UWA Rodeo team heads to Nationals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Casper, Wyoming is a long, long way from Livingston. But with the College National Finals Rodeo beginning there this weekend

and the University of West Alabama rodeo team in contention for national honors, it’s a trip team coach Jayson Schoenfeld is more than happy to make.

“This’ll be like the World Series of rodeo,” he says, speaking from a cell phone during a team pit stop in Kansas. “This is what we shoot for every year, to come to this rodeo.”

This year’s National Finals delegation includes seven members of the UWA rodeo team: Lyndsey Shaw, Kasidi Griffin, Shelby Kiser, and Natasha Parker for the Women’s team and Chance Smart, Tyler Pearson, and Chard Martin for the Men’s.

Unlike most other sports, where a team would qualify or not qualify as a whole, in rodeo players have to qualify for each of their individual events in order to even put together a team at Nationals. Team members, Schoenfeld says, had to finish in the top three of at least one inidivdual event at Regionals to earn an invitation to Casper.

“There were 300 [competitors] at regional and only 40 of them go to Nationals, ” he says, “so it’s a big privilege to make it.”

The women’s team’s greater individual success at Regionals means that they have four members to the men’s three, and have a better shot at bringing the top prize home to Livingston next week.

“We feel the women’s team will be very competitive. The women’s goal would be winning it, finishing somewhere in the top five,” Schoenfeld says. “The girls we have are really strong…we have four really stout competitors on our team this year.”

Two of those four, Shaw and Kiser, finished one-two in the barrel-racing event at the regional rodeo and will compete in that event in Casper. Regional all-around champion Griffin will compete in the break-away and goat-tying events, while Parker will join Griffin in the break-away.

UWA will need strong performances in each event from each competitor to win the championship.

“You can compare it to a track meet,” Schoenfeld says. “The points they score in each event count towards the overall team total.”

Fewer competitors means fewer points for the men, but Schoenfeld says the three that did qualify should have quite an impact in their respective events.

“Their [team] goal would be to finish in the top 15 to top 10 area. We’ve got three going,” he says. “But they’ll all be competing for individual titles and all three have a shot at winning those titles.”

Smart would seem to have the best shot, as he enters the National Finals tied for most points in the nation earned this season in the popular event of bull-riding.

“Everybody starts at zero at nationals,” Schoenfeld says, “but that gives you an idea of what kind of season he’s had.”

Pearson will compete in steer wrestling and Martin will enter the team roping competition.

As daunting as a road trip to Wyoming would be for most, it becomes even more intimidating when you consider that the rodeo team brings their own animals with them. But Schoenfeld says it’s all part of rodeo and the thrill of competition.

“It’s a big responsibility for kids in college,” he says. [But] these kids are used to traveling. They travel every weekend for something…it’s just a great experience for them.”