Over a dozen colleges in the Grand Canyon region will compete this weekend in the Third Annual Mesalands Community College Rodeo.
“This is the start to our season,” said Mesalands head rodeo coach C.J. Aragon. “We are lucky and very happy our first event is at home.”
Aragon said as of Tuesday 13 colleges from New Mexico and Arizona have entered to compete in the rodeo.
“In all 10 events, there are 40 or more participants,” Aragon said. “We will have 10 per event perform for the crowd.”
Aragon said Mesaland’s rodeo program has 43 members this year. He said during a competition 10 are selected to compete for points. Six men and four women are selected to represent each team.
“We have a lot of talent this year,” Aragon said. “We have five of seven members returning who competed in the College National Rodeo Finals in Casper, Wyo., last June.”
Sydni Blanchard brought home Mesalands’ first national title in barrel racing from the 2010 CNFR and claimed the title of CNFR Rookie of the Year. Blanchard was the first representative from the Mesalands Community College women's rodeo team to compete at nationals.
The men’s had six team members compete at nationals. Cody Lanier placed 10th in steer wrestling, Clay Elkins placed 15th in steer wrestling, J2 Bridges placed 27th in bareback riding, 24th in steer wrestling and won the Grand Canyon Region All-Around Cowboy Championship, Fran Marchand placed 25th in bareback riding, Frank Alguire placed 26th in bull riding and teammate Ty Nuffer placed 37th in saddle bronc riding.
Aragon was also selected as Coach of the Year for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) at last year's CNFR.
“We are excited about this season,” Aragon said. “The program has come such a long way.”
Aragon said in the past the team has had two strong competitors in each event but no back up. He said that is not the case this year. He said the team has so many talented members he has yet to pick the 10 members who will compete for the team points.
“This is a problem any coach would love to have,” Aragon said. “Too much talent to choose from is a great thing.”
Aragon said the rodeo begins at 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday with the team members competing in the events. The remaining team members will begin competing at 10 a.m. Saturday in the “slack ” portion of the rodeo.
“With so many people competing in the events, it is not possible to have them all compete for the performance portion of the rodeo,” Aragon said. “They will instead compete Saturday morning.”
Having a home field advantage is a good way to start the season, however, Aragon said it is a blessing and burden all at the same time.
“We have to prepare the arena and get everything ready on top of practicing for the event,” Aragon said. “It is a lot of work to put on this event.”
Aragon said this year’s event will feature stock from Honeycutt Rodeo Stock Contractors, Inc. He said they have provided stock for PRCA events and will put on a show which people have never seen here before.
“It is going to be a first-class production for everyone to come out and see,” Aragon said.
Mesalands team roper and calf roper Tel Honeycutt said he will be competing and working with his family at the rodeo this weekend.
Honeycutt, 19, of Alamosa, Colo., said he has been helping his family operate Honeycutt Rodeo Stock Contractors since he was born.
“When my mom was pregnant with me she was helping to time rodeo events,” Honeycutt said with a laugh. “My dad has a picture of me when I was one week old sitting on one of his horses.”
Honeycutt said competing in front of a home crowd is a great advantage.
“It is right at our back door,” Honeycutt said. “We want to get out there and perform well. From what I hear, the other teams are gunning for us and that is a good thing.”