ALVA, Okla. – A season of goal-setting, tough competition and dreaming is rounding the corner toward a dynamic climax for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University women’s rodeo team.
The four Rangers – all-around cowgirl Micah Samples of Abilene, Kan.; breakaway roper Jessica Koppitz of Alva; and goat-tiers Trisha Price of Faith, S.D., and Karly Kile of Overbrook, Kan. – will test their talents and their mental stability at the College National Finals Rodeo, set for June 9-15 in Casper, Wyo.
“It means a lot to take our women’s team,” said coach Stockton Graves, noting that the women finished second in the Central Plains Region, joining just Southwestern Oklahoma State University as the women’s team representatives from the circuit. “That was one of our goals this year as coaches and as a women’s team. We haven’t sent any women in a while.
“Our goal wasn’t just to send one girl but to send several, so it feels good to accomplish our goals.”
Qualifying for college rodeo’s championship event is a big deal. Only the top two teams in the region, the top two in the all-around standings and the top three in each event earn the right to compete in Casper; because women’s teams feature four cowgirls, that allowed for Price and Kile to make the venture – Price finished fourth and Kile fifth in in the region in goat tying.
Samples was the runner-up in the all-around race, so she will compete in breakaway roping and barrel racing at the CNFR.
“I’m very excited to be able to go in both of my strongest events,” said Samples, who transferred from Western Oklahoma State College in Altus. “I’ve been practicing a lot, and I’m feeling good going into the finals.”
Rodeo features contestants who not only will battle for individual honors but also points that count toward the team race. Having a full team gives the Rangers a bit of an advantage. The men will be represented by all-around runner-up Ryan Domer of Topeka, Kan.; heelers Chase Johnson of Snyder, Texas, and Dustin Searcy of Mooreland, Okla.; and headers Ethan McDowell of Mooreland and Collin Domer of Topeka.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Price, a sophomore. “I think it was a bunch of individual preparedness that helped us, because we all did well in different events. Everybody just went out and made consistent runs. It’s a mind game, and we were able to mentally be ready to compete in this region.
“I think we have a very good chance to win the team title. I think we have the right girls going in the right events, so it’s going to work out. We competed in a tough region, and I think that helped prepare us for what we’re going to see at the college finals.”
Koppitz is the only senior in the bunch – Kile is a sophomore, and Samples is a junior – but she’s made the adjustments necessary over her time at Northwestern.
“I fought my head a lot the first three years, because I’m one of those that just fights my head,” Koppitz said. “This year, I had so much work to do with school because I’m taking upper-level classes that I didn’t have time to overthink everything I was doing. I’d just rope and not worry about it.”
“Coach Cali (Griffin) just kept pushing me,” Koppitz said of one of the assistant coaches. “She just kept telling me I could make it and kept pushing me. I didn’t believe her for a long time until the second to last rodeo of the season, but then I thought I had a chance.”
That’s the kind of mental approach that will help when the team prepares to compete in Casper.
“In my opinion, our coaches are great,” Price said. “Cali helps us a lot in the breakaway pen, and Stockton really has helped us with the head game. He’s been to the NFR, where it’s even more pressure and more nervousness than anywhere else you could go, so he’s got that experience. He’s very good on the mental end of the competition, and he keeps us together.”
It all needs to come together over the week that will feature the top cowboys and cowgirls in college rodeo.
“It’s been exciting because we haven’t taken a girls team in a while,” Samples said. “It’s exciting to have a handful of us girls that can work together. Even if one of us had an off weekend, another one could shine and keep us up there in the standings.”