Clarendon women qualify for finale

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CLARENDON, Texas – For the first time in school history, the Clarendon College women’s rodeo program is taking a full team to the College National Finals Rodeo.

The Bulldogs wrapped up the 10-event Southwest Region season this past weekend at the Tarleton State University rodeo in Stephenville, Texas, by finishing second in the standings and earning the right to have four ladies compete at Casper, Wyoming, in June.

“It was a pretty exciting weekend to see us be able to pull through and get it done,” said Wyatt Smith, coach of the Clarendon’s women’s rodeo team. “We were 65 points behind going into Tarleton (State University), and Brenna Ellis made the short round in breakaway roping. She finished second in the short round and split second, third and fourth in the average, and that was enough to get us the points to secure second in the region.

“Brenna came in clutch for us.”

She did, and much of that had to do with handling the pressure of the moment.

“I tried not to feel any pressure,” said Ellis, a freshman from Clarendon. “I definitely knew it was up to me, but it didn’t feel any different from any other run. I knew to just go rope your calf and do your job, and the rest is up to chance.”

The Bulldogs shot past Cisco (Texas) College to earn the right to compete as a team at the college finals, set for June 9-15. Smith will fill the team with three other breakaway ropers, Falyn Thomson of Clinton, British Columbia; Josie Draper of Fairfield, Texas; and Shaylee Warner of Rigby, Idaho, the last of whom was automatically in the field because she finished second in the individual standings.

In college rodeo, only the top two teams and the top three individuals in each event from each region advance to the championship event; all will compete in three rounds. The top 12 from there will advance to the final go-round, where the titlists will be crowned.

“I still can’t believe it happened,” Warner said of her qualification. “It was a really good year. I didn’t make a short go in the fall until the last rodeo; I had little gimmers of hope, then finally I made the short-go in Lubbock (Texas).

“It’s surprising, because I came into college rodeo with zero expectations. I came from a little town in Idaho, but I guess overall, it helped me. There was no target on my back; I was just seeing how it would all play out.”

Ellis was just hoping to feel this type of emotion.

“It’s amazing, and it’s a feeling I was thinking about all year,” she said. “Now that we get to do it, I hope we can make Clarendon proud.”

She had other options to further her education, but she knew something special has been brewing at her hometown college.

“I did not want to stay in Clarendon at first, but I looked at a few other schools,” Ellis said. “I thought that it would be stupid to not take advantage of the program right across the road. It’s one of the best programs in the state and in the country.”

The Clarendon men’s rodeo team is a two-time national champion. Both programs are coached by men who played the game at a high level. Smith, a steer wrestler and all-around cowboy, qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2014. Men’s coach Bret Franks is a three-time NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding.

In addition to the two Clarendon team titles, he coached his alma mater, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, to two team championships. Franks has also coached four national titlists in saddle bronc riders Wyatt Casper and Riggin Smith and bareback riders Weston Timberman and Cole Franks, who also won the all-around title in 2021.

“I’ve known Wyatt and his family for as long as I can remember,” Warner said of Smith, who also is from a small town in eastern Idaho. “It was a no-brainer for me when he started talking about coming to school in Texas. I’m very lucky that he did.

“Wyatt helps me with my mindset. He’s helped me rope when the pressure’s on, where there are 200 girls roping just as good as me. In our daily meetings, he’s just there for us and makes sure we’re thinking like a winner. Horsemanship is also another big thing for Wyatt. He’s a competitor in every aspect.”


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