By Robert Ciolli: Quay County Sun
The Mesalands Community College mens rodeo team finished the season in fourth place for the Grand Canyon Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) while the women’s team took seventh.
The team also will have three members competing at the nationals in June.
During the regional finals last weekend at Las Cruces, Jeff O’Donnell won the short competition and the average for steer wrestling and is now ranked No. 1 in the region and No. 8 in the nation.
O’Donnell has worked his way up from fifth in the region to winning the top spot in steer wrestling in just three rodeos. Teammate Michael Bates finished the season in third place in steer wrestling in the region.
“They both really push each other,” Aragon said, “their toughest competition is each other every day.”
In bareback riding, Jon Luse earned No. 2 in the region and is now No. 16 in the nation.
The trio, O’Donnell, Bates and Luse will compete June 15-21 at the NIRA National Finals at Casper, Wyo.
During the steer wrestling competition on May 3, Cody O’Donnell broke his right leg. Cody O’Donnell is Jeff O’Donnell’s younger brother.
Cody O’Donnell said, “I planted my leg and stopped, but the steer didn’t.”
With fractures to both the tibia and the fibia, the doctors had to insert pins, plates and screws to put his leg back together, Aragon said.
“Cody is the best hazer we have,” Aragon said, “but he will be out for the next four months.”
Despite his injuries, Cody O’Donnell is still gungho.
“It’s just a minor set back,” Cody O’Donnell said. “We had a good season this year and the coach is the main reason the team changed. He’s ambitious and pushes us hard both in the class and on the field.”
The final men’s and women’s total of 2815.50 points for this year is higher than the previous nine years combined, according to the team’s annual report. While the men’s team outranked the women’s team, the women’s team had fewer members and were plagued by injuries throughout the season. “Next year, a lot more girls are joining and that will give us more depth to the team,” Aragon said.
Overall, Mesalands Rodeo Team has had the best one-year, turnaround in NIRA history, according to the team’s annual report.
Looking ahead, next year looks even better, Aragon said.
Although one of the team’s top performers, Luse, has completed his degree in farrier science and will be moving on, the majority of the team members are freshman and will be returning.
The team’s record is also gaining attention.
“The team is getting inquiries from all around the U.S., and as far away as Australia,” Aragon said. “We are going to be getting some of the top kids in New Mexico next year”
The NIRA nationasl are June 15-21 at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyo.
Regional Finals Rodeo
Men’s team 4th place with 310 points
Jon Luse 2nd place bareback riding
Tim Jones 2nd place bull riding
Jeff O’Donnell 1st place steer wrestling
Dennison Boone 5th place tie-down roping
Final Regional Standings
Men’s team 4th with 2,672 points
Women’s team 7th with 143.50 points
Jeff O’Donnell Regional Champion Steer Wrestler, #8 nationally
Jon Luse Reserve Champion Barebach Rider, #16 nationally
Michael Bates 3rd place steer wrestler
Matt Bridges 7th place saddle bronc rider
Dominic Coche 5th place bull rider
Tim Jones 7th place bull rider
Dan Randall 13th place bull rider
Coach C.J. Aragon was voted Rodeo Coach of the Year by students from the 10 colleges that make up the Grand Canyon Region.
“With the votes coming from the students, this is a great honor” said Aragon, who got the news earlier this week.
To win the title in only their second year with the region was completely unexpected, Aragon said.
Mesalands has only 30 members in its rodeo program who could vote compared to other schools which have an average of 50 students, and New Mexico State University which has 95 students.
NMSU rodeo coach Jim Dewey, has won the honor six times and was last year’s NIRA coach of the year.