Halfway through the 2017-18 college rodeo season, Weatherford College is enjoying, arguably, its best all-around season.
Both the WC men and women are in third place in the Southwest Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. The top two teams and top three individuals advance to the College National Finals Rodeo next June in Casper, Wyoming. WC has qualified individuals or a team 13 straight seasons including the men’s team in 2014.
In addition, 11 individuals are ranked in the top 10 in the region in their respective events, with four of those among the national rankings.
“Things are going pretty good,” said rodeo coach Johnny Emmons. “If the year was over now, we would have a breakaway roper, barrel racer, and three team ropers [at nationals]. Both teams are within striking distance of qualifying.
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“I feel pretty good about where we are because even as good as we have done we can still do a lot better. Really, we have not had any bust-out or outstanding rodeos yet.”
One thing that has Emmons happy is the success happening with a young team. The roster includes 30 freshmen.
“That keeps me very excited moving into the spring semester,” he said. “I think we have a decent shot at qualifying a few people to the CNFR, if not both teams.”
In the national rankings, freshmen Lane Cooper is third in team roping-header and Kirby Blankenship is third in team roping-heeler, seeking a second consecutive trip to nationals. Sophomore Jace Davis is 15th in team roping-heeler, and sophomore Sadye Simpson is 14th among barrel racers. Freshman Kelly Valdez ranks 15th in breakaway roping.
As a team, the Coyotes have 1,570 points to sit third in the region. Tarleton State leads with 1,990 points, and Odessa is second with 1,865.
The Lady Coyotes have 720 points. South Plains leads the region with 971, and Tarleton is second with 871.66.
Cooper and Blankenship lead team roping-header and heeler in the region. Davis is second among heelers, and sophomore Garrett Jacobs is fourth.
Valdez is second in breakaway roping in the region.
Freshman Leighton Berry is among two regional rankings, eighth in tie-down roping and ninth in bareback riding.
Freshman Tucker Menz is eighth in team roping-header.
Three Lady Coyotes are among the barrel racing leaders, with Simpson atop the standings. Freshman Bristan Kennedy is fourth and sophomore Brogan Macy is sixth, going for back-to-back trips to the CNFR.
Sophomore Aspyn Dent is seventh in goat tying, an event in which she qualified for nationals two years ago before missing last season with an injury.
Emmons said the key to the year-in, year-out success by the WC rodeo is a number of things: the program’s great reputation, having competition teams annually, an attractive campus and facilities, and being in the heart of rodeo country.
“We are a very attractive program for many from across the country,” he said. “So we are getting good quality athletes to consider for the team each year.”