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EVENT SET ON PROVIDING SCHOLARSHIPS THROUGH MONEY RAISED AT WILD WEST CHAMPIONSHIPS
GROESBECK, Texas â€“ Bobby Joe Hill is not a man who believes in the status quo.
Hill, owner of Hill Rodeo Cattle, has teamed with Cody Gantt to produce the Wild West Championships, set for Friday, May 23-Monday, May 26, at the Limestone County Fairgrounds in Groesbeck.
â€śWe had a good start last year, so we wanted to build on that,â€ť said Hill, who will utilize the event to help raise scholarship money for area youth. â€śWe had a lot more time to do the planning this year, so weâ€™ve added some things to it to make it a better experience.â€ť
Enter Gantt, who is working closely with Hill to make sure this yearâ€™s event goes off well.
â€śWeâ€™re branching off on something Bobby Joe did last year,â€ť Gantt said. â€śWe wanted to do something more than that, which is why we came up with the scholarships. The main reason weâ€™re doing this is to give the scholarships.â€ť
The Wild West Championships will feature three full days of Western events, from USTRC-sanctioned team ropings â€“ including an invitational open roping and an all-girls event â€“ to invitational-only events in both steer roping and the ranch rodeo.
â€śAll of the winners will get paid shootouts to the USTRC World Finals in Oklahoma City, and weâ€™ve also set the barrier to the same length as the World Series,â€ť Hill said, noting that most of the USTRC-sanctioned events will feature an 80 percent payback. â€śI think all those things combined will help us with the number of contestants we have.
â€śI think the people who like this are really going to enjoy it, because all the teams will have a lot to rope for.â€ť
The weekend begins with competitors in the Nos. 13 and 12 divisions on Friday, May 23, with Nos. 11, 10 and 9 roping Saturday, May 24. The Sunday, May 25, showcase will feature the All Girls Team roping, followed by the Texas 10-Header Open Team Roping (limited to 50 teams) and the Invitational Ranch Rodeo (limited to 20 teams). The festivities conclude Monday, May 26, with the Invitational Steer Roping followed by the No. 8 team roping (with a 70 percent payback).
â€śWeâ€™re hoping to continue to grow this, because I think itâ€™s going to be a great thing,â€ť Hill said. â€śWe wanted to add the all-girls roping, and I think thatâ€™s going to be a successful event this year.â€ť
In addition to the cash prizes, there are buckles, saddles, trailers and other awards that will be passed out over the course of the four-day showcase.
â€śWeâ€™ve got some great sponsors who are part of this already, but we have room for more,â€ť he said. â€śWe want this to be a great event for the contestants, but we also want the fans to really enjoy the show. Groesbeck has an amateur rodeo, but we donâ€™t get to see the big-name professional cowboys. Iâ€™ve talked to the guys, and they say theyâ€™re going to support this event.
â€śThat means our local fans can stay here and watch these guys instead of having to travel 100 miles or more to see them. I think the fans will really enjoy that part of it, too.â€ť
Gantt echoed those sentiments.
â€śThis is not just a team roping event, but that will be a big attraction, too,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™re having a ranch rodeo, and there are a lot of local ranchers who will be part of it and others that will just enjoy it. Our open team roping will draw a lot of the big names, the ones that most people donâ€™t get to see around here very often. On Monday weâ€™ll have the steer roping, and the best guys should be here for that.
â€śThere will be a lot of great things for fans to see.â€ť
The main purpose is giving back to area youth.
â€śMy goal is to raise enough money so we can give a lot of money away in scholarships,â€ť Hill said. â€śWe want to continue to grow this so itâ€™s something we can do every year.â€ť
ALVA, Okla. â€“ When Lauren Barnes arrived in Weatherford, Okla., last weekend for the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo, she was intent on winning the womenâ€™s all-around title.
â€śI think I really had a chance, but the draw didnâ€™t help me very much,â€ť said Barnes, a junior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University from Buckeye, Ariz.; she finished No. 2 in the all-around race. â€śIn breakaway roping, I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve ever had a calf that ran that fast (in the championship round). That made it difficult to do anything in breakaway.
Barnes finished seventh in breakaway roping and fourth in goat tying. That helped her to 135 points, which moved her to the runner-up position in the all-around, just behind Oklahoma Panhandle State Universityâ€™s Randi Buchanan.
More importantly, she helped the Northwestern womenâ€™s team to a third-place finish in Weatherford. She joined Micah Samples of Abilene, Kan., to secure 195 team points â€“ Samples finished fifth in breakaway roping. Northwestern sits second in the season standings with just two rodeos remaining on the 2013-14 schedule: this coming weekend in Hays, Kan., then the final weekend in Guymon, Okla.
â€śThis region is really tough,â€ť Barnes said. â€śYou have to have your game face on every weekend. My plan was to win the all-around this weekend. I was just happy, because our team needed some points.â€ť
Barnes needs points, too. She is off the pace to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo in June.
â€śIt was very important for me to do well,â€ť she said. â€śI had some tough luck in Durant (the weekend before); I drew a calf that ran left, and my goat didnâ€™t cooperate very well either. I knew I needed some points, so I was kind of angry at myself. At Weatherford, I went out there and did what I wanted to do.
â€śThese next two rodeos, I plan on getting some points. Iâ€™ve got some ground to make up, but Iâ€™m going work on it.â€ť
While the Rangers women sit comfortably in second place in the Central Plains Region â€“ only the top two teams advance to the college finals â€“ there is a sense of urgency in the final two weeks of the regular season.
â€śI think we need all of our girls on the team to get points this week, for sure, and Iâ€™d like to see it the week after that,â€ť Barnes said. â€śI think the girls can do it. They have a lot of heart and determination to get it done. They want it bad.
â€śI have faith in every single girl thatâ€™s on that team. They have the try, and they definitely have the talent.â€ť
The Northwestern men had three cowboys qualify for the final round in Weatherford: steer wrestlers Stephen Culling (third) of Fort St. John, British Columbia, and Brock White (fourth) of Earlville, Iowa; and tie-down roper Trey Young (seventh) of Dupree, S.D. The menâ€™s team is fourth in the region and needs to make up ground over the final two weekends.
Thatâ€™s something coach Stockton Graves has been working on all season with both teams.
â€śWhat I really like about having Stockton as a coach is that heâ€™s been there and done that,â€ť she said, noting that Graves is a seven-time steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. â€śHe knows how we need to practice to get it done. He knows how to put us in those situations where you have pressure on you so you can perform when you get to the rodeos.â€ť