ALVA, Okla. – When Lauren Hopkins transferred to Northwestern Oklahoma State University a little more than a year ago, she was looking for the right opportunity.
She found it with the Alva school, and she’s been proving that value early this Central Plains Region season. After finishing third two weeks ago in Colby, Kansas, she stepped it up this past weekend by winning the breakaway roping championship at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Durant.
“I just hit a lick toward the end of the summer rodeos and rolled it into this fall season,” said Hopkins, originally from Lincoln, California, now living in Lipan, Texas. “I didn’t have that great of a season last year, so I wanted to step it up. I’m more in tune with my horse, and things have been pretty good.”
Hopkins stopped the clock in 2.7 seconds to place in the first round, then followed that with a 3.2-second run to share the championship-round victory. Her two-run cumulative time of 5.9 seconds helped her rope the title at the second rodeo of the 2023-24 Central Plains season.
“I drew well, but the biggest thing is my horse,” she said of Patròn, a 5-year-old sorrel gelding she’s had for a couple of years. “He’s absolutely changed my game and has been one of my biggest blessings.
“He was broke when I got him, but I trained him in the breakaway. We know each other really well. He reads the calf really well, and he’s solid in the box and gives me a good start every time. He makes my job really easy.”
With the win, Hopkins moved into the regional lead. That’s nice, but with eight events remaining on the schedule, the goal is to be in that same spot come the end of next April. That’s when winners will be crowned and earn their spots at the College National Finals Rodeo, which features only the top three individuals and top two teams in the standings.
“Obviously everybody wants to win, and for me, the goal is to win the Central Plains in breakaway and get to the college finals,” Hopkins said. “I also compete in ProRodeo, so I hope to continue to do that and have success. I have a full-time horse-training business as well, so I want to keep making that work as long as I can.”
She was among about a dozen Rangers who competed in Durant’s short round and was joined in the final performance by fellow breakaway ropers Aluxyn Hollenbeck of Valentine, Nebraska, and Jayden Jensen of Valentine, Nebraska, the latter of whom was 2.6 to finish in a tie for third place in the opening round. Goat-tier Dale Lee Foreman of Ree Heights, South Dakota, also earned a spot in the championship round.
Jacob Haren of Callaway, Nebraska, paced the men’s team, winning the all-around title for the second straight rodeo. Haren earned points in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping; he and teammate Kade Chace of Cherokee, Oklahoma, finished third in the first go-round. Another all-around cowboy, Tanner Meier of Garden City, Kansas, placed in both rounds and the aggregate in tie-down roping.
Kyler Altmiller, a header from Canadian, Texas, finished fifth in both rounds and the average while team roping with Cody Newell of Dodge City (Kansas) Community College.
In steer wrestling, Cam Fox of Tulsa placed in both rounds and finished second overall, while Logan Mullin of Clay Center, Kansas, collected points in both rounds and placed fourth. Sterling Lee of Goetebo, Oklahoma, was sixth overall, while Trisyn Kalawaia of Waiakea, Hawaii won the first round. Grandy Aasby of Highmore, South Dakota, joined his teammates in the short round.
“We had a lot of those (Northwestern) black vests in the short round,” Hopkins said. “I would like to think we have a good team and will continue to be represented well at the short rounds all year.”
Hopkins began her college career at Eastern New Mexico University. She spent three years in the Southwest Region before moving over to the Central Plains. She likes Alva’s proximity to her home in Lipan, where she continues to work at her craft.
“Winning this past weekend was definitely awesome, and I feel super blessed,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for five years, and this was my first college win. I’m pretty lucky to have good horses and good friends behind me to support me.
“When I made my short-round run, I just wanted to be smart and place again. I wanted to be behind the barrier and catch my calf, and fortunately that worked out well enough to get the win.”
When it comes to success, being consistent is the biggest weapon a competitor can have. It just happens that Hopkins has that in herself and her horse.