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ALVA, Okla. â€“ For every individual accomplishment in college rodeo, there sits a long list of others on the team who are part of every honor, every award.
Thatâ€™s been a vital part of the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo teamâ€™s run through the 2014-15 season and why the Rangers women claimed the Central Plains Region championship. Now they hope that carries over into a solid run during next weekâ€™s College National Finals Rodeo, set for June 14-20 in Casper, Wyo.
â€śI like our girlsâ€™ chances a lot at Casper,â€ť said Stockton Graves, a Northwestern alumnus who coaches the Rangers. â€śThe girls were really focused this year on winning the region. Theyâ€™re really focused on trying to win a national title, too.
â€śMaybe in the past, that hasnâ€™t been the goal with the girls. Itâ€™s always been my goal, but this year itâ€™s their goal, too.â€ť
The women are paced by two goat-tiers, junior Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., and senior Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz., who finished first and second, respectively, in the region standings.
They will be joined by a pair of breakaway ropers, senior Karley Kile of Overbrook, Kan., and freshman Sammi McGuire of Backus, Minn., who both finished out of the top three automatic qualifications but still earned the right to compete at the college finale since the team finished among the top two in the region and Kile and McGuire were among the top 30 percent in the breakaway standings.
â€śKarley just got bumped out of making the college finals on her own at the last rodeo,â€ť Graves said. â€śThatâ€™s the thing about having a good womenâ€™s team; we had girls that get to know the college finals were within reach.â€ť
The womenâ€™s team will be joined by two from the menâ€™s team, senior header Dalton Richards of Hawkinsville, Ga., and freshman steer wrestler Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah. Richards finished second among regional headers, while Allred was third.
â€śI thought we shouldâ€™ve qualified more men this year,â€ť Graves said. â€śWe just didnâ€™t take advantage of the situations. Bubba (Allred) did. Daltonâ€™s been strong all year. I was really glad to see Dalton make it. Heâ€™s been fourth the last few years and couldnâ€™t quite get over the hump. I was very proud of him for doing that.
â€śThis year had probably the toughest group of steer wrestlers in this region since Iâ€™ve been coaching. For Bubba to come in as a freshman and do good says something for him. Heâ€™s a good kid and works hard, and I like his attitude.â€ť
A menâ€™s team title is unlikely with just two qualifiers, but Graves still has high expectations for the duo.
â€śI set the goals for them pretty high,â€ť he said. â€śThe odds are that two guys arenâ€™t going to win a national title, but that shouldnâ€™t be their goal anyway. I think they should try to win a national title for themselves. We have yet to have a national champion from here in Alva, and thatâ€™s our goal. I want those kids to compete well.â€ť
That also will be the key for the Rangers women. Miller and Barnes dominated the goat tying in the region â€“ Miller scored 1,005 points, while Barnes was a close second at 900; she was 225 ahead of the third-place cowgirl.
â€śShayna coming in as a junior transfer was very important to our team, but we knew she would do good,â€ť Graves said. â€śShe came in like the rest of them; she was focused and worked hard at it and has accomplished what she wanted to do so far. She was a great asset to the team, but she didnâ€™t win the regional title on her own.
â€śFor Lauren, she just missed he college finals as a freshman. That motivated her a lot to do better and work harder. Laurenâ€™s always been a hard worker. Part of maturing is learning how to win.â€ť
The Rangers have done that quite a bit over the season. That experience, and the right mentality, will help them in Casper.