With one bit of history already under their belts, the Weatherford College men’s rodeo team is seeking even more history.
Last month, the Coyotes became the first rodeo team to qualify from WC after nine straight years of the program sending individuals to the College National Finals Rodeo.
Now, if they can capture the championship in Casper, Wyo., they would be the first team to bring home a national title - in any sport.
The CNFR began Sunday and runs through Saturday. The Coyotes qualified by finishing second to Tarleton State in the Southwest Region.
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“It wouldn’t surprise if we are in the running,” said head rodeo coach Johnny Emmons before the team left. “You get up there and every team has six that count.”
The six from WC are sophomores Landon Williams (Midland) in team roping and calf roping, Jared Parsonage (Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada) in bull riding and Kody Mahaffey (Sweetwater) in steer wrestling, along with freshman team ropers Aaron Macy (Post), Cole Wheeler (Flint) and Casey Tew (Billings, Mont.).
Parsonage said the WC tradition, which includes national champion team roper Cody Tew in 2007 and 2008 Women’s All-Around and reserve team roping champion Arena Robertson, will serve as inspiration.
“It’s pretty cool being part of the first team to ever go,” Parsonage said. “Everybody will be really motivated to win as it’s a pretty neat opportunity to go to the college finals, especially out of the Southwest Region.”
The Southwest Region is generally considered the toughest in the nation.
The Coyotes have competed in 10 rodeos. They’ve won three, finished second three times and were third twice.
“I think our chances are really high to win nationals as a team and individually,” Mahaffey said. “We’ve done well all year and plan on finishing it up at nationals.”
Williams is the only member of the team to have competed at nationals previously. He qualified last season, and he believes that experience will help himself and the team.
“My first year at CNFR was definitely a learning experience, and I know that will help for this year,” he said. “I think our chances are really good up there. We have an extremely strong team. It also helps that we have people on both ends of the arena when they start adding up the points at the end of the week.”
Casey Tew is the third member of his family to represent WC at nationals. Along with older brother Cody, older sister Cadee qualified once with WC and then with Tarleton.
“The most motivating thing for me comes from my brother Cody,” he said. “He won the CNFR when he was a freshman, so I really don’t want to let him beat me. I’m really excited to continue my family’s tradition of success at the collegiate level.”
Aaron Macy said the group got there as a team, and that is how they can win the title.
“If the six of us stick to our game plan and do our job, our chances are very high,” Macy said.
Results to early action weren’t available at the paper’s press deadline.
Team excelling in the classroom as well as the arena
Not only does Emmons have one of the most talented teams in the nation, he also has one of the smartest.
For the first time in the program's history, WC is sending an entire team to the CNFR and while that is a historical feat, Emmons takes as much pride in the fact that his team might also be tops academically as well as in the final points standings.
The cumulative grade point average of the six WC competitors is 3.12. They are topped by Parsonage, who has a 3.76 GPA.
"I'll bet there's not too many teams in Casper that can say that," said Emmons.
While the Coyotes are exceptional in the classroom as well as in the rodeo arena, Emmons said success in the sport and intelligence often go together.
"The general perception of rodeo to some folks is big, dumb guys, but there are a lot of smart people in rodeo," he said. "They have to take care of their own finances, scheduling."
And, he added, the competition itself requires intelligence to be at or near the top. A bull rider, for example, doesn't just jump on a bull and be successful. A roper can't just pick up a rope and win an event without doing a little studying.
"There's definitely a science to it, thinking and planning," said Emmons. "The mental aspect is tough."
And, Emmons continued, he/she will do better when it comes to finding sponsors. He recalled his first time to sit down with a sponsor, and the visitation included several company representatives and numerous lawyers.
"You have to present yourself well," he said. "There are a lot of people who can rope well, but they wanted to know how I was going to represent them and their product. An educated person will do well in rodeo."