By Lon Tegels
College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources
The University of Arkansas at Monticello
Fast facts• UAM rodeo team sends two to collegiate finals• Team overcomes slow start• Strong finish provides inspiration for fall season
After a year of cancellations and halted travel, two of the University of Arkansas at Monticello rodeo team members found their way to the College National Finals Rodeo in Wyoming, where they found inspiration for the fall rodeo season.
Sophomore Katelyn Danzy of Russellville, Arkansas,competed in the barrel racing, while freshman Aubrey Leeof Mount Vernon, Arkansas, qualified in the breakaway roping event at the finals held June 13-19 at Casper, Wyoming.
While neither woman won a gold buckle, the experience was invaluable, said UAM Rodeo Coach Rusty Jones. Both athletes had to contend with some less-than-ideal circumstances.
However, “by the third round, they all came around.” Jones said.
Danzy’s horse was sick with colic on the first two nights of the nationals, but recovered by the third round, Jones said.
After runs of 14.8 and 14.7 seconds in the first two rounds, Danzy and her horse scored a 14.2- second run, in the third round — just a tenth of a second off the winning run — which earned her seventh place.
Jones said Lee “drew some tough calves. All three were drifting and stepping off to the right.”
“In my first two rounds, I got out pretty late and didn’t score,” Lee said “I figured I had nothing to lose in the third round and just went at it, and it worked. The calf drifted hard right, and that’s not my horse’s favorite thing.”
Despite the difficulties, Lee ended up ninth in the third round.
“I’m proud of Katelyn and Aubrey,” Jones said. “They had done well. It set the groundwork for next year.”
“I feel like I was pretty prepared for the competition mentally,” said Danzy. “I knew many barrel racers because I had run with them and against them in the past, so I felt confident going into the College Finals. I had a lot of friends back there. Everyone cheered each other on in the back.”
“I did get nervous in the first round, but after I got the first round out the way, I was pretty good,” said Danzy. That changed going into the third round.
“It’s the most nervous I’ve been in a long time, just because I wanted to really do well and have one good run in the end,” she said,
Rodeo competitions are nothing new for Lee, who’s been roping since she was eight. Her parents have run rodeos for more than 60 years, so it’s all second nature to her. Lee started in barrel racing but eventually found her calling in breakaway roping.
Monticello seemed like a natural destination for Lee. She followed her sister there, already had friends who lived near campus, and she liked the coach.
Lee, whose high school graduating class was 36, thought UAM was a big school. UAM has an enrollment of about 2,500 students.
Despite her long experience, the scale of the Casper rodeo came as a bit of a shock, Lee said. More than 400 athletes and nearly 100 teams competed in what amounts to the Super Bowl or World Series of college rodeo.
“I downplayed Casper big time. I knew it was a big deal, but not that big of a deal,” Lee said. “When I got there, it was ‘oh my, this was a lot bigger than I was expecting!’”
Preparing for next season
I’ve been coaching 11 years and taken team members nine years to the College Finals,” Jones said. “It’s fun; it’s a big rodeo with, lot of fans in the seats. I always enjoy taking the kids out there. It’s a reward for a long season”.
“Both Katelyn and Aubrey are extremely talented. Both qualified in one event in the nationals but work three events in all the regional rodeos,” Jones said. Both want to win and “it makes it easier on a coach when these kids want to win. They work hard in the classroom and the arena.”
About the College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center
The College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, a University of Arkansas System Center of Excellence, bring together interdisciplinary expertise through a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Monticello and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The College and Center are headquartered at the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus, but their programs range statewide with the mission of developing and delivering teaching, research and extension programs that enhance and ensure the sustainability and productivity of forest-based natural resources and agricultural systems. Academic programs are delivered by the College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources through the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, research is administered by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, and extension and outreach activities are coordinated by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.