Serving the High Plains

Mesalands rodeo endures disappointing week

The four athletes from Mesalands Community College who competed in last week’s College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, endured a disappointing week.

Bull riders Levi Gray, Roy Jackson and Vinell Mariano walked away with no scores during their three early-round sessions. Bareback bronc rider AJ Kee managed to stay on his mount but received a poor score and was injured on his next ride.

“It was disappointing, for sure,” Mesalands coach Matt Hughes said during a telephone interview Monday. “On paper, it didn’t look good. But in person, they showed they deserved to be there. They just fell short.”

Hughes said Gray and Jackson, both in their last season of eligibility at Mesalands, stayed on their bulls for a relatively long time before being thrown. Hughes said they had excellent draws in the early rounds, and the roughstock there was “outstanding … the best I’d seen in four years.” The potential was there for high scores if his riders had stayed on those animals for the required eight seconds.

“Levi took every bull he got on for seven seconds,” Hughes said. “Roy was the same way; he rode two out of three of his bulls for six to seven seconds. We just weren’t finishing our bull rides. On the last second or two, they kinda got lazy waiting for the whistle. Bulls of that caliber, you can’t do that. That’s the reason we didn’t have a national champ.”

Mariano, a freshman, struggled more than his bull-riding colleagues, Hughes said.

“You could definitely tell Vinell was young,” he said. “It was a step up for Vinell; it was a learning experience. He figured out what it’s going to take to win at that level. At the first of this year, he was questioning the practice bulls that we have. Last week, it all made sense to him why we got on those caliber of bulls in practice. Next year will be a lot different outcome for Vinell, I know that.”

Daylon Swearingen of Panola Junior College in east Texas won the national championship in bull riding with 237 points on three rides.

Kee, a freshman at Mesalands, rode his bronc in the first round but earned a poor score of 45.5 points.

“The kid has made a lot of improvements,” Hughes said. “You can tell he’s been working a lot over the summer. But he got on a horse that was better than him, and the score showed it.”

Kee was bucked off his mount in the second round and suffered at least one broken rib and a dislocated elbow, Hughes said. The injuries prompted him to not ride in the third round.

Chance Ames of Sheridan College in Wyoming won the national title in bareback riding with 319 points.

Hughes lost Gray and Jackson from his team and are expected to go professional. Mariano and Kee are slated to return to Mesalands next season. Noting he’d just signed Bonner Voss, Texas’ high-school champion in bronc riding, Hughes said he already was looking forward to next season.

Colton Campbell of California State University-Fresno won the men’s all-around title at CNFR with 240 points. Mia Manzanares of McNeese State University in Louisiana won the women’s all-around with 322.5 points and took home the goat-tying title with partner Beau Peterson.

Panola Junior College won the men’s team title with 825 points. McNeese State won the women’s team crown with 462.5 points.