ALVA, Okla. – When Lauren Barnes arrived in Weatherford, Okla., last weekend for the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo, she was intent on winning the women’s all-around title.
“I think I really had a chance, but the draw didn’t help me very much,” said Barnes, a junior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University from Buckeye, Ariz.; she finished No. 2 in the all-around race. “In breakaway roping, I don’t know if I’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 University’s Randi Buchanan.
More importantly, she helped the Northwestern women’s team to a third-place finish in Weatherford. She joined Micah Samples of Abilene, Kan., to secure 195 team points – 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.
“This region is really tough,” Barnes said. “You 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.”
Barnes needs points, too. She is off the pace to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo in June.
“It was very important for me to do well,” she said. “I had some tough luck in Durant (the weekend before); I drew a calf that ran left, and my goat didn’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.
“These next two rodeos, I plan on getting some points. I’ve got some ground to make up, but I’m going work on it.”
While the Rangers women sit comfortably in second place in the Central Plains Region – only the top two teams advance to the college finals – there is a sense of urgency in the final two weeks of the regular season.
“I think we need all of our girls on the team to get points this week, for sure, and I’d like to see it the week after that,” Barnes said. “I think the girls can do it. They have a lot of heart and determination to get it done. They want it bad.
“I have faith in every single girl that’s on that team. They have the try, and they definitely have the talent.”
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 men’s team is fourth in the region and needs to make up ground over the final two weekends.
That’s something coach Stockton Graves has been working on all season with both teams.
“What I really like about having Stockton as a coach is that he’s been there and done that,” she said, noting that Graves is a seven-time steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “He 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.”