Four headed to national finals


June 12, 2019

File photo

Levi Gray of Mesalands Community College rides a bull during the Grand Canyon Region Intercollegiate Rodeo in October at the Quay County Fairgrounds in Tucumcari. Gray is one of four Mesalands athletes who qualified for this week's College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.

Four athletes from Mesalands Community College are competing in this week's College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, and their coach is confident one of them can emerge as a national champion.

ESPN3 will broadcast the rodeo's performances Wednesday through Saturday. In addition to cable television, ESPN3 is available through a variety of online devices and platforms for those with a cable subscription.

Levi Gray, Roy Jackson and Vinell Mariano each will be competing in bull riding and AJ Kee will compete in bareback riding at Casper for Mesalands.

Gray, a highly touted bull rider who hails from Dairy, Oregon, won more than $21,000 on the pro circuit last year and has won more than $14,000 this year. Gray, now a sophomore, also qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo a year ago.

Mesalands coach Matt Hughes said he didn't give a lot of advice for his athletes at Casper.

"Take it all in, for sure. Enjoy yourselves and have fun," Hughes said during a telephone interview from Casper. "We've trained all year for this, so we're beyond ready. All you can do is put in the work, expect good things and let whatever happens, happens."

Hughes said he wanted to be at the rodeo for a loftier reason.

"My purpose to being here is hopefully having a national champion," he said. "Here, it's all about my kids that are on the team."

When asked about his athletes' chances of taking home a title, Hughes said "we've got a good of a chance as any," especially in bull riding.

"The three bull riders we've got here, they're as good as anybody going up and down the rope," he said. "Two of the three (Gray and Jackson) are in pro rodeos right now, and they're winning there. These kids have rode in front of 40,000, 50,000 people."

In addition to slack and matinee sessions, Jackson will compete in the Thursday night performance, according to draws on the rodeo's website. Gray and Mariano were slated for at least a Tuesday performance.

Kee is scheduled for at least a Friday performance, in addition to matinee and slack sessions.


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