ALVA, Okla. â€“ The Northwestern Oklahoma State University womenâ€™s rodeo team has inched closer to a major goal for this season.
With a dominating performance this past weekend, the Rangers are well within reach of clinching the Central Plains Region title. Northwestern posted 355 points to win the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo title and push its lead in the circuit standings to more than 700 points with just two events remaining on the 2014-15 season.
â€śI was proud of everybody,â€ť said Stockton Graves, the Rangers coach. â€śWe competed well. The women did well. The men actually did well, even though it didnâ€™t show up in the points.â€ť
Senior Karley Kile of Overbrook, Kan., led the way with Northwestern, winning both the all-around and breakaway roping titles in Weatherford. But she wasnâ€™t alone. In fact, Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., was second in the all-around and, like Kile, qualified for the championship round in breakaway roping and goat tying.
Kile is third in the region in breakaway and is tied for eighth in goat tying. She has a chance to move to the top of the standings in the all-around heading into the Fort Hays (Kan.) State University rodeo this coming weekend and the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Doc Gardner Memorial rodeo the final weekend of April.
â€śThis really doesnâ€™t change anything,â€ť said Kyle, a two-time goat-tying qualifier for the College National Finals Rodeo. â€śIâ€™m still going to go for every rodeo.
â€śItâ€™s pretty exciting, since Iâ€™ve never done any good in the breakaway.â€ť
Miller leads the region standings in goat tying, followed by teammate Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz. In Weatherford, the Rangers women held eight spots in the short go-round: four in breakaway and two each in goat tying and barrel racing. In addition to Kile winning the breakaway title, Elli Price of Leady, Okla., finished in a three-way tie for third place in the average. They were joined in the final round by Sage Allen of Pawhuska, Okla.
Kile won the opening round with a 2.7-second run, then finished second in the short round with a 3.4. Her 6.1-second cumulative time on two runs was four-tenths of a second better than the field. Miller, meanwhile, placed second in the goat-tying aggregate with a two-run time of 16.2 seconds.
â€śIt was just a matter of time,â€ť Graves said of Kileâ€™s top finish. â€śWe needed her to do well, and I was plenty excited for her.â€ť
In barrel racing, Kelsey Cloud of Elk City, Okla., finished third with a two-run time of 35.33 seconds, while Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., also made the final round. Every move helped pave the way for the team to return to the college finals, set for June 14-20 in Casper, Wyo.
â€śShayna has obviously helped a lot, and Lauren has (too),â€ť Kile said. â€śAll the rest of the girls have stepped up their game this year. If we can take a team out there, it definitely helps out the school at the college finals.â€ť
The Northwestern men finished fifth at Southwestern but had seven cowboys qualify for the short round â€“ five were in team roping, led by senior heeler Dustin Searcy of Mooreland, Okla., who won both rounds and the average while roping with header Hunter Munsell of Western Oklahoma State College.
â€śIâ€™ve known (Hunter) since I was a little kid,â€ť Searcy said. â€śWe practiced a lot when we were kids. â€śWeâ€™ve always had a natural partnership where we roped good together and have always had a lot of success.â€ť
Searcy was joined in the short round by Northwestern teammates Jonathan Nixon of Paradise, Texas and Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah,who together finished fifth in the average, and Mike McGinn of Haines, Ore., and Stephen Culling of Fort St. John, British Columbia. Tie-down roper Maverick Harper finished sixth with a two-run cumulative time of 21.0 seconds, while Allred finished fifth in steer wrestling with a two-run time of 15.2.
The Northwestern men sit fifth in the team standings but have several cowboys who are in position to qualify for the college finals by the time the season concludes in a week and a half.
â€śWeâ€™ll just keep them focused on their goals and the plan, and hopefully weâ€™ll succeed,â€ť Graves said.
GUYMON, Okla. â€“ Thereâ€™s something in the water in Texas County, Okla.
This place is the breeding ground for great cowboys, whether theyâ€™re raised here or have transplanted to the Oklahoma Panhandle. There are plenty of great ones.
The proving ground has always been the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. It will be again during this yearâ€™s championship, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
â€śItâ€™s an important one for me, for sure,â€ť said Trell Etbauer, a four-time Linderman Award winner from Goodwell, Okla., just 10 miles southwest of Guymon. â€śItâ€™s my hometown rodeo and the closest big rodeo I go to all year.â€ť
The son of two-time world champion Robert Etbauer and his wife, Sue, Trell grew up in this neck of the woods. He was a star athlete at Goodwell High School and a champion cowboy from youth rodeo through college at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
But heâ€™s one of many elite rodeo cowboys with ties to the Oklahoma Panhandle who have made their name on the ProRodeo trail. A list of world champions from the area is a good indication of that.
In addition to Robert Etbauer, there are 10 other gold buckles that have been earned by cowboys from the area once known as No Manâ€™s Land: Billy Etbauer has the most with five saddle bronc riding world titles, followed by Taos Muncy, who has two; fellow bronc riders Tom Reeves and Jeff Willert join heeler Jhett Johnson with one apiece.
They are just a few of the elite contestants who make their living in ProRodeo who have ties to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Atop the list, though, is Trevor Brazile, a 21-time world champion who grew up in nearby Gruver, Texas. He is a 45-time qualifier to the National Finals that also owns a record 12 all-around gold buckles.
He isnâ€™t the only north Texas Panhandle cowboy to make the NFR; he was joined by Bray Armes, who also grew up near Gruver. This past December, they were joined in Las Vegas by Muncy and fellow bronc riders Cort Scheer, a Panhandle State alumnus and two-time Reserve World Champion, and Tyler Corrington, who lives near Gruver; and Joe Frost, a senior at Panhandle State who finished the 2014 season as the Reserve World Champion.
This is the perfect proving ground, but Pioneer Days Rodeo is a tough place to win. Nearly 1,000 contestants sign up to be part of the week long competition that concludes the first weekend in May each season.
â€śA lot of times, Guymon falls after the California run, so a lot of the guys heading back to Texas can hit it,â€ť Trell Etbauer said. â€śItâ€™s also one of the bigger rodeos, and all the guys go to those.â€ť
Those are the attractive features for the sportâ€™s greatest stars, but there are many more. The prize money is a key ingredient, but so is the competition. All steer ropers participate in four go-rounds, with the top 32 times returning for a fifth round. In tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling, each contestant is afforded two runs, with the top 40 teams returning for a third round.
Barrel racers all compete in the first round on Friday morning, then the top 40 times are brought back during the performances for the second round. When itâ€™s all mixed together, it allows for a cut-throat approach to the big purse.
â€śIâ€™ve placed in some rounds and placed in the average in calf roping and steer wrestling, but Iâ€™d really like to win it at least once,â€ť Etbauer said. â€śYou always want to win your hometown rodeo, and itâ€™s usually the toughest to win. Guymon is especially tough, because so many great cowboys are there.â€ť
TOP ARTISTS, WESTERN EVENTS MAKES FOR FUN 4 DAYS AT SYCAMORE SPRINGS RANCH
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. â€“ A beautiful spring leads to incredible nighttime views in picturesque eastern Oklahoma.
Thereâ€™s no better setting for star gazing than in the rolling hills near this historic community. The stars get a little brighter during Cord McCoyâ€™s Western Days, set for Thursday, April 16-Sunday, April 19, at Sycamore Springs Ranch just south of Locust Grove.
â€śWhen I came up with the idea for Western Days, I wanted to attract people to the lifestyle we live every day and show everyone all the things that go into a true Western festival,â€ť said McCoy, a champion rodeo cowboy who, with brother Jet, was a three-time fan favorite on â€śThe Amazing Race,â€ť a CBS-TV reality series. â€śWhat weâ€™ve come up with is so much more.
â€śWeâ€™re going to have great country Western artists the first three nights, including legendary Red Stegall, David Frizzell and the Jason Roberts Band. Iâ€™m excited about that, because itâ€™s a great way to conclude a full day.â€ť
Western Days is loaded with plenty of opportunities for festival-goers. In addition to the plethora of events going on at the various arenas on the sprawling Sycamore Springs Ranch, a nightly rodeo will be part of each dayâ€™s festivities. In fact, the event will conclude at 6 p.m. Sunday with the Cord McCoy Bull Riding Challenge, which will feature a $10,000 bounty bull and Frank Newsome Freestyle Bullfights.
â€śWe want to make every day exciting,â€ť McCoy said. â€śThatâ€™s why weâ€™re having the concerts and why we want to feature rodeo every evening.â€ť
This is the perfect venue for cowboys of all types â€“ from those who have lived their lives horseback to those who have just dreamed about it. Thatâ€™s why there are numerous festivities taking place throughout each day: Western events and competitions, chuck wagon feasts and a daily exotic trail ride across the beautiful Sycamore Springs Ranch.
A Western trade show will be a major part of each dayâ€™s activities. The opening day will feature a Western showdown, ranch sorting practice, the Ultimate Western Challenge and Dick Pieper Horsemanship, appealing to all levels of cowboys.
Fridayâ€™s festivities will include those and a cattle dog demonstration, the ranch sorting competition, a team roping championship, a steer roping contest and a miniature rodeo tour. Added on Saturday will be the Silver Select Horse Sale and a barrel racing challenge, while Sunday will include the Western Worship Service and a ranch rodeo.
â€śI was raised around all this and love it, but I wanted it to be more,â€ť McCoy said. â€śIâ€™ve traveled around the world three times, and I wanted to appeal to every person that has ever watched a Western or ever thought about being a cowboy.
â€śI want the guy who wears a suit every day to come and enjoy and trade out his business shoes for cowboy boots for a few days. I think this is something heâ€™ll enjoy, too.â€ť