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Teen finds a Royal passion

Twisted Rodeo - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 10:14am


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Clay Eckert appears to be the typical freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School.

He is active, possibly more than many 15-year-olds. Instead of spending his off time playing video games, the young man has opted for a little more work showing livestock. It’s paid off.

Clay Eckert

Clay Eckert

In the fall of 2013, Clay was part of the American Royal Calf Scramble, where students ages 10-14 have to opportunity to catch and halter a young heifer during the Royal’s ProRodeo. He was one of the winners, earning a $1,250 voucher to purchase a heifer of his choosing in order to start a beef operation.

“I’ve learned so much, from taking care of things to how to be responsible,” said Clay, who also competes in football, basketball and track for the Salthawks. “I’m so involved with things I can’t get into trouble.”

But he isn’t a farm kid who was raised around agriculture. He’s chosen to follow a family tradition, even though it means traveling 30 minutes three to four days a week to neighboring McPherson County to the Goering Farm, where Greg, Tammy, Taylor and Trenton Goering have been instrumental in Clay’s passion for raising livestock. Taylor Goering has shown at the American Royal and has served as Clay’s mentor.

“Taylor and her family have helped me so much with everything,” Clay said. “I was, and still am very lucky to get hooked up with them.”

So did that American Royal voucher. Clay raised his heifer, then showed her during the 2014 American Royal Calf Scramble Show. The animal was named the supreme heifer, and Clay was the champion senior showman among his Calf Scramble peers.

“About two weeks ago, which is the whole purpose of the program, my heifer had her first calf, so it’s going back into the herd,” he said.

The young man began the lifestyle by following in the footsteps of his father, Bret Eckert, a longtime track coach at Hutch High who still teaches and is an assistant coach for the football program.

“I started because my dad showed sheep,” Clay said. “I won sheep showmanship, and I got to be in the round-robin, so I got to work with cows.”

The progression has been thorough and award-winning. Not many can claim to such a prestigious title from the American Royal, one of the largest and best known livestock shows in the United States.

But that, in essence, is what the Royal is about. Over the course of each year, the association provides more than $1.4 million in support of youth and agriculture. By being involved in the Calf Scramble, Clay has taken advantage of the opportunities.

“My experience with the American Royal has helped me in many ways,” he said. “It’s helped me get to know so many great people, and I’m learning new things every day.

“You have to work for what you get. It’s hard to do school and sports and showing, but it’s what I choose to do so I try to make it work.”

Categories: Twisted Rodeo

Top-Ranked Kentucky Remains Undefeated WIth Win At MSU

Bulldog Beat - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 10:00pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State battled undefeated Kentucky in a hard-fought SEC men's basketball game Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum, but n the end, the top-ranked Wildcats had too much offensive firepower as they pulled away to a 74-56 victory.

Baseball Announces Schedule Changes For This Weekend

Bulldog Beat - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 4:18pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. –Mississippi State baseball has moved up the first pitch times for this Friday and Saturday's games scheduled at Dudy Noble Field.

4-H Grown: Alumni Asked to Stand Up and Support STEM Education

Lifestyles - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 2:47pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - For almost a decade, there has been a dramatic shift by educators to increase kids' interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM).

In fact, one of America's largest youth-development organizations (it's been around for almost 115 years), 4-H, along with HughesNet, the leading satellite Internet service provider, are throwing their collective weight behind 4-H Grown -- an interactive campaign that invites the estimated 25 million 4-H alumni across the U.S. to help direct sponsorship funding to their state by checking in at, tagging friends, and casting votes to bring more science innovation experiences to youth in their communities.

Through 4-H Grown, the two organizations hope to bring STEM learning experiences to youth across the country, including small communities where resources for interactive learning may be limited.

"In our first year of partnership, National 4-H Council and HughesNet helped thousands of young people experience the excitement of STEM, [and] I am thrilled that our new 2015 program will engage even more young people and expand our reach to 4-H alumni to show STEM can be rewarding and fun," says Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council.

The partnership is also giving a $10,000 "Innovation Incubator" Science Sponsorship to the state with the largest number of votes. This sponsorship is new and requires youth across the nation to design innovative science solutions to solve real community challenges. States compete to receive a science sponsorship. Additionally, two young innovators will be selected to receive an all-expense-paid trip to the flagship 4-H National Youth Science Day event in Washington, D.C., where they will participate in the world's largest youth-led science experiment.

"Exposing thousands of children to the excitement of STEM is priceless," says Mike Cook, senior vice president, Hughes North America Division. "We're thrilled to continue our work with 4-H to make a difference in kids' lives."

For more information, or to support your state in 4-H Grown, visit

No. 11 Bulldogs Wrap Road Slate Thursday At No. 2 South Carolina

Bulldog Beat - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 1:28pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. – No. 11 Mississippi State faces its biggest test of the season Thursday night when it travels to Columbia for an important SEC showdown against second-ranked South Carolina.

Herl, Miller win at Kansas State

Twisted Rodeo - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 10:32am

ALVA, Okla. – Laine Herl was dominant in his return to Kansas this past weekend.

Herl, of Goodland, Kan., won the steer wrestling championship at the Kansas State University Rodeo in Manhattan, Kan., taking the top prize among four Northwestern Oklahoma State University bulldoggers in the final round.

Northwestern-Logo-200“I drew a good steer in the first round and was 4.0,” Herl said. “I came back and had a steer that ran a little more and was 4.4.”

It paid off well. The Kansas cowboy finished second in the first round to teammate Tyler Batie, who scored a 3.8-second run to win the opener. He shared the fastest time in the short round with Denver Berry of Connors (Okla.) State College. His two-run time of 8.4 seconds was nearly a second faster than Berry, the runner-up.

“I just need to keep throwing them down, draw good and make the best run possible,” Herl said. “I want to make every short-go and make a run at the college finals.”

He transferred to Northwestern from Western Oklahoma State College, and he’s found the Alva campus to his liking. He now has the tutelage of coach Stockton Graves, a Northwestern alumnus who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo seven times, and Kody Woodward, also a winning bulldogger.

“There’s nobody better to practice with,” Herl said of the coaching staff. “They’ve been there and done that. They know every situation to help you, the little things to make you better.”

Herl and Batie were joined in the short round by fellow steer wrestlers Steven Culling and James Struxness and heelers Dustin Searcy and William Whayne. Searcy, roping with Western Oklahoma’s Hunter Munsell, won the first round with a 5.4-second run.

The Northwestern women were led by goat-tier Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., who shared the K-State victory with Shelby Whiting of Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

“My first run was kind of sloppy, but I got through it and got to another one,” said Miller, who shared identical scores with Whiting all weekend; both women had 6.2-second runs to finish out of the placing in the opening round, then were 6.0 to share the short-round and average victories. “In the short round, I just made another solid run.”

She earned 110 points in Manhattan and moved into the lead in the Central Plains Region goat-tying standings. She was joined in the short round by fellow goat-tier Karley Kile, whose 5.6 was good enough for second place in the opening round; breakaway roper Elli Price, who placed third; and barrel racers Shea Ransome and Kelsey Driggers. Driggers won the first round with a 12.00-second run, but Ransome finished second in the average.

“I feel like we (as a team) are pretty stacked up, especially in goat-tying,” Miller said, noting that the Rangers women lead the region standings with five events remaining in the season. “We’ve got good ropers and good barrel horses, so I feel like we could definitely win the region.”

Categories: Twisted Rodeo

Blazers Rally Late to Take Down MSU

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 10:41pm
In a back-and-forth affair, Mississippi State softball (13-2) could not control a late UAB (10-5) rally as the Bulldogs fell 5-4 in eight innings on Tuesday night at the UAB Softball Field.

McCord Records First Collegiate Win In 10-2 Victory

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 9:41pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Second baseman Ryan Gridley continued his early hitting tear as the No. 13 Mississippi State baseball team moved to 9-0.

Smith ready to wrestle for $1 million

Twisted Rodeo - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 8:03pm
Garrett Smith has overcome a lack of size to qualify for the $1 million prize at The American, set for 2 p.m. Sunday on RFD-TV. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Garrett Smith has overcome a lack of size to qualify for the $1 million prize at The American, set for 2 p.m. Sunday on RFD-TV. (CHYANNE ANGELL FLINDERS PHOTO)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Garrett Smith has a million reasons to be excited about his spot in The American.

The one-day rodeo – set for 2 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington – will offers a $2 million purse, of which half will go to one of just a handful of qualifiers. That’s where Smith comes into the picture.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Smith, 19, of Rexburg, Idaho, who secured his spot in The American this past weekend by finishing among the top six steer wrestlers at the semifinals in Fort Worth, Texas. “I honestly never thought I’d get to run two steers for a million dollars.”

It’s quite an accomplishment, especially for the all-around cowboy who is 5-foot-9 and weighs about 155 pounds. He’s considerably smaller than most steer wrestlers, but he also spends a portion of his time riding bulls on the rodeo trail. Before finishing among the top 50 bull riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association last season, he was the only three-time all-around champion at the National High School Finals Rodeo.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith

“No one has really ridden bulls in my family, so I’ve taken that as my own event,” said Smith, whose older brother, Wyatt, was a steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this past December. “I just fell in love with bull riding. I went real hard last year. I started doing both events this year because Wyatt wanted me to travel with him.”

Garrett Smith’s plan is to be a two-event cowboy through late June, then he will decide which discipline he will focus on to close out the 2015 season. First, though, he has a life-changing opportunity before him as a bulldogger.

The American features 10 contestants in each event that finished among the top of their disciplines in 2014. In all but bull riding, which utilizes the top 10 from the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series, the automatic qualifiers were the top cowboys and cowgirls from ProRodeo. Seven earned exemptions.

The rest of the field is based on qualifiers, all of whom worked their way through a series of events nationwide. Only the top contestants from each of those events advanced to the semifinals last weekend, and only the top finishers from that competition moved on to Sunday. Only qualifiers have a shot at that $1 million purse. If one qualifier wins – like bareback rider Richmond Champion did last spring – then the entire purse is his. If multiple qualifiers win, the $1 million is divided equally among them.

That plays well into Garrett Smith’s hands. He doesn’t let his lack of size serve as a deterrent. As an example, he 65 pounds lighter than his brother and 80 pounds lighter than reigning world champion Luke Branquinho. That means Garrett Smith must have sound horsemanship and use proper technique every run.

“I’ve got to do more stuff correct,” Smith said. “I just focus on being sharp with everything I do. Wyatt can get away with stuff if he doesn’t do everything right because of his size. I can’t get away with that.”

Still, he takes all the lessons his brother offers. In fact, Wyatt Smith will be alongside little brother on the AT&T Stadium floor Sunday afternoon, serving as the hazer. It’s something the siblings have done for one another most of their lives. It happened on the biggest stage in rodeo this past December in Las Vegas.

Wyatt Smith was struggling at the NFR. After not placing in the money in the opening round, he failed to catch and throw down steers the next four nights and made a change prior to the sixth go-round: he moved Garrett to the hazing duties to finish out the NFR. Wyatt then posted a 3.6-second run in Round 6 to finish second and a 4.4 to place sixth in Round 7. He finished with $18,000 in NFR earnings.

“I’ve always hazed for him at practice and some of the smaller rodeos,” Garrett said of teaming with Wyatt. “It surprised me, but I just tried to do my job.

“There’s no way to explain the emotions I had. I went through about three pieces of gum from the time we started saddling horses until we backed in the box. It was breathtaking. You know you can’t mess up on your end.”

He didn’t. Most importantly, he took the lessons from that NFR experience and placed it firmly into his hands as an undersized bulldogger. In Fort Worth, he won $6,400, most of which he will use toward traveling expenses and entry fees. It’s the nature of the business for a rodeo cowboy.

Of course, he plans to splurge a little of it on a new PlayStation to help occupy his time on the rodeo trail as he and the rest of the Recking Crew travels tens of thousands of miles across the country chasing their dreams.

“We travel so much, and you need something to entertain you in the rig,” said Garrett, who said his parents, Lynn and Valorie, didn’t allow Wyatt, Garrett or brother Payson to have video games as youngsters. “We were pretty much outside all the time, going to rodeos with Dad or riding horses.

“I’m glad they didn’t let us have one. It’s dang sure a lot more fun to go ride horses.”

That mentality has paved the way to an unstoppable work ethic. The Smiths realize hard work pays off in rodeo. They also know it takes great support.

“I have to hand it to Idaho Project Filter for helping me get down the road and for helping all of Idaho stay off tobacco,” Garrett said. “It’s great to have them with us so we can teach people that smoking and chewing tobacco is not the Marlboro Man anymore.”

He carries a powerful message from one rodeo to another. He also has a boatload of talent and perseverance to make it work.

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to make the NFR in bull riding,” he said. “With The American, I’ve been practicing pretty hard in bulldogging to where when I get there I know I’m ready and able to go.”

Categories: Twisted Rodeo

Grant Finishes Top 30 In First Career Start At Mobile Sports Authority Intercollegiate

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:37pm
Mobile, Ala. – Starting in his first career tournament, redshirt freshman Taylor Grant finished in a tie for 26th, while as a team Mississippi State placed ninth.

Peng Finishes Strong, Helps Bulldogs Finish Top 10

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 4:34pm
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Improving in each round, the Mississippi State women's golf team saved the best for last.

State Climbs To No. 13 In USA Today/WBCA Coaches Poll

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 4:02pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. – A day after climbing three spots to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, the Mississippi State women's basketball team made an identical leap to 13th in Tuesday's USA Today/WBCA Coaches Poll.

Haven't Tried Sardines? Try These

Lifestyles - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 3:10pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - Sardines are consistently rated as the most nutritious and environmentally friendly fish you can eat, and yet some people remain suspicious. "Wait! They have bones and scales?"

Well, yes, most premium sardines have bones -- which melt away during processing, which is why they have more calcium per serving than a glass of milk. And yes, they do have scales, though they're too tiny to notice. So despite the little fish's sustainability and wealth of protein, calcium and Vitamin D -- and the fact that sardines contain roughly 2,000 mg of omega-3s per 3.75-ounce serving -- many people consider sardines a non-starter.

But sardine makers, like Norway-based King Oscar, also offer what is known as "skinless and boneless" sardines, a potential game-changer for the tiny fish.

John Engle, president of King Oscar USA, says that skinless and boneless sardines are another kettle of fish entirely. "Skinless and boneless sardines are actually an entirely different species of fish from our traditional 'brisling' sardine. They're slightly larger, and fished from different waters, which allows us to remove the skin and bones from the fish and bring a totally different taste and texture to the can, qualities very similar to tuna."

It also allows sardine companies to experiment with new flavors and even recipes. For example, King Oscar's Spanish-Style Sardines are caught off the coast of Morocco and combined with olive oil, red peppers, pickled cucumbers, carrot and a dash of salt and a hint of chili flavor to make for a new twist on a time-tested food, and even potentially begin to change people's perception of sardines.

"People eat seafood in a can by the millions -- just look at tuna," said Engle. "I think that by introducing new varieties of skinless and boneless sardines, it'll open up the possibility of eating sardines to people who have heard that they're good for you, but who just haven't been able to get past the 'yuck' factor."

One popular food blogger, Kimberly Moore of The Hungry Goddess, is already ahead of the curve. She suggests pairing King Oscar Spanish Style skinless and boneless sardines with paella to put a healthy, savory spin on the rice-based classic.

To see Moore's paella recipe, as well as dozens of other recipes and products, visit or King Oscar's Facebook page.

Bulldogs Look To Upset No. 1 Kentucky

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 1:58pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. – After back-to-back narrow losses at home, Mississippi State concludes its three-game homestand Wednesday against No. 1 Kentucky at Humphrey Coliseum.

Women’s Track & Field Ranks No. 18 Going Into SEC Championships

Bulldog Beat - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 1:50pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. – As the women's track and field team turns its focus toward the SEC Indoor Championships, Mississippi Sate fell one spot to No. 18 in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings.

Freshman Pair of Newnham and Grant Pace Bulldogs at Mobile Sports Authority Intercollegiate

Bulldog Beat - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 9:38pm
Mobile, Ala. – In it's first completive rounds of 2015, the Mississippi State men's golf team led by Johnny Newnham and Taylor Grant is tied for 11th place after 36 holes at the Mobile Sports Authority Intercollegiate.
The Borger Bulldog boys and girls basketball teams received muliple awards this past week. See who...
The Frank Phillips Lady Plainsmen travel to Lubbock Sunday to play Western Texas in a one game...
The Frank Phillips mens basketball team finished up their season beating NMMI 82-72 on Thursday...


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