By Kimberly Hanna
Special to the Quay County Sun
After claiming the Grand Canyon Regional Championship title, the Mesalands Community College men’s rodeo team has ended the season ranked second in the nation. The team finishes this season with eight team members qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo.
“Mesalands will have more representation at nationals this year than most colleges,” Aragon said. “We have eight team members competing at nationals and usually colleges only have six or seven that qualify. This is a very unique situation that shows how hard our team has worked this year.”
Sophomore Fran Marchand of Omak, Wash. is one of the team members who demonstrated his skills in the arena. He is ranked first in the nation in the Men’s All-Around category. Marchand is also ranked seventh in the nation in saddle bronc riding and 12th in the nation in bull riding. He has also earned a CNFR qualification for the second consecutive year. Last year he finished 25th in bareback riding and 27th in bull riding. This year Marchand will be competing in both saddle bronc riding and bull riding events at national competition.
“I’m not as nervous this year going to nationals, because I’ve been there before and I know what’s expected of me,” Marchand said. “I believe I am capable of winning both events.”
Teammate Jordan Spears of Palo Cedro, Calif. also earned a qualification to nationals after winning the Grand Canyon Regional title in bull riding. He is ranked third in the nation. This will be his first chance to compete at nationals.
“I am excited about nationals and a little nervous about doing well, as I know I can do,” Spears said.
Freshman Shelby Rita of Sunset Beach, Hawaii will be representing the women’s team at nationals. She will be competing in barrel racing after winning third in the region and leading the women’s team to finish fourth in the region. Rita is currently ranked eighth nationally. She is the second team member of the Mesalands women’s rodeo team to compete at nationals. Last year Sydni Blanchard of Albuquerque claimed the national title in barrel racing. Rita says she understands how Blanchard felt being the only female competing.
“It’s like high school nationals again. I’m the only girl going,” Rita said. “I know I have big shoes to fill. I just hope I place and do well at nationals.”
Sophomore J2 Bridges of Hazelton, Idaho is ranked 22nd in the nation in bareback riding and has also earned a qualification to the CNFR. Last year Bridges finished seventh in bareback riding and 24th in steer wrestling at nationals.
Freshman Tyrel Virden of Alamogordo is ranked 25th in the nation in steer wrestling and will be competing at nationals. KC Peterson of Animas earned a qualification to the CNFR in bareback riding and teammates Dominic Silva and Michael Ortega of Los Lunas earned their tickets to the CNFR in team roping.
The College National Finals Rodeo will be held in Casper, Wyo., June 11-18.