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NMSU athletes qualify for College National Finals Rodeo

Dust, strong winds and unusually cold weather swarmed through the final Grand Canyon region rodeo April 13-14. The New Mexico State University rodeo team brought its game faces to the last rodeo in Socorro, New Mexico, which determined the top three finalists who advance to the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, in June.


A man in western attire ropes a steer’s hind legs.
New Mexico State University rodeo athlete Lucas Mckenzie ropes his steer at the Tsaile, Arizona college rodeo. (NMSU photo by Savannah Montero)
A cowgirl steps off from her horse, while running, to tie a goat during a college rodeo.
New Mexico State University rodeo athlete Baylee Johnston, of Prescott, Arizona, dismounts her horse in the goat tying event at the Casa Grande, Arizona college rodeo. (NMSU photo by Savannah Montero)
A cowboy rides a bucking horse during a college rodeo event.
New Mexico State University rodeo athlete Colton Clemens rides his bareback horse at the Tsaile, Arizona college rodeo. (NMSU photo by Savannah Montero)

Many contestants were on the borderline of qualifying for the top three positions and after the Socorro rodeo, some NMSU athletes fell, while others will compete at the largest college rodeo in the world.

NMSU rodeo head coach Logan Corbett believes this is the strongest team to qualify for the CNFR since he arrived at NMSU.

“Every individual that will be making a trip to Casper has a legitimate chance of winning a national championship,” Corbett said. “If we’ll stay calm and take it one run or ride at a time, we will have multiple national champions.”

Senior Anna Barker, from Rochester, Washington, finished as the reserve barrel racing champion in the region. This was her last college rodeo in the New Mexico and Arizona circuit. Regional director and senior Carly Billington, from Cave Creek, Arizona, will compete in the barrel racing event as well. Regional directors are given the chance to compete in the event that they scored the most points in even if it’s not in the top three.

“Through lots of struggles and mistakes, to setting arena records and winning countless buckles, Rios (Barker’s horse) took me to the top and got me another chance at the CNFR,” Barker said.

Sophomore Derek Runyan, from Silver, New Mexico, had countless rodeo average wins that led him to holding the title of the champion tie-down roper.

Senior Wyatt Jurney, from Las Cruces, New Mexico, took home the gold in the steer wrestling event. He had a strong spring season that led to him winning a championship title in the Grand Canyon region and a brand-new saddle. Junior Tyler Muth, from Murrieta, California, finished third overall in the steer wrestling.

“I have three unbelievably great horses: Frank the Tank, Nacho and Beetle Juice, they take care of me and help me win,” Jurney said. “NMSU has been a great atmosphere for my college rodeo career.”

Freshman Levi Whitley, from Blanco, New Mexico, put himself in the danger zone all year in the bull riding event, which led him to be crowned as the Grand Canyon regional champion. He had a strong spring semester and covered many rank bulls. Freshman Blaise Milligan, from Artesia, New Mexico, continues to the finals in the third position for the bull riding.

“I’m glad I achieved my goal and ended the season out on top,” Whitley said. “I’m excited to be able to have the chance to experience the CNFR my freshman year and hope to get some bulls rode up in Casper this June.”

Senior Jace Cooley, from Musselshell, Montana, won reserve champion in the region for the saddle bronc riding.

Freshman Colton Clemens, from Firth, Idaho, spurred his way to the top in the region for the bareback riding event winning a champion title. Freshman Cauy Pool, from Klamath Falls, Oregon, rode his bucking horses aggressively during the Socorro rodeo and placed second in the region for the bareback riding.

“If feels good to finish the year strong, I appreciate everyone wo has helped me get to where I am today,” Clemens said. “I am going to work hard and push myself the whole mile to have a successful trip to Casper.”

Senior Savannah Montero, from Winnemucca, Nevada, is headed to the CNFR in the third position for the goat tying event.

“The CNFR will be the last rodeo ever in my life,” Montero said. “I plan to go out with a bang, I have nothing to lose so I hope to break arena records and compete as aggressively as possible.”

The Aggies will compete against every college rodeo region in the United States in Casper June 8-16.

For more information on rodeo, contact Corbett at lcorbett@nmsu.edu.