ALVA, Okla. â€“ The key to a solid rodeo season is a strong start.
The Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo teams started with powerful performances this past weekend at the Cherokee Rodeo hosted by NWOSU. The Rangers won the womenâ€™s team title, accumulating 435 points in the process, thanks in large part to exceptional work by the goat-tiers.
Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz., won the championship, tying down two goats in 14.0 seconds, just two-tenths of a second better than teammate Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D. Karley Kile of Topeka, Kan., finished fifth with a two-run cumulative time of 15.3 seconds. They were joined in the championship round by breakaway ropers Sage Allen of Pawhuska, Okla., and Kelsey Driggers of Albany, Ga.
Thatâ€™s a solid start to the womenâ€™s team, which has proven to be one of the top teams in the Central Plains Region over the last few years â€“ the Rangers have qualified as a team for the College National Finals Rodeo each of the past two seasons by finishing second in the region.
The men, who finished Cherokee in eighth place, were guided by two event champions: tie-down roper Hayden Pearce of Kim, Colo., and steer wrestler Michael McGinn of Haines, Ore. Pearce won both go-rounds and the average championship, roping and tying two calves in 19.2 seconds; he was nearly two seconds ahead of the runner-up, teammate William Whayne of Tulsa.
â€śI drew good and was able to use the calves I had,â€ť said Pearce, a senior. â€śThis gets everything started off on the right foot and gives you the confidence that you can go out and compete. It just lets you know you just need to go out and do your part.â€ť
Pearce has yet to qualify for the college finals, and the Colorado cowboy has placed a trip to Casper, Wyo., atop his list of priorities.
â€śItâ€™s about staying smart and going at them every weekend,â€ť said Pearce, who puts in a lot of work in the practice and with the matches that coach Stockton Graves has set up to keep the Rangers at the top of their form. â€śWe tie a lot of calves, trying to stay solid on the ground. I also like to keep my horse sharp and work on my scoring a lot.â€ť
That means he has a strong bond with his horse, Harley, a 14-year-old sorrel mare.
â€śShe can really fire and get across the (starting) line, and she stops really hard,â€ť he said. â€śThat helps a lot in this event.â€ť
McGinn is a junior but in his first year at Northwestern; he transferred this fall from Mesalands (N.M.) Community College. He won the first round in Cherokee with a 4.1-second run, then shared the short-round win in 5.1 seconds; the cumulative time of 9.2 was eight-seconds ahead of the No. 2 cowboy, Cody Devers of Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
â€śIn the first round, I had a really good steer and got a good start and took advantage of it,â€ť he said. â€śI knew in the short round I just had to catch and throw him down.â€ť
It worked well, and it was quite a relief for the 20-year-old cowboy, who spent much of the last 10 months on the injured list after having surgery to repair a broken collarbone; he didnâ€™t return to practice until August, so the weekend run in Cherokee was his first competitive run in quite a while.
â€śI made the college finals my first year, but Iâ€™ve been out of commission,â€ť McGinn said. â€śI decided to come to Alva because I knew Stockton and (assistant coach) Kody Woodward were great bulldoggers and great coaches, so I thought this would be a great place to come and get back to winning.â€ť
Heâ€™s off to a fast start.