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LAS CRUCES - Rodeo fans can see New Mexico State University's top-ranked men's and women's team and a nationally known rodeo clown in action April 2-3 at the Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds.
Rough stock riders, ropers, steer wrestlers and barrel racers from across the Southwest will be put to the test at NMSU's spring home rodeo.
Events begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, followed Saturday by a slack competition at 9 a.m. and top 10 short go at 3:30 p.m.
Leon Coffee, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association clown of the year and National Finals Rodeo barrel man, will entertain the fans at both performances. A children's rodeo will follow the slack competition Saturday, with special needs students competing in goat touching and stick horse barrel racing. Admission to each event is $5 for adults, $3 children. The slack competition is free.
As the hometown rodeo approaches - the eighth of 10 regional rodeos this season, NMSU rodeo coach Jim Dewey Brown is confident about his team's prospects. "We want to win the region," Brown said. "I do think I have the crew for it this year."
NMSU's women are ranked first in the Grand Canyon Region, while the men moved up to second place after two rodeos March 6-7 at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Ariz.
"The women are by far dominating the region," Brown said. "The men still have time to put it together."
Both NMSU teams finished in second place March 6. The men were first and the women second March 7. Capturing all-around honors March 7 were NMSU freshman MegAnne Casey of Great Falls, Mont., and NMSU senior Clay Snure of Rodeo, N.M.
In other NMSU men's action at the Central Arizona rodeos, heeler Jared Davis, a junior from Tombstone, Ariz., took first and second places in team roping; heeler Aaron Thomas, a senior from La Mesa, captured a first in team roping; bullrider Justin Sanderlin, a junior from Morenci, Ariz., finished second both days; J.P. Etcheverry, a senior from Carlsbad, had a second in calf roping; and junior Billy Corliss of Silver City captured a third in bullriding.
Also at Central Arizona, sophomore Sterling Walker of Aztec was third in calf roping and senior Buddy Robinson of Mesilla Park took a third in steer wrestling.
For the NMSU women, Casey rode to thirds in barrel racing and breakaway; Wimberly took a third in breakaway; and senior Misty Fudge of Big Horn, Wyo., earned a third in goat tying. Brown said he was pleased to see the men do so well, moving from third to second in the region, just behind Cochise Community College.
"We're still a few points behind Cochise, but we closed the gap," he said.
NMSU remains strong overall in timed events, but trails Cochise in rough stock.
Brown was pleased with the women's team performance, particularly the efforts of several freshman: Casey, Brooke Wimberly of Bosque, Chelsee Byerley of Gallup and Katrina Stackpole of Tijeras.
Leading the NMSU women's team this year is senior Mandy Sproul of Pearce, Ariz., who is ranked first in regional all-around standings. At the Central Arizona rodeos Sproul had second and sixth place finishes in goat tying and tied for fifth in team roping as a header with heeler Kody Gentry, a sophomore from Dell City, Texas.
Sproul feels good about her breakaway roping and goat tying. She's ranked fourth regionally in breakaway and second in goat tying.
"I've got a pretty good hold on those," she said. In those events, Sproul is confident she'll qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo June 13-19 in Casper, Wyo. She feels her biggest challenge this spring is in barrel racing and team roping. She's adjusting to a different barrel horse. In team roping, she's determined to improve
Top competitor for the men is Snure, who also leads in men's all-around. At the Central Arizona rodeos, Snure captured first and fifth place finishes in steer wrestling, and a first in calf roping.
Snure feels best about his calf roping this season. He won regional calf roping honors the last two years. He is ranked third in the region after the first seven rodeos and feels confident going into the remaining spring schedule. After riding young horses earlier this year, he returned to a more seasoned calf roping horse.
The two DuBois Rodeo Scholarship winners transferred after two years at Cochise College. They anticipate success as they wrap up their college careers.
"I really want to finish strong," Sproul said. She has won regional all-around honors the last three years and would like to cap her collegiate career with a fourth win. At the 2003 College National Finals Rodeo, Sproul placed fifth in women's all-around and 11th in barrel racing. She also competed in team roping and goat tying.
Snure said he's not worried about the final rodeos of the season. "Every year it's turned out all right, so I'm not worried about it," he said. He feels confident he'll make the College National Finals Rodeo, as he has for the past two years.
"It's an all or nothing kind of deal."
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