both, but he failed to take advantage when the best of the week were matched together.
“It’s definitely a good start, but it could have gone a little better,” said Haren, a senior from Callaway, Nebraska. “It’s always the goal to get points in multiple events, but I wanted to capitalize in the short round more.”
He’ll have nine more chances to do that through the rigors of the Central Plains Region season; three of those happen during the fall semester. It’s a long season, but the Colorado-raised cowboy looks at it as more opportunities. The goal of all competitors in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association is an eventual qualification to the College National Finals Rodeo and a shot at the national title.
“I think it’s pretty important to start off strong,” said Haren, who placed third in the opening round of steer wrestling and finished in a tie for fifth in the first round of tie-down roping. “You can then go into the next rodeo and keep that going through the rest of them this fall.”
It’s not just bulldogging and calf roping that keep Haren busy. He’s also a team roper, so he gives himself – and the Northwestern men’s team – a chance at earning points in three events. That is valuable not only in the all-around race but also as the team takes step toward its future. While individual accolades are significant, the ultimate prize is pulling through as a team.
“Practices have been going good,” he said. “We have a bunch of really good guys this year, and we’re all working together to get better.”
It showed. There were several Rangers in the championship round, including team roping header Tanner Meier of Garden City, Kansas; steer wrestler Quade Potter of Stockville, Nebraska; and barrel racers Taralee Haddock of Elbert, Colorado, and Savannah Greenfield of Lakeview, Oregon. All made the short round but failed to secure points.
In following with the tradition that ignited the moniker the “Bulldogging Capital of College Rodeo,” the steer wrestlers shined during the competition in northwest Kansas: Trisyn Kalawaia of Waiakea, Hawaii, won the title in Colby, placing in both go-rounds and securing the aggregate title by more than two seconds; Cameron Fox of Tulsa also placed among the top six in both rounds and finished fifth overall; and Sterling Lee of Goetebo, Oklahoma, won the first round with a 4.5-second run.
Barrel racer Sierra Schott of McLaughlin, South Dakota, led the way for the Rangers women by winning the first go-round, placing in the short round and finishing third overall. Breakaway roper Lauren Hopkins of Lincoln, California, was solid in her two runs to place third overall. Laci Geiger of Emmett, Idaho, finished in a tie for second in the opening round, while Jaci Traul of Fort Scott, Kansas, placed in a tie for sixth place in the first go; neither cowgirl had success in the short round.
After the opening weekend of college rodeo, Haren sees a lot of positives the team can build on as it prepares for the next event, which takes place the final three days of September in Durant, Oklahoma.
“I think the bulldoggers are always going to be strong, and have other guys in other events who look strong, too,” said Haren, who transferred from Mid-Plains (Nebraska) Community College a year ago. “I know the girls that made the short round were good in Colby, so you hope that keeps up.”
Of course, having an individual who can score points in multiple events helps, and Haren hopes to build on his start to the final campaign in college rodeo.
“I always grew up doing every event I was able to do,” he said. “I especially love the roping events, but a friend has a good bulldogging horse and lets me ride him. Going to school with (coach) Stockton Graves, you pretty much feel like you need to bulldog, too.”
Graves, an eight-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier who just missed making the finale this season, has been coach of his alma mater since the spring 2012 season. While he’s best known as a steer wrestler, he has also been an all-around champion at a high level. Since he became coach, three Rangers have won national titles: breakaway roper Taylor Munsell and bulldoggers J.D. Struxness and Bridger Anderson.
It’s that type of legacy that pushed Haren from southwest Nebraska to Alva.
“I wanted to be in a different region, one that was a little more competitive,” he said. “I liked the fact that it isn’t super far from home. This gives me a good chance to get better.”