By BRAD KEITH
(July 19, 2015) — Landon Williams is right where every college rodeo athlete dreams of being.
Williams, a Tarleton State senior, leads the all-around and tie-down averages for the school sitting atop the team scoring at the College National Finals Rodeo.
“We have lots of people in there near the top with the chance to score quite a bit more points. When the short go is all over, as many people as we’ll have in there, it should all take care of itself,” said Williams in a phone interview from Casper, Wyoming Friday afternoon. “Our goal is definitely to be the champions.”
Tarleton last won a national championship in rodeo when its men’s and women’s teams swept the titles in 2005. The last men’s all-around champ from Tarleton was Billy Bob Brown in 2013. He won the team roping as a header in 2013 and 2014, when was also the PRCA Rookie of the Year. Tarleton also won a team title in 1967, while other all-around crowns were claimed by Ryan Watkins in 2005 and Kirby Eppert in 2007.
All Williams can control is his final run in the Saturday short go, when points for both the round and the average will be on the line and the team and all-around titles will ultimately be determined.
“I’m just trying to use my head and compete the best I can on the stock I draw, whether it’s team roping or calf roping,” said Williams. “If I do the best I can on my draw, the rest will take care of itself.”
Williams roped and tied calves in 10.6 seconds Monday, 9.1 on Tuesday and 9.4 Thursday for a total of 29.1 seconds on three head. Of the 10 cowboys left to compete in the short go Friday evening, only three have posted times in each of the first two rounds, and none are within striking distance over overtaking Williams before the short go.
Williams holds a 1.6-second lead over Joshua Walker of Western Texas College, who is second at 30.7. They are the only competitors under 32 seconds through three rounds. Williams has scored 140 points in the tie-down and another 40 in team roping, heeling with Weatherford College header Casey Tew.
The Tarleton cowboy has seen all the math and knows where he’s at. But he knows all he can control is his own performance.
“I keep it in my head, stay up to date with the competition and how things are going with them. I like to keep mental notes,” said Williams. “But really I try not to think about it all too much because it will all hit soon enough. I’m just trying to stay sharp and focused. That’s the main thing with a week-long deal, because sometimes it’s hard to still be focused at the end of the week.
“I just want to do my job and capitalize whenever it’s my time.”
At the college level, at least, Saturday will be the last time for Williams. The last shot at claiming a national title.
“I still need 27 hours to get my degree in agricultural industries and I plan to knock that out a few classes at a time, but my rodeo eligibility is running out,” he said. “I’ll still rodeo, but I’ll probably stay around the region so I can focus on getting my career started. I want to train horses and keep doing what I love.”
Williams said the chemistry of the Tarleton team and its supporters is a big contributor to the success of the athletes at the CNFR. Those supporters include Tarleton President Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio, who annually attends the national finals.
“It’s great. Everybody’s so positive, uplifting and supporting. Our president and a vice president are here and our old rodeo coach came up,” he said. “They took us out for a student-athlete appreciation type deal. It’s tremendous how much the administration supports the rodeo team and backs us. We are part of the school, not just something they forget about. I don’t know any other schools that had their president and a vice president come up and support them like ours did.”
He hopes the positive vibes can carry all the Tarleton competitors through the end of the third round Friday and, of course, the short go on Saturday.
“This is a great experience. College rodeo gives athletes a chance to gain experience and mature while getting an education,” he said. “It’s a great stepping stone for the young rodeo athletes, and the college finals is the elite group of those from each region of the country. It’s prestigious to make it here, especially from a Texas region.
“But to win it? I can’t even imagine. I just know we all have to focus and do our best and let things take care of themselves. Hopefully we’ll find out soon enough what it would be like to win it.”