STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University’s rodeo program is sending eight competitors to the College National Finals Rodeo, June 11-17 in Casper, Wyo.
Goat tier Tori Brower, breakaway ropers Jordan Driver and Tayler Felton, and barrel racer Acey Pinkston are headed to Casper as National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Southwest Region team champions. Driver will also compete in barrel racing as a result if winning the regional all-around championship.
As a team they dominated the region by finishing no lower than fourth nine times during the season, including firsts at Howard College, Vernon College, Clarendon College and Sul Ross State University.
Brower helped lead the Tarleton charge to the regional championship, winning the season’s goat-tying championship. A junior animal science major from Stettler, Alb., Canada, she made the short go seven times and won at both Western Texas and Clarendon.
Driver, the regional breakaway roping champion, also was reserve champion in the all-around. A kinesiology major in her junior year, she captured top honors at the Texas Tech Rodeo and was second at the Tarleton Stampede and the Howard College Rodeo.
She also had two top-three finishes as a barrel racer — a second at Vernon and a third at Clarendon.
Teammate Felton was reserve champion breakaway roper at both Eastern New Mexico and Sul Ross State. A freshman business finance major, she’s from Fallon, Nev.
Pinkston, a communication studies major, qualified for her first CNFR as a freshman by finishing third in the Southwest Region. She took runner-up honors at the season-ending Tarleton Stampede and at WTC, and was fourth at Clarendon and Sul Ross.
Representing Tarleton from the defending national champion men’s team will be saddle bronc rider Gus Gaillard, team roping headers Wyatt Bray and Korbin Rice, and tie-down roper Wyatt Crandall, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Southwest Region student director.
Gaillard, a sophomore agribusiness major from Morse, Texas, is the 2023 regional reserve champion saddle bronc rider. One of the most consistent performers in the region, he posted event titles at the Western Texas College and Ranger College rodeos, and finished in the top 10 eight times during the 2022-23 season.
Bray and Rice took the two top slots in the final regional team roping header standings.
Bray, a senior marketing major from Stephenville, won the event twice in ’20-’23, at rodeos hosted by Vernon College and Clarendon College, and made the finals at five stops.
Rice finished second at Ranger, Vernon and Clarendon, and earned spots in the short go five times. He’s a general business major from Hobbs, N.M.
Tie-down roper Crandall, a senior animal science major from Spanish Fork, Utah, finished 10th in the region, making the finals in three rodeos and winning third at Howard and Clarendon.
More than 400 participants from more than 100 colleges and universities compete for NIRA crowns in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying. National team championships are awarded to both men’s and women’s teams.
Contestants compete all year in one of the NIRA’s 11 regions for a chance to rope or ride at the annual CNFR. The top three students in each event qualify, as do the top two men’s and women’s teams from each region.
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