June 19, 2017
12 college athletes were named national champions Saturday night at the 69th College National Finals Rodeo, in Casper, Wyoming.
Lane McGehee, a Sam Houston State freshman, from Victoria, Texas, was named the bareback champion. He won two of the three preliminary rounds, and in the championship round scored 79.5 points aboard Harry Vold Rodeo’s “Spicy Chicken,” a point behind Sheridan College’s, Hunter Carlson. McGehee’s overall win was by an almost unheard-of 16 points.
McGhee wasn’t the only Sam Houston athlete to win a national championship, breakaway roper Loni Lester came from second overall to win the title when she clocked a time of 2.7 seconds in the championship round. She won the championship round by three-tenths of a second, after a combined four runs. Lester, a junior from Gonzales, Texas, was also named Womens All-Around Champion.
In the tie down roping, Tarleton State University senior Reid Zapalac vaulted into first place among tie down ropers Tuesday, and stayed at the top of the leader board, finishing the week out at 36.7 seconds after four rounds.
In the saddle bronc riding, Preston Burr, of New Mexico Junior College, had a 74-point ride on Saturday, which was enough to tie him for fourth in the short round and push him to first overall, with 284.5 on four.
Denver Berry, a senior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, won the steer wrestling championship title after throwing his steer in 3.9 seconds, tying for first in the championship round. Denver is the son of four-time champion Ote Berry.
In goat tying, only six-tenths of a second separated the top seven finalists, with three of them tied for the lead. Championship round pressure didn’t seem to bother fifth-ranked, Tawny Barry, of Eastern New Mexico University. The junior from Carter, South Dakota won the final round with the time of 6.4 seconds, which was enough (by two-tenths of a second) to win her the national title .
Team ropers Cole Wheeler and Wesley Thorp were the only repeat champions, winning their second straight title, but their first for Texas Tech University. They entered the championship tied with a team from Gillette College from second overall. Both trailed the leaders from Sam Houston State University by one-tenth of a second. Neither of the other top contenders managed to rope their steer, while Wheeler and Thorp clocked a 5.5 to place second in the round.
In the barrel racing, you know her as the RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN winner, Hailey Kinsel, and now she is also the College National Finals Rodeo champion. Kinsel and her mare, DN Sissy Hayday, that she calls “Sister”, are earning a reputation a tough duo to beat in a multiple round barrel race. Kinsel, who won more than $400,000 in the barrel racing at THE AMERICAN in February, used the same formula of consistency to come from fourth place to claimed the college championship. The Texas A & M junior stopped the clock in 14.06 seconds, to win the championship round and the national title.
The biggest jump to claim a national title came from bull rider Cole Melancon, of Hill College. The Liberty, Texas sophomore was ranked sixth after qualifying for the championship round. He had just one qualified ride in the first three rounds, but put together an 85-point effort on Mo Betta Rodeo’s “Blind Side,” to win the championship round and the national title by 4.5 points. No bull rider was able to make more than two qualified rides during this years CNFR.
Winning the overall Men’s Team Award was Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which had a total of 827.5 points, and winning the overall Women’s Team Award was Sam Houston State University, with a total of 425 points.
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