ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo teams learned a valuable lesson this past weekend: One person can make a big difference in a team’s goal.
Take freshman Lauren Barnes, who won the all-around and goat-tying championships at the Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College Rodeo this past weekend and also scored big in breakaway roping, guiding the Northwestern women to the team title.
Barnes scored 275 points in claiming the all-around title, and those figures transitioned over to the team score, giving the Rangers women a 50-point margin over runner up Southeastern Oklahoma State University, which scored 225.
“As a freshman, it’s kind of hard to do, but I work hard at it every day,” said Barnes, an agriculture business major from Buckeye, Ariz. “Last weekend in Garden City (Kan.), I wanted to win the goat-tying, and I ended up second. So I really had something to prove this weekend.”
The proof came with Barnes posting a two-run cumulative of 14.1 seconds, two seconds better than runner-up Jacoby Hotsenpiller of Fort Scott. Barnes also put together two solid runs in breakaway roping, scoring a 5.6-second cumulative to finish third overall.
“I was real proud of Lauren,” Northwestern rodeo coach Stockton Graves said. “She did a good job in both events. I was really proud of the women’s team overall. I was glad to see them do good. They really came through for us at Fort Scott.
“We’re getting everybody on the same page, and it’s amazing what we can do with everybody on the same page. It’s just something we’ve got to learn.”
They’re learning quite well. The Rangers had three other cowgirls place last weekend: goat-tier Megan White (tied for third) of Alva and barrel racers Kari Cable (fourth) of Alva and Rachel Samuels (tied for eighth) of Port Jervis, N.Y.
“I think goat-tying is my strongest event,” Barnes said. “I’ve been doing it a little bit longer, and I work really hard at it. I work hard at breakaway, but right now it’s not as strong as my goat-tying.”
Barnes also competes in barrel racing, though she didn’t in Fort Scott – the Arizona cowgirl’s barrel horse was a little injured, so she gave the animal the weekend off. She expects everything to be working just fine by the time the teams return to action April 12-14 at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Weatherford.
“I really wanted to come to Oklahoma to rodeo, because I knew it would be tougher,” she said. “I really like the school and everything about it.”
It helps, too, that the coach is Graves, a former Northwestern standout who has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo seven times.
“He’s out there with us, helping us in goat-tying almost every night we’re out there,” Barnes said. “He’s out there helping in breakaway and is really helping us through it all. It’s a big help, that’s for sure.”
The help also comes from Arizona, where Barnes’ parents provide whatever assistance she might need to compete at a high level.
“They help money-wise and support,” she said. “This weekend before all of my runs, I talked to both my mom and my dad. They keep my confidence up, even if they can’t make it to all the rodeos now that we’re so far away. They still help me on the phone all the time.”
Of course, winning an all-around championship early in her college rodeo career can help the confidence, too.
“Winning the all-around is my main goal at every rodeo I go to,” Barnes said. “I don’t really like doing one event. I like doing as many as I can.”
While the Northwestern women won the Fort Scott title off Barnes terrific run, the men’s team finished eighth overall. John Howell of Stillwater became the third straight Northwestern cowboy to win an event tie-down roping title. He roped and tied two calves in a cumulative 18.1 seconds. Perry Dietz of Cleo Springs won in Garden City, Kan., the weekend before, and Trey Young of Dupree, S.D., won the title in Manhattan, Kan., in February.
“To go three rodeos in a row and have a champion calf roper, that means a lot to us,” Graves said. “I think our calf ropers are doing real well, and that’s something in this region.”
Other tie-down ropers at the top of the list were Hayden Pearce (tied for sixth) of Kim, Colo., and Jess Woodward (eighth) of Dupree, S.D., who finished second in the men’s all-around by also placing in steer wrestling.
Steer wrestler Kyle Irwin didn’t claim the title, but his second-place finish in the eastern Kansas community pushed the Robertsdale, Ala., cowboy to the top of the Central Plains Region standings. Woodward finished in a tie for third place, while Coldar Cluck of Alva placed sixth.
“I’m real proud of our bulldoggers,” Graves said. “We had three guys up there at the top.”
Saddle bronc rider Cody Burkholder of Clarksville, Iowa, placed third, riding two horses for a cumulative 141 points. Other Ranger men who placed were header Collin Domer (fourth) of Topeka, Kan., and heeler Dustin Searcy (seventh) of Mooreland. Searcy held on to his lead in the region standings; his 425 points is 75 better than Western Oklahoma State College’s Derrick Jantzen and Northwestern’s Tanner Braden of Dewey, Okla.
“I was just proud of everybody this weekend,” Graves said. “They’re all doing really well, and they’re working hard at it. That’s really all you can ask.”